Insulation

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Insulation Basics: Choosing the Right Solution for Your Home

Adding insulation to your home is a smart investment that can significantly improve your comfort and energy efficiency. With our relatively longer winters and potentially hot summers, proper insulation helps regulate temperatures year-round. But, with so many factors to consider, choosing the right type of insulation can feel overwhelming. This guide will walk you through the key things to keep in mind for the Canadian homeowner:

Climate and R-Value:

  • Climate: Consider your local climate. Winters can be relatively cold, so keeping warm air in is crucial. Pay attention to your provincial building codes, which often specify minimum R-values (thermal resistance) for different areas of your home (attic, walls, basement). These codes are set to ensure sufficient insulation for our climate.
  • R-Value: R-value measures an insulation material’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation for keeping heat in during winter.
  • Minimum RSI (R) Values for Climate Zone 4: These are effective R-values, not nominal.
R-Values for Climate Zone 4

Climate Region 4

Map showing Climate Zone 4
  • Minimum RSI (R) Values for Climate Zones 5, 6, and 7A: 
R-Values for Climate Zones 4, 6, and 7

Climate Region 5, 6, & 7A

Map showing Climate Zones 5, 6, and 7A

*   Denotes where insulation adjustments are permitted with the addition of an HRV.
** Denotes relaxation of RSI 0.16 (R-0.91) for building envelope assemblies adjacent to unconditioned enclosed spaces.

Benefits of Insulation:

Throughout this guide, we’ve touched on some of the key benefits of proper insulation for Canadian homes:

  • Improved Comfort: Proper insulation helps maintain a consistent and comfortable temperature inside your home year-round, especially during harsh winters.
  • Energy Savings: Insulation reduces heat transfer, making your heating and cooling systems work less and lowering energy bills. This is especially important in Canada, where winter heating costs can be significant.
  • Reduced Noise: Insulation can also act as a sound barrier, helping to reduce noise from outside and between rooms.

DIY or Professional Installation:

  • DIY-Friendly Options: Some types of insulation, like fibreglass batts in unfinished attics, are relatively easy to install.
  • Professional Expertise: Hiring a certified insulation contractor is recommended for complex installations, like spray foam insulation or work requiring access to walls or crawl spaces. Professionals have the experience and equipment to ensure proper installation according to Canadian building codes and avoid costly mistakes.

Installation Area:

  • Targeting Your Needs: Identifying the areas you want to insulate is crucial. Are you insulating the entire house, focusing on the attic, or tackling the garage? Different areas may require different insulation types and R-values.
  • Preparation Considerations: Consider any prep work needed before insulation. Do you need to remove walls or fix existing damage? Knowing this upfront will affect project costs and timelines.
  • Garage vs. Home: Remember that garage or outbuilding insulation might differ from residential insulation. You’ll likely use different materials or R-values.

Budget:

  • Cost Considerations: Setting a budget for your insulation project is important. We’ll provide average costs for popular insulation materials to help you plan. Remember that professional installation will add to the overall cost compared to DIY projects. However, professional installation ensures optimal performance and avoids potential issues that could cost more in the long run.

Types of Insulation

Many insulation types are available, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a breakdown of some popular options to help you choose the right one for your Canadian home:

  • Spray Foam: Excellent for attics and hard-to-reach areas in cold climates. It provides soundproofing and moisture resistance. Due to its application method, spray foam requires professional installation.
  • Fiberglass: Affordable and easy to install yourself (batts). Fire-resistant and good for heat transfer reduction. It is not ideal for very cold climates and can be irritating if inhaled.
  • Mineral Wool: Superior insulation for cold climates due to high density and R-value. It is fire-resistant and offers soundproofing. It is difficult to install and more expensive than fibreglass.
  • Foam Panels: Suitable for both interior and exterior walls. They reduce heat loss through walls and structural elements. However, they are not ideal for metal buildings, and installation requires some expertise.
  • Cellulose: This eco-friendly option is made from recycled materials. It is affordable and easy to install (loose-fill) in attics and horizontal spaces. However, it is more prone to mould and mildew growth than other materials.

Insulation Continuity

Continuous exterior insulation is a highly effective and affordable path to home energy efficiency. It reduces reliance on a home’s mechanical systems and lowers energy demand. In addition to providing better thermal performance, quieter spaces, and greater occupant comfort, homeowners can also reap considerable savings on annual heating and cooling costs.

Continuous insulation is defined as being continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges other than fasteners and service openings. It is installed on the interior or exterior or is integral to any opaque building envelope surface.

Continuous exterior insulation comes in a variety of types, sizes and compositions. As a non-structural exterior sheathing board, continuous insulation is significantly more dense and rigid than common batt insulation. It affixes over a home’s exterior sheathing and weather-resistive barrier (WRB) to create, as the name implies, a continuous and uninterrupted blanket of insulation around the outside of the dwelling. Often likened to a warm sweater or jacket, the exterior insulation helps achieve a higher-performance building envelope and protects the structure, making it more durable.

Typical Problem Areas for Insulation Continuity

  1. Foundation wall
  2. Two planes of insulation
  3. Headers and rim joists
  4. Electrical panel
  5. Wall-to-window and door interface
  6. Attic insulation on outside walls

The value of insulation has long been recognized in all types of buildings and across a wide range of climate zones. Still, to reach today’s stricter energy code requirements, we must think beyond traditional cavity insulation. Continuous exterior insulation is a requirement within the building code in many regions, and it’s quickly becoming standard practice as code drives us toward a more energy-efficient built environment. As such, wall systems have moved toward a split insulation assembly that includes continuous insulation on the home’s exterior and standard cavity insulation within the interior stud bay.

Remember: This is a general overview. Always consult a professional to determine the best insulation type and R-value for your needs and climate.

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