Should I Add Insulation to My Exterior Walls?

Several factors impact your heating bill each month, yet perhaps the most long-term improvement you can make is to add additional insulation where needed. Many older homes (and some newer ones) lack sufficient insulation in the exterior walls. Correcting this can pose a challenge as it is often difficult to determine how much insulation is in the walls, let alone gain the access needed to add more. Don’t worry — there is a way. In this post we explain.

First, determine what kind and how much insulation is in the walls. The easiest way is through the power outlets along the exterior walls. Shut off the power to each outlet before removing the faceplate. Carefully look around the outside of the electrical box to inspect the insulation present, if any. Pull out a small amount of insulation to determine what kind it is. Then, follow this link to calculate its R-value according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Note that the R-value in one exterior wall does not guarantee the same is true in all exterior walls. Check each to be sure.

Now that you know what is in your walls, it is time to determine the return on investment (ROI) should you decide to make improvements. The government offers a comprehensive energy savings calculator. This is a great tool for determining how much you’ll save off your energy bill each year!

The final step is to determine the cost of completing the insulation project. This will vary widely depending on what kind of insulation you’re adding, and if you plan to hire a contractor or do the work yourself. Obtain at least 2-3 cost estimates for a stated R-value. Describe the job in writing with the same terms to ensure comparable quotes.

You will then have what you need to make an informed decision. Compare the upfront costs to the ongoing benefit. When is your break-even point? Is taking on this project worth the monthly savings? In a poorly insulated home, this is oftentimes one of the best long-term improvements you can make to a home.