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Old 04-17-2017, 12:58 AM   #1
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insulation in attic or crawlspace


I have bought a 1990 house one year ago. Found out that attic and crawlspace insulation is bad. Here is what I have found:

1. Attic insulation is missing in several place. Low R value
2. Crawlspace vapor barrier has water on several place. No evidence of continuous water stream. Area is Seattle which has heavy rains. Moldy insulation in attic and no insulation in parts of attic.

My house gets cold in winter and hot in summer. So obviously I need to fix the insulation. However, I do not want to spend too much. A crawlspace insulation reinstallation quote that I got was for $6k.

My goal is to put insulation that will be most effective in preventing heat loss. Having that goal in mind, my questions are:

1. Is attic insulation more important to have a warm house in winter as compared to crawlspace insulation? ( I have a limited budget). The floors do not feel cold.

2. Is water retention in crawlspace vapor barrier in a place like mine (seattle) an issue?

Thanks

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Old 04-17-2017, 01:08 AM   #2
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


There are a bunch of threads on this.

I always thought that a sealed crawlspace was the way to go, but a poster by the name of Gary in Wa says that vented work well in the Pacific NW.

As far as the attic, air seal and insulate.

http://www.energysavers.gov/your_hom.../mytopic=11230

https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildin...ing_report.pdf

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Old 04-17-2017, 01:24 AM   #3
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


Is attic insulation the main cause of the cold house apart from air sealing?

Can I do air seal on things like windows on my own?
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:24 AM   #4
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


You can, if so inclined, air seal on your own.

There is no magic bullet to efficiency and it is a comprehensive effort and approach. All of the systems will play into the aggregate efficiency of the home and you can usually prioritize by square footage or discomfort.
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Old 04-17-2017, 08:08 AM   #5
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


Hi ford,
What you are asking is probably the number one concern with the folks I help here in Maine. I'm a retired energy auditor and now focus on consulting to help people prioritize their limited budgets, mostly seniors in my case. But as Windows has said "There is no magic bullet to efficiency and it is a comprehensive effort and approach."

My first step with a home owner is a walkthrough energy audit. The purpose is to identify the major sources of heat loss and you would be surprised at how simple some of them have been. Example, air leakage into the attic around plumbing vents. In one case I discovered a direct shaft from basement to attic and the warm air was rushing to escape. In that cans less than $10 worth of materials and 20 minutes work probably saved him hundreds of dollars per year.

For you, and I'm a long ways away, we can talk about your house, its age, heating system, known insulation, climate and get a good idea just where the most heat is escaping. From there you can start to identify which improvements will save the most and at what cost.

One of the mistakes I like to avoid involves the sequence of the improvements, like adding 2' of insulation to an attic without doing some air sealing. Once all of that insulation is in place going back for the simple air sealing becomes almost impossible.

As for your question, attic or basement, attic is probably the answer but only after some air sealing.

More help if you want, this is a DIY forum and MANY of us have limited budgets.

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Old 04-19-2017, 10:17 PM   #6
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


In my experience with my own brand new home back in 1980, it was freezing cold in winter and hot in summer. It was also very dry during the winter months leading to many static shocks. I went in the attic and found the absolute minimum of blown in insulation, with some spots missing entirely. Went out and bought R19 rolls and added them across all of the rafters and my heating bill was cut in half the next winter. If I had known about air sealing back then it would have been even better. My vote is add attic insulation, as hot air rises.
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Old 04-20-2017, 01:19 PM   #7
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


Air sealing before insulation. Crawlspace venting generally works better in southern climates and sealing off from the outside in northern but that's not absolute.
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Old 04-20-2017, 06:06 PM   #8
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Re: insulation in attic or crawlspace


deal with the attic first since you have a health hazard.

if it's blown in insulation, to do a proper job you would have to get the old stuff vacuumed out professionally, seal everything, put baffels to keep soffit vents clear and blow fresh R40 to R50.

mold is caused by air leakage into attic in winter.

If you have any exhaust fans venting directly in the attic, you must pipe them to the outside.

Once you're at even r-15, adding additional insulation doesn't save that much per inch.

dealing with spots that have insulation missing and leakage will make a huge difference.

------
Vented crawlspaces are bad in the summer if you experience much humidity.

in winter they waste energy.

Having water in there is concerning - it shouldn't be there if the barrier is working and there isn't another problem.

make sure your downspouts are draining well away from the foundation.

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