When is it time to replace your home insulation?
Properly functioning home insulation provides comfort, lower energy consumption and bills, and healthier air quality. But how do you know if your home insulation should be replaced? How long should it last? Do you always have to replace damaged insulation?
If your insulation was properly installed and has not been damaged, it may last 20-100 years or possibly even more (depending on the type of insulation). There are a few common kinds of damage that can cause loss of function and create health concerns (i.e. air quality).
Age of your insulation: How long does insulation last?
- If installed with proper precautions and left undamaged since, home insulation should last from 20-100 years or longer depending on the type of insulation: Fiberglass lasts decades (even 100 years) if not damaged, but it can start falling from ceilings and crawl spaces after 15-20 years, so an inspection may be needed.
- Spray Foam is unlikely to need replacement unless weather, pests, construction, or other damage has occurred.
- Cellulose has a typical lifespan of 20 – 30 years. Although green, efficient, and perhaps fire protective, degradation could start as early as 15 years (or sooner if damaged).
- Mineral Wool insulation life expectancy varies depending on the specific product (glass wool, slag wool, rock wool, etc.), but can last for 80-100 years unless damaged.
Some homes may have both a primary and supplementary type of insulation installed. Both types will of course have their own lifespan. For example, if cellulose is used as supplementary insulation, degradation of the cellulose can present symptoms (loss of insulation value, drafty rooms, higher energy consumption) while the primary insulation lasts longer.
Damaged insulation: When should insulation be replaced?
When insulation is damaged, the main concerns are the possibility of mold developing and the loss of function / R-value (leading to higher energy usage and costs).
Causes of damaged home insulation:
- Water (flood, plumbing leak, blown off shingles, etc.)
- Punctures (by animals, storms, etc.)
- Severe weather or fire
- Insect or rodent infestation
- Excessive dust
- Improper installation (may be more common in older homes)
- Shoddy materials (may be more common in older homes)
Mold needs four things to grow: the presence of spores, the right temperature range, nutrition, and water. Since mold spores are nearly everywhere in the air and many building materials and even merely dust can be food sources for mold, it can be literally impossible to control the first three elements. This means that the most effective way to prevent mold is to prevent moisture.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all wet insulation be replaced. The American Red Cross and FEMA suggests situations where fiberglass batts exposed to clean water could be removed, dried, and reinstalled. If the amount and intensity of water flow was enough to compact or erode the insulation, it should be replaced. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and replace wet insulation.
If insulation has been exposed to flood damage or storm waters (not clean water), any number of contaminants may have been introduced. In such situations, the wet insulation should be replaced to eliminate the risk of mold and loss of R-value / energy efficiency.
Of course, whatever the source of moisture or water on insulation, the cause should be identified and eliminated before removing your damaged insulation and replacing. Other system components such as banding, facings, tapes, etc. should also be replaced if they have been water damaged.
Insect or rodent infestation in home insulation can pose air-quality concerns due to droppings, and the function of the insulation can be negatively affected as well. A house fire can introduce smoke into insulation, create toxins when insulating materials are exposed to high temperatures, and pose a danger to air quality. Dust can make insulation less effective as it accumulates.
The older a home is, the greater chance there is of insulation problems, including improper installation, shoddy materials, and damage. If homeowners decide to remodel, this may be a good time to replace older or damaged insulation.
Signs your home insulation needs to be replaced
- High energy bills and drafts
- Someone in the home has frequent allergies or illness (could indicate mold or allergens)
- Frequent leaks or moisture issues
- Problems with insects or other pests (rats, mice, raccoons, squirrels)
- Insulation appears wet, thin, shifting, breaking down, or falling
- Excessive dust around air registers or other concerns about air quality
Make sure your home insulation stays in good condition
Replacing old or damaged home insulation will keep your home more comfortable, lower energy usage and bills, and may improve the quality of your indoor air. If you have concerns, getting an inspection is a good next step towards all the benefits of better insulation. Give us a call today!
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