How to Tell if Your House Is Well Insulated: Signs of Poor Insulation

how to tell if your house is well insulatedAs a responsible homeowner myself, I know it can sometimes feel a bit like you’re a shrewd detective. If you hear an odd noise, you have to investigate where it’s coming from; your furnace, your pipes, or even your floorboards can all be prime suspects. And when you find that your utility bill is higher than it usually is? Well, the smart move is for you to backtrack and try to pin down the reasons why costs are rising.

There really are so many investigative cases that you have to take on in your role as a homeowner, most of which involve ways to ensure that you’re saving money where you can, or keeping up-to-date with annual maintenance so that the little things don’t evolve into major home repairs. In my opinion, one of the most worthwhile cases for any homeowner/detective to take on is how to tell if your house is well insulated, or, the signs of poor insulation. As a heating and cooling service expert in the Sacramento region, I can’t stress enough the benefits of making sure your house is well insulated.

We have what’s known as a Mediterranean climate here in Northern California, which generally means that our hottest temperatures in the summer necessitate the use of an air conditioner, while our coolest nights in the winter call for using our furnace. We have to condition the air in our homes many months out of the year, which is the strongest piece of evidence I can think of for why you should know if your house is well insulated, as well as the most common signs of poor insulation. Magnifying glasses out and let’s go!

How to Tell if Your House Is Well Insulated

Let’s start with the positive side of this case: how to tell if your house is well insulated. There are a few effective ways to do this, including:

is your house well insulated or do you have signs of poor insulation?

  • Do a touch test: The touch test is exactly what it sounds like. On a winter day when it’s cool and rainy outside, go around and touch parts of your home, like the interior ceilings, walls, and floors. They should all feel warm and dry. If the drywall and paneling in these spaces do, that’s a great sign that your home is well insulated.
  • Do a comfort test: I think we’ve all been in homes or offices that are heated or cooled unevenly, leading to some rooms being icy and uncomfortable, while others are toasty warm. I’ve talked about reasons that an HVAC heats unevenly before, but I didn’t emphasize just how important insulation is in this scenario. Return vents and ducts are key to an even and comfortable environment because they ensure each room gets the perfect amount of conditioned air, but insulation is also important because without it that air will leak out of certain areas of your home like it was never even there to begin with. However, if your entire home is comfortable, even on those especially hot or cold days, that’s a clear sign of how to tell if your house is well insulated.
  • Call an insulation pro: The easiest way to tell if your house is well insulated is to have an experienced insulation expert out to inspect your floors, ceilings, and walls. Insulation installation companies have access to expert equipment made for this job, and many of them will be happy to offer a free in-home inspection, either putting your mind at ease or giving you a subsequent estimate for what it would take to get your insulation up to snuff.

The Signs Your House Is Poorly Insulated

I’ve already covered how to tell if your furnace efficiency is too low and how to tell if your plumbing is bad. Think of this next section as the third installment in that trilogy: how to tell if your house is poorly insulated. Here are a few of the most common signs of poor insulation:

  • High energy bills: All good detectives, er, I mean homeowners, know that careful records are a fantastic resource. This is true of finding out if you have poor insulation. Take a look at your energy bills over the last few years and see if you have any major increases that you can’t explain. Sometimes, heating and cooling costs rise after a home gets older and the insulation in your attics and walls settles and becomes less effective. This happens slowly, so homeowners often don’t notice a change in comfort in the rooms that are affected—but, records of energy bills may tell a different story.
  • Water leaks in the winter: Do you find water leaking in your attic during our rainy winters, or do your windows leak when it rains? Poorly insulated walls and windows don’t just let cool air into your home, they also let in water when it’s really coming down outside. Any kind of water leaking in is a clear sign of poor insulation.
  • Touch and comfort test failures: Remember the touch and comfort tests from the first section that we used to determine if homes were well insulated? Well, these tests work both ways. If you found wet and damp drywall and paneling during the touch test, or uncomfortable rooms during the comfort test, this is also a clear indication that your insulation needs an upgrade.

Again, though, the most dependable way to settle the question about whether or not your home is well insulated is to have a trained insulation expert out to your home. At Bell Brothers, we have all the equipment—and the years of experience—you need to close this case once and for all. Now, you might be a fantastic detective in your own right, but that still doesn’t mean there’s any shame in calling in the pros. It’s like when Scotland Yard turned to Sherlock Holmes, except we’re investigating insulation instead of murder mysteries.

At Bell Brothers, we believe a whole home approach to safety, energy efficiency, and health. Our expert HVAC professional would not only be happy to service your furnace this winter, we’d love to make sure your insulation and windows are also working efficiently to keep your home toasty warm during the cold season. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Wondering how to finance a new furnace, or maybe even new windows and plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.

Image courtesy AndreyPopov