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From a Certified Pro
Certified Energy Auditor
Residential Comfort & Energy Efficiency
Wednesday, September 07 2022
Written by Eric Gans, Building Analyst & Envelope Professional
Maryland Attic Insulation Guide
This guide can help anyone figure out how to improve insulation to their attic.
As the cooler weather sets in to Maryland you should take a peek into your attic.
The attic is the place to start if you want a more comfortable home.
Just because you see insulation it does not mean that it is working well for you.
The answer is in the details that you can learn about below.
The State of Maryland recommends that our attics have enough insulation to equal R-49.
If your home is older than 10 years than you are likely not meeting the 2022 Maryland building code.
Existing insulation in a Maryland attic is typically inconsistent for a variety of reasons. Air sealing and the right amount of insulation are important for a tight, energy efficient home.
Take a look at a few under-insulated attics so you can do some comparing.
STEP 1: Get Your Attic's Current R-Value
STEP 2: Get Your Attic Area
1. Measure the length and width from below for any attic area to calculate the square footage.
2. Note the exact square footage of any area that has different insulation levels (up to three). Use a laser measure to make it easy!
REQUIRED R-VALUE MARYLAND
|Ending R-value of 49 or as space allows|
|Ending R-value of 38 or as space allows|
(basement, crawl space, knee wall)
|Ending R-value of 11 or greater|
|Crawl Space Ceiling|
|Ending R-value of 25 or as space allows|
|Ending R-value of 25 or as space allows|
(top of foundation wall in basement)
|Ending R-value of 19 or greater|
Learn how to determine what type of insulation you have below the graphic...
Determine what Type of Insulation You Have
Different attic insulation materials and levels yield wide ranging R-values.
So, it is first important to determine the type of insulation that is in your attic.
Typical Insulation Materials Found in Maryland Attics
- Fiberglass batts
- Loose fill fiberglass
- Loose fill cellulose
- Mineral wool
- Two-part spray foam
Need help identifying what type of insulation exists in your attic?
Take a photo and send it to me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Identifying the Most Common Maryland Insulation Types
Cellulose Loose Fill
Grey in color
More dusty and clingy than other materials
Has bits of newspaper in it
Good fire/mold retarder w/ additives
Rolled Fiberglass Batt Insulation
Typically referred to as batt insulation
Has the kraft paper or aluminum foil on one side
Recognizable due to the "Pink Panther" commercials
Must be installed flawlessly (unforgiving)
Low R-value per inch if not installed properly
Fiberglass Loose Fill
Typically white shreds, pink squares or yellow shreds.
Much less dusty
Lower cold weather performance than cellulose
Determine Your Current Attic Insulation Level
The amount of insulation your attic needs will depend on how much is there now.
This can be a little tricky. Calculations can be off if the information is not gathered right. The condition, coverage and depth of the insulation is important. Accuracy will ensure the best return on your investment and that you are meeting Maryland building code.
Un-insulated Areas Play a Heavy Hand in Poor R-Values
Now lets go a little deeper and explore the impact of un-insulated surfaces. It may surprise you how important having an even blanket of insulation is for for getting a great result.
If you notice any area in your attic that does not have insulation then pay attention to the information below!
This typical Maryland attic is a great example of what the impact of missing insulation can have.
The attic area in the home pictured above is 975 square feet and flat (R-49 recommended in Maryland).
You will notice 1" of blown in fiberglass insulation and 7" of rolled fiberglass batting laid on top.
In this scenario, the attic has roughly 8" of insulation in "most" of the areas that need it. Later you will learn how to use the depth to determine the R-value. In this case, the attic is R-17...
But, there is a catch!
There are two major un-insulated areas in this attic (very common in Maryland attics).
1. A three foot by three foot push up hatch
2. A three foot by three foot whole house fan
Equaling a total of 18 square feet of un-insulated area at the attic floor.
This equates to just about 2% of the attic area (18 divided by 975).
Typical hallway push up hatch leading to an under insulated Maryland attic. Watch how a hatch gets treatment.
The hatch from the attic has a plywood cover (seen in background)
Whole house fan as seen from the attic.
With the use of the HOME ENERGY SCORE CALCULATOR we are able to calculates the impact un-insulated surfaces have on insulation performance.
The picture gets clear!
What ends up happening with this common scenario is not good. A mere 18 square feet of missing insulation has a big impact. The expected R-value reduces down from 17 to 13 for the entire attic!
That translates to hot summer nights and cold winter drafts and high energy bills to pay.
According to Dr. Allison Bailes of Energy Vanguard, the heat flows through the bare areas fast. Based on his article, the air leaves in the un-insulated ceiling area as much as 38 times faster then the insulated areas.
Be sure to measure your attic insulation in precise fashion. Different areas that have different levels should be separate. Each area will get an R-value assessment. Along with knowing the condition, this weighted average calculator can then help you determine your attic's R-value.
Back to Top
Determine Your Attic Insulation's Condition
The condition of the existing insulation in an attic is also important. Obtaining the information will assist in generating reliable return on investment reporting. Current condition can also reveal clues about future comfort gains.
R-value can be misleading if several factors are not met:
- Installation integrity
- Missing pressure boundary (air sealing around gaps/voids)
- Overall insulation coverage (distribution)
Your insulation should get a rating of "poor", "moderate" or "well" insulated.
Attic Insulation in Poor Condition
Insulation with large gaps and voids. Missing insulation greater than 2% of the insulated area.
