Air sealing and insulation work are often done hand-in-hand to ensure that a structure can stay energy-efficient and maintain a comfortable temperature despite the weather outside. Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that these 2 processes are one and the same, but they’re not.
While they share a similar goal, air sealing and insulation answer different issues. Some problems are best addressed by improving the air seal around the house, while others can be solved by installing insulation products that are suited to the needs of the property.
How Does Air Sealing Work?
The primary purpose of air sealing is to reduce the air leaks that allow air into and outside a closed structure. Air leakage occurs when there are gaps, holes, and cracks around the home where conditioned air can escape and drafts can come in. This exchange can affect indoor temperature, humidity, and air quality, which can lead to a lot of problems.
Among the most common sources of air leaks are window and door frames and the holes where plumbing or electrical wiring are connected.
To compensate for the changes brought about by air leaks, your home’s HVAC system may use up more energy to maintain the indoor temperature. Your home will consume more energy than it needs to, and this can increase your heating and cooling costs. Despite this, you may still feel discomfort due to fluctuating temperatures and changes in humidity. If the air is too dry, you can suffer from various types of irritation, increased stress levels, and even respiratory conditions.
If it’s too humid, it can encourage the growth of mold and mildew. These organisms can trigger allergies and cause illnesses, endangering your health and wellbeing as well as that of the people you live with. If allowed to spread, mold and mildew can even compromise the structural integrity of the property.
Before you can plug air leaks, you need to detect their presence first. Unfortunately, many gaps, holes, and cracks in your home are located in spaces that you can’t easily see or access. A professional can help you test the air seal around your house, and they can also recommend different ways to make your home more energy-efficient.
Some people turn to caulking and weatherstripping to reduce the sources of air leaks, while others end up replacing their doors and windows with newer models, addressing the leaks and giving their property a bit of an upgrade in the process.
What Does Insulation Do?
Insulation is concerned with making your home more resistant to heat flow, not air leaks. Heat can flow into your home in 3 ways: conduction or through physical contact, convection or through the movement of fluids such as rising air or gas, and radiation or lying in the direct path of sunlight.
Heat flows from warmer to cooler areas. In the cold months, it flows from the heating units in your house going out. During this time, your HVAC system must replace the lost heat to keep your house warm. In the warm months, heat flows from the outside into your home. Your HVAC system must then remove this excess heat by producing cold air and expelling heat to the outdoors..
However, if your home has poor resistance to heat flow—that is, if it can’t slow down the transfer of heat—then you won’t be able to feel the effects of your heating and cooling system for long. The indoor temperature will likely fall or rise depending on the temperature outside, no matter how hard your HVAC system works.
Choosing the right insulation products and installing them properly in places where they are needed can address this issue. Insulation materials are rated according to thermal resistance or their R-value.
This value, in turn, depends on what the insulation is made of, its density, and its thickness. Materials with higher R-values are more effective at keeping the heat in or out of your home.
There are many considerations to make when choosing the right insulation solutions for your home. These include the sources of heat, the heating and cooling system that you have, where your home is located, the part of the house that you want or need to add insulation to, and your budget. Here, we have a short guide that will help you choose the right R-value for your home’s insulation.
Do You Need Insulation Installation or Air Sealing?
Clearly, your home’s air sealing and insulation play a big part in keeping your home comfortable and energy-efficient, and these services complement each other. At the same time, they’re done for different purposes, and they solve different problems. If you’re having a hard time fine-tuning the details of your indoor atmosphere, determine first if you’re having issues with air leaks, insufficient insulation, or your HVAC system. This way you can use your resources to find an effective solution that will efficiently and quickly improve the indoor climate inside your home.