Insulating Your Walls, Ceilings, and Floors

Typically, about xx% of your space heating energy goes to heat losses out walls, ceilings and floors.  

< need to think about this --

It might make sense to include an introduction section that goes through:

- sizing up the potential

- estimating the savings

- Insulating attics  -- a systematic approach and how to

- Isulating walls -- -- same

- Insulating floors == same



Blowing cellulose insulation in your attic as a DIY project

Insulating the attic...

Insulating the walls...

Insulating the floor (and crawl space)...




Estimating the Savings and Planning the Job
Insulation Upgrade Cost Saving Calculator


Calculate how much money and greenhouse gas you would save with various insulation,  window, or window treatment  upgrades.
A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Energy Star Home Sealing

Energy Star Home Sealing Guide...  (2 MB pdf)

Leaky ducts may lose lose 15% to 30% of your heated or cooled air  ----   more on duct sealing

Don't use duct tape for sealing -- example ...

This is a very well done guide to sealing up air leaks in your home.  Lots of good how-to pictures. 
A couple small add-ons I would make:
- Replacing older can lights so that you can insulate right over them is a fairly easy DIY job -- it has the advantages of both reducing heat loss to the attic and getting some heat gain from the can light to the room.
- The method they give for determining if you have enough insulation is goofy.  Instead, use the Insulation Upgrade Calculator or one of the online insulation guides to determine if your insulation is sufficient for your climate.
- For insulating over existing insulation, I like blown in cellulose.  Its easy, insulates very well, is resistant to air currents flowing through it (see study below), and is easy on the planet.
Insulate and Weatherize

Bruce Harley

Very, very  good book on techniques for improving home insulation,  reducing air infiltration, and sealing ductwork.  The most complete and technically correct reference I have found.
Home Remedies for Energy Nosebleeds,
Bruce Harley,  Fine Homebuilding, Issue 190


How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

Fine Homebuilding Magazine, Nov 2007, Issue 190.  A good article by Bruce Harley (author of the book just above) about finding and fixing particularly bad energy wasting defects in your house.

These are the kinds of things that can raise your heat bill by 50% or more.
Insulation Guides  -- Building a well insulated and Tight Shell for Your Home

The DOE-EERE Insulation Guide Series:

Insulation Overview (pdf 2MB)

Insulating Ceilings/Attics (pdf 0.1MB)

Wall Framing (pdf 0.8MB)
Insulating Walls (pdf 0.8MB)

Insulating Basements (pdf 0.2MB)
Insulating Crawl Spaces (pdf 0.2MB)
Insulating Slabs (pdf 0.2MB)

Window Selection (pdf 0.5 MB)

Air Sealing (pdf 0.2MB)
Weather Barriers (pdf 0.2MB)

This is a good and up-to-date series of guides from DOE-EERE site for building an outer shell on your home that minimizes heat transfer.
I guess my one bit of advice would be to go a bit further than they recommend for your climate, because experience shows that in a while (as fuel prices climb) they will be recommending higher levels.


Other DOE-EERE publications here:

Urban Options  -- ...


A very good guides for decreasing air infiltration and improving insulation.  Well written and detailed.

Plus a nice energy saving check list for the most important items.

Insulating the Attic
<have this kind of intro section for each area .>

Insulating the attic is often a cheap and relatively easy DIY job that can have a very good payback.

There are some things that you will want to take care of at the same time, like sealing up air infiltrations areas before you cover them with a foot of insulation -- so a little planning is important.

An overview on what kind of approaches are available, how to estimate the dollar saving, and how to plan the job...


Insulation Fact Sheet     (pdf)

Fairbanks University Cooperative Extension Service



A very good table providing information on all the common (and not so common) types of insulation.

R values, application suitability, pro/con, max service temperature, ...

Very Useful, and, as far as I can see, unbiased (which is hard to find in insulation info on the Internet).

Insulating Your Old House,  (A wall insulation how-to)
Laren Corie,
ESSN Newsletter, Aug 2005


This is a good article by Laren Corie in the Aug 2005 issue of the ESSN Newsletter.

It describes in detail how to insulate existing walls with cellulose insulation.

The ESSN news letter, while not published anymore has some very good articles in its online archive -- all free downloads.
Insulating the Walls
Insulating Existing Walls with Blown In Insulation




Some collected information on how-to blow insulation into your existing walls.
Advanced Air Sealing,


This is quite a detailed and helpful guide on how to seal various joints and penetrations.

Some of these techniques can only be used during construction, but some can be used on an existing house.


Home Energy Checklist

From the Energy and Environmental Building Association


Good checklist of steps to take to reduce energy consumption in your house or apartment.  The "Myths" are almost as useful as the checklist items.
Home Energy Projects



Home Energy Projects -- Good, detailed guide on DIY energy conservation projects.  Written for Alabama, but many projects are good for anywhere.

" An Energy Conservation Guide for Do-It-Yourselfers - 1.3mb pdf file. This book was created for the state of Alabama with information that applies throughout the southeast U.S. Home Energy Projects contains 86-pages and outlines 25 energy conservation projects, in order of priority, that can be performed by do-it-yourselfers. Contains how-to instructions"

All About Insulation


Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 194

Good rundown on the various types of insulation available and their insulating, health, and environmental characteristics.