Attic Insulation in Moderate Condition
Insulation with defects and gaps around wiring, electrical outlets, plumbing and other intrusions. Rounded edges or "shouldered". The amount of fill is incomplete, but rarely dips less than 30% of intended thickness. Gaps and spaces running clear through the insulation should be no more than 2% of the insulated area.
Well Insulated Attic Characteristics
The insulation has no any large gaps or voids around obstructions. The insulation appears to fit in any cavity side-to-side and top-to-bottom. The insulation appears to around wiring and other services in the area.
Different Insulation Types & Conditions = Different R-Values
The values for the corresponding condition of your attic insulation can be multiplied by the number of inches you have to see where your attic falls on the scale.
- Loose Fill Cellulose
New: 3.60 R-value per inch
Existing Well: 3.60
Existing Moderate: 3.13 R-value per inch
(Example: 6" = R19; 10" = R31)
Existing Poor: 2.7 R-value per inch
- Fiberglass Batt Insulation
New: 3.14 R-value per inch
Existing Well: 2.67
Existing Moderate: 2.10 R-value per inch
(Example: 6" = R13; 10" = R21)
Existing Poor: 1.26 R-value per Inch
- Loose Fill Fiberglass
New: 3.14 R-value per inch
Existing Well: 3.14
Existing Moderate: 2.73 R-value Per inch
(Example: 6" = R16; 10" = R27)
Existing Poor: 2.36
Watch a uniformly blown cellulose attic insulation job in progress!
Get a home energy audit & get questions answered such as:
Why is the room on the front of the house colder?
Do you have enough insulation?
Why is it so stuffy upstairs during the summer?
Should I remove old insulation from my attic?
Why does my HVAC run all of the time?
Is spray foam insulation the best solution for my home?
Why are my new windows feeling drafty?
Do my walls have insulation?
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A home energy audit is the GPS of home improvements...
Turn by turn directions to better comfort & energy efficiency.
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I have over 2000 energy audits under my belt in Maryland. I enjoy teaching what I know to help guide homeowners towards better comfort & energy efficiency. It took me a while to figure things out. I can show you in a few hours.
The Future of Maryland Home Remodeling
The Inflation Reduction Act includes several incentivized programs to promote energy efficiency and combat climate change.
A big part of the bill gives rebates to homeowners who make the right energy-efficient upgrades to their homes.
Don't mistake this program for a rebate on windows and doors!
Even the President does not fully understand Home Performance, yet!
WATCH: Understanding how Maryland's current Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program reports work will give you good insight.
Whole house solutions look to seal your house so your HVAC works less - saving you energy.
How Maryland Homeowners Will Benefit
This provision of the bill incorporated elements of legislation that Maryland lawmakers voted for called “HOPE for HOMES.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said there are “tremendous savings” in using energy more efficiently.
He pointed to the biggest hold up to a homeowner making improvements in their home to lower energy usage is the up-front cost.
Sometimes the up-front costs overshadow the savings gained over time and the 2022 bill makes getting the work done more attractive and affordable.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act, many homeowners will be eligible to recoup up to 50% of energy improvement costs — up to a maximum rebate of $4,000. Lower-income homeowners could be eligible for more generous rebates of up to 80% of costs, a maximum of $8,000.
INFLATION REDUCTION ACT SNAPSHOT SUMMARY: courtesy of Energy Circle
Rebates & Training Grants
Maryland residents can expect two major rebate program roll outs, better tax incentives and training dollars for local contractors to learn the key principles in order to keep up with demand.
2 MAJOR REBATE PROGRAMS FOR MARYLAND HOMEOWNERS
$4.3 Billion for HOMES (Home Owner Managing Energy Savings) Rebate Program
Rebates up to $4,000 for home energy efficiency retrofits with modeled energy savings of 35% or more (or $2,000 for 20-34% energy savings)
Additional rebates up to $8,000 available for low and moderate-income homeowners
Rebates cannot be combined with other federal grants or rebates
$4.5 Billion for High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Program
Rebates for low and moderate-income homeowners for electric system/appliance purchases and energy efficiency upgrades
Maximum rebate of $14,000; individual rebates are as follows:
Heat pump water heaters: $1,750
Heat pump HVAC systems: $8,000
Electric stoves: $840
Heat pump clothes dryers: $840
Electrical panel upgrades: $4,000
Insulation, air sealing, and ventilation: $1,600
Electric wiring: $2,500
Rebates cannot be combined with other federal grants or rebates
More immediately, the new bill makes changes to tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades.
25C Tax Credit - Energy Efficiency Home Improvements (The Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit)
Credit revived and made retroactive for 2022 (at original 10%). It went away and it is back!
Starting in 2023, the credit increases to 30% of total installation costs through 2032
The current lifetime cap of $500 will be replaced by cap of $600 per measure, with $1,200 annual total limit (exceptions listed below)
Eligible services and home improvements include:
Heat pumps and heat pump water heaters ($2,000 credit)
Insulation and air sealing
Energy audits ($150 credit)
Energy-efficient HVAC systems (including furnaces, boilers, and central AC)
Electrical panel upgrades
Energy-efficient windows and doors ($500 credit for doors)
Roofs are no longer eligible
FOR MARYLAND CONTRACTORS
The fact that there is a provision to train contractors is a strong indicator.
There is going to be a huge need for home improvement professionals to cross from other trades into home performance.
Just look at this report about the growing need for energy auditors and other professionals that will need to learn more about home performance - likely just to keep doing their own craft.
- Window people
- Siding people
- Roofing people
$200 Million for State-Based Home Energy Efficiