By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Is your house in need of insulation? Even if you think it’s well insulated, it’s a good idea to check it before the cold air moves in. If it’s not done thoroughly, you could be losing money.

In this week’s Angie’s List, Jim Donovan shows you why now may be a good time to get your home insulated.

Insulation is one of the most cost effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

“The cost will depend on your climate and the size of your home. Typically homeowners find they can see a 20 percent savings on their heating and cooling bills by properly insulating their house,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.

And don’t assume just because you already have it, your home is adequately insulated.

“What homeowners might not realize is that insulation deteriorates over time. So it’s something you need to check periodically to make sure you have enough. An energy audit is a great way to help you determine that as well as check the overall energy efficient of your home,” said Hicks.

If you find you do need it, there’s still time to take advantage of a federal energy tax credit for insulation. But act fast because it expires at end of this year. Also you might want to consider calling a pro for this job.

“Adding insulation to your attic may seem like a do-it-yourself project, but what people don’t realize is they can get in over their head. It can be a hot and messy project and even dangerous,” said Hicks.

More advice from Angie:

Do you have enough insulation?
Home energy audit: Determine how much insulation you already have and where. A home energy audit can help determine areas in need of insulation. An audit can also help pinpoint parts of your home that are in need of air sealing. The amount of insulation you need will depend upon a number of factors including where you live and the age of your home.

Inspect it: Look in your attic, if you see exposed two-by-fours, you are probably due for some more insulation.

Measure walls: Measuring the insulation in walls is a little more difficult. Find a spot in the wall, preferably in the closet where it’s not seen, and make a small puncture in the hole with a wire. You should feel resistance and insulation.

Most common types of insulation:

Fiberglass (both batt and blown-in forms): For use in unfinished walls, including the foundations, floors and ceiling.

Rigid foam board: Made of polystyrene, this product has a high insulating value despite being relatively thin. It’s also appropriate for unfinished walls, floors and ceilings.

Spray foam: This product, made of various materials is often used in enclosed existing walls, unfinished attic floors or open wall cavities.

Rigid fibrous: Made of fiberglass or mineral wool, this product is used in ducts or other areas requiring insulation that can handle high temperatures.

Loose-fill: Made of fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool, this is appropriate for existing walls, unfinished attic floors and difficult-to-reach areas.

Angie’s List tips for adding insulation to your home:
Hire help: Adding insulation to your attic yourself is dangerous. You may step through the ceiling or fall through it. A reputable contractor also has the knowledge of what type of insulation should be used and where.

Consider the R factor: The performance of insulation or its ability to resist heat flow is determined by R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. You can find the R-value printed on bags or on labels attached to bags of insulation – always ask the contractor to see the bags that will be used. R-value recommendations vary according to geographic locations. For example, in colder climates the R-value will be higher. Different values are also recommended for attics, walls, etc.

Know your options: Regulation requires contractors to provide consumers with a fact sheet including insulation information on the products they sell.

Are they insured? Ask for proof of current insurance. This will help protect you should one of the workers is injured on your property or damages your house.

Check certifications: Ask if the contractor certified by the Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA). These contractors have access to training regarding proper installation and are familiar with codes and regulations.

Read the contract: The contract should include the job specification, cost, warranty information, and method of payment. The contract should also spell out the type of insulation, where it will be used and its R-value. Beware of contracts that list the insulation in terms of thickness – the R-value tells how well a material insulates, not the thickness.

Tax credits available: Now through the end of the year, homeowners who add insulation to their homes can receive a tax credit of up to 10 percent the cost of materials with a maximum credit of $500. Tax credit does not include installation costs.

Reported By Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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