Is Fiberglass Forever?
Tips about removing or upgrading fiberglass insulation for existing homes
Everyone needs insulation. But, how do you know if your insulation is still good enough? Home heating and cooling methods have changed a lot through the years, and so has insulation. Many homes have fiberglass insulation installed in the wall cavities. R13 fiberglass is the most common traditional batt insulation used for 2×4 wall cavities. Under ideal conditions and with perfect installation, the fiberglass material can last 80-100 years. However, most home experts advise checking on the status of your fiberglass insulation at about year 15.
Fiberglass is relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, the status of your insulation is not something that homeowners should assume is fine. You may be experiencing the symptoms of fiberglass failure in your home without even realizing it.
According to an article for Green Building advisor, “when we only pay bottom dollar for fiberglass batts, we get the performance we deserve. Unfortunately, the person who suffers is the homeowner who usually doesn’t know any better.”
Why and how can fiberglass insulation fail?
Fiberglass is a good insulating material, but does a poor job of protecting your home against air infiltration. According to the Department of Energy, the air infiltration is responsible for up to 30% of your heating and cooling costs. You may notice drafty areas where the fiberglass was installed poorly, cool air seeping in near outlet boxes, and thermal imaging can show us where air is escaping. This occurs because fiberglass can sag, become detached from the wall frame, and can even be nested in by rodents or pests. We often see tunneling or nesting in fiberglass from mice. Additionally, fiberglass relies heavily upon the proper installation of an air barrier to ensure it has some efficacy. This is another area where improper installation can affect a home’s lifetime energy consumption.
The installation of fiberglass can be a huge problem that affects your energy efficiency.
In an article titled, “Should Batt Insulation Be Outlawed?” the author maintains that the inexpensive cost of fiberglass materials and installation leads to more long-term expenses. This is because many times installers get paid by the square foot for insulation, regardless of the quality of their work. Because of this, graded levels have been introduced for how well fiberglass has been installed in a home. Grade I installation is ideal, and Grade III installation is a problem. You can lose 12% of the insulating power of the fiberglass material with less than perfect installation! Irregularly sized wall cavities, incorrectly cut insulation, and insulation that is installed poorly around electrical outlets are huge problems when it comes to your energy bill.
A guide to fiberglass installation can be found in this article, a visual guide to why fiberglass underperforms.
Does fiberglass insulation feed or harbor mold?
If exposed to wet conditions, fiberglass can harbor mold. The fiberglass insulation itself does not feed mold, but dust and other materials can become intertwined with the glass fibers and can support mold growth. Think of fiberglass like a big spiderweb that can catch all sorts of organic materials. Once this happens, there is nothing you can do to salvage the insulation. Additionally, the paper facing that is used on fiberglass can also be a place for mold to grow and thrive.
How-to: Improve Your Insulation for Long-term Results
Upgrading insulation may seem like an impossible task.
You’ve made your house a home, and most homeowners are extremely uninterested in tearing down drywall or plaster to remove old insulation and start fresh. Not only would this be extremely disruptive to your life, but it would be very costly.
Spray foam insulation is an effective solution to air infiltration, mold, pests, and allergens – but you need bare walls to install it. That’s why spray foam insulation is often used for new builds or home additions where you’re starting from scratch.
Injection foam insulation is the best of multiple insulation worlds.
As discussed above, insulation removal is generally not a great option. However, if you have fiberglass in your walls, injection foam insulation can be applied on top of the existing insulation!
Not only does injection foam insulation have excellent R-values, it provides the same benefit of air sealing as spray foam with less hassle. Unlike fiberglass or cellulose, with injection foam insulation there is no worry of compression in the wall cavity or sagging. The foam completely fills the wall cavity and solidifies within 60 seconds of leaving the applicator gun. Foam insulation seals out rodents, insects, and allergens from invading your home. Foam insulation is known for its mold resistant properties. Additionally, foam insulation insulates pipes and wiring in your walls with excellent results. Excess foam is easily washed away with water, and it doesn’t produce noxious fumes or VOC’s.
Injection foam has a superior fire-rating compared to other types of insulation and even compared to spray foam. It has been acoustically tested – and can provide sound dampening results almost immediately after insulation.
Injection foam insulation has another benefit – easy installation.
We drill small holes from outside your home and inject the foam insulation in from outside. No interior wall removal or renovation is necessary.
If you have failing or ineffective fiberglass or cellulose in your walls – we can often apply foam insulation on top of it without expensive and messy removal!
Injection foam insulation has been installed in homes and commercial buildings for over 35 years. Since then, over 400 million square feet of walls in the US have been insulated with this type of product.
With energy costs continuously rising, it only makes sense to do everything you can to mitigate the loss of expensive heated or cooled air.
Contact us today to discuss your project!
We look forward to speaking with you!