Spray Foam -- What Do You Really Know?,
Bob Yagid, Fine Homebuilding, June 2009

How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

A Fine Homebuilding article explaining the two type of spray foam insulation.

Save Energy and Money Now

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 188

Article outlines a number of practical steps to reduce your homes energy consumption. 

Are You Insulated

Edward Harland

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 153

Pretty good article on insulating existing houses.   Good for a starter, but get the Harley book before you tackle the actual project.

Air Sealing

From Southface at:

Air Sealing Guide (139K pdf)

Good, detailed guide on sealing houses to reduce air infiltration.

From the Southface website -- other good material on this site.

Operation Caulk  -- Air Sealing Procedure for DC Habitat For Humanity Duplex Houses

Operation Caulk (200K pdf)



A good and detailed guide on sealing to reduce air infiltration.

While the guide is intended for new construction, some of the steps can be taken on an existing house.

Attic Insulation Upgrade,
Mike Guertin, Fine Homebuilding, January 2009


How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

A good article from Fine Homebuilding on adding insulation to the attic.  Lots of emphasis and detail on sealing before insulation, which is very important -- careful sealing of air leaks may save more energy than the insulation.


Airtight Attic Access,
Mike Guertin, Fine Homebuilding, July 2002 issue 148

How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

Fine Homebuilding article shows a design for a double door access into the attic.

Attic access hatches can be a HUGE large heat loss -- they ae often poorly insulated and very leaky.  This is a simple way to make sure yours is not.

Attic Venting, Attic Moisture and Ice Dams,
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation


Good fact sheet on what to do about wet attics and ice dams.
Radiant Barriers

From Southface at

Radiant Barrier Guide (21K pdf)

Good guide on how radiant barriers work, what to expect in the way of savings, and how to install.

Other good materials on the Southface website.

How to Install Radiant Barrier Foil Insulation,


This is a detailed and well written set of instructions on how to install a radiant barrier.

This same outfit sells a "heavyweight" aluminum foil material for about 12 cents a sf.
Blower Door Testing

From the website

Blower Door Test Guide (50K pdf)

Good guide on how blower door testing and duct blast testing can be used to test for the level of air infiltration your house if experiencing.
DOE Insulation Fact Sheet



Advice on where to insulate, what to insulate with, and installation advice.

Recommendations on insulation levels that are dependant on climate and construction type.

Crawl Space Insulation



Closed (unvented) crawl spaces can reduce heat loss, but have to be done correctly.  This site has lots of detailed information on how to decide on whether to close your crawl space, and how to do it.
Filling  A Floor With Bat Insulation

Energy Source Builder Newsletter, April 1995

How to add insulation under your floor.   Uninsulated floor can be a major source of heat loss.
Sources of Air Infiltration

 Energy Source Builder #45, June 1996,



Tells you where the cold air is coming from.
Retrofitting Insulation to Existing Homes


Retrofit Insulation in Existing Wooden Walls (pdf)

Retrofit Insulation in Wood Roofs (pdf)

Retrofit Insulation in Concrete and Masonry Walls (pdf)

Alaska Building Research Series HCM-01552,3, and 4

This series of three papers shows some techniques for retrofitting insulation to existing walls, roofs, and concrete/masonry walls. 

Good construction details.

These are not the only ways to retrofit insulation to walls, and may not be appropriate for all climates -- but, may be perfect for some situations.

Mooney Wall 



A way to retrofit a high R value, low thermal bridging, and high infiltration resistance wall.

Mooney wall details ...

Another example of using the Mooney wall ...

Comparison of Fiberglass and Cellulose Insulation in Identical Test Homes

FG to Cellulose Compare (0.2MB pdf)


Heat Loss test for two small test homes, one insulated with fiberglass and the other with Cellulose insulation. 

Cellulose showed more resistance to infiltration and better R value than fiberglass.

Convection Losses in Loose Fill Fiberglass Insulation

More on this:



ORNL test on loose fill Fiberglass attic  insulation shows a loss in R value of as much as 50% for cold outside temperatures.  This loss  is due to convection currents within the FG insulation.   Cellulose insulation was also tested, and does not show this loss.


Cheating -- The Insulation Industry's Dirty Secret


An article from Home Energy magazine on cheating in the insulation industry.

Sad but important reading for everyone.  This is a good reason to 1) do it yourself, or 2) really understand what insulating is about, and make sure the contractor knows that you will check on his/her work.

Insulation Under Concrete Slabs ... (pdf)



Good article on under slab insulation for radiant heated floors.

Compares three types of insulation to no insulation.
Rigid foam insulations do well, but the bubble pack style of insulation is worthless.

Attic Tent


Pull down attic stairways are notorious for air leaks.  This $200 commercial product seals up the attic stairway in what looks like an effective way. 
It seems like a DIY version would also be possible.  If you do a home made one, please let me know.  Or, maybe you have an alternative way of sealing?
DIY version of "Attic Tent"

Details ...



Here is an easy to build means to cut heat loss through the pull down attic stairway opening.

Details ...

Preventing Stratification With High Ceilings

Heat Harvester:



Homes or buildings with high ceilings can result in lots of hot air near the ceiling.  The "Heat Harvester" (or a ceiling fan) can keep the air mixed up and save some heat.
Note that high ceilings don't always result in stratification, so check to make sure you really need one of these here ...


See Also ...

<this section gives links to other pages that apply -- best to point and not duplicate entries>