A well insulated home will help keep you comfortable on hot days in summer and cold days throughout winter. It’ll also reduce your reliance on artificial heating and cooling, helping you save on your electricity bills. But what happens if your insulation isn’t doing its job anymore?
A large chunk of Australian homes are under insulated. They may experience uncomfortable temperatures throughout the year and struggle to heat or cool their house even with the air con on. Many people don’t realise that these things are the result of poor or damaged insulation.
In this article, we’ll look at how long insulation should last for and factors that can compromise its effectiveness so that you can figure out if it’s time to update your insulation!
How long does insulation last?
Modern insulation products are designed to last for several decades. Although the warranty changes from brand to brand, you should expect insulation to last around 30 to 70 years if it isn’t damaged or compromised. Knauf insulation, for example, has a warranty of 50 years.
As a rule of thumb, experts suggest checking your insulation every 10 years to ensure it’s in good condition. This is especially important if you are living in an older home as the insulation may not be as durable as modern products.
Like any other material, insulation will be subject to wear and tear over time. When insulation gets old it will become less effective at resisting heat transfer, though it will likely still provide some insulating power for years to come. In some cases you may be able to top up insulation instead of replacing it altogether (more on that later).
Factors that can reduce the lifespan of insulation
While most insulation should last for several decades, there are a number of factors that can speed up the degradation process. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your insulation every 10 years and keep your eye out for issues like the ones listed below.
Insulation that isn’t secured properly may move out of place, creating gaps and causing air draughts. Gaps between insulation batts will compromise their ability to prevent heat loss and gain. Additionally, blown in insulation can compress over time due to gravity, creating gaps at the top of the wall.
Moisture damage can occur because of leaks or poor ventilation. Not only can moisture cause mould and mildew issues, but it can also compress insulation and compromise its performance. If you notice any leaks in your ceiling or walls, it’s important to fix these completely before attempting to replace insulation.
Dirt and dust
Excessive dirt and dust can compromise the effectiveness of some insulation types such as foil backed insulation. Grime can make the foil surface less effective at reflecting radiant heat. Foil backed insulation should be installed with the foil facing downwards to avoid excessive dust and grime build up.
Tears and gaps
Physical damage like tears can create gaps in the insulation which allows passage for heat to flow in and out of your home. Damage may also compress the air pockets inside the insulation, making it less effective.
Rats, mice and other pests can damage insulation by causing rips, compressing it or creating mould issues. If you have an infestation in your ceiling or walls, it should be dealt with before attempting to replace the insulation.
Signs your insulation might need replacing
If you’re not sure if it’s time to replace your insulation, there are a number of telltale signs to keep your eye out for. If you notice any of the following, it’s worth getting a professional inspection. An insulation expert can help you make the best decision of whether you should replace and the best way to do so.
Fluctuating indoor temperatures
Have you noticed that temperatures inside your home go up and down a lot within one day? Does your home get really hot on a warm day? Does it feel unbearably cold during winter? Insulation should help regulate temperatures to keep your home at a more steady temperature, so if this is not happening it’s a sign your insulation isn’t doing its job properly.
Difficulty heating or cooling your home
If you are having trouble heating your home, even with the heater up to the highest setting, it could be a sign your insulation needs replacing. The same goes for cooling your home. If your air conditioner is working really hard but isn’t cooling your home very effectively, it’s likely a sign that your insulation isn’t working properly.
Exponentially increasing energy bills
Have you noticed that your energy bill has been steadily increasing over the past few years? Although there could be several reasons for this, it could be the result of poor insulation. Homes with poor insulation are less energy efficient because heating and cooling is not effective. Well insulated homes tend to rely less on artificial heating and cooling, and when they are used they are more energy efficient thanks to insulation.
You notice damage
If your roof suffered damage in a storm or you know there is a rat infestation in your ceiling, it’s likely your insulation has been affected. If you have safe access to the affected area, you can inspect it yourself. If there is visible damage to the insulation, it may be time to clear it out and replace it. Make sure that you fix any issues first otherwise they will end up damaging the new insulation too.
Replacing your insulation vs topping it up
Ceiling insulation should be completely removed and replaced if it is damaged, mouldy or compressed. However, if your existing ceiling insulation is still in good condition, but is just less effective at resisting heat transfer, you can top up the existing insulation with new insulation. The existing insulation may only have a little bit of insulating power, but every bit counts.
If you are purchasing new insulation, consider upgrading to the highest R-Value possible. R-Value indicates how much insulating power the product has and the higher you go, the more potential savings you can get on your electricity bill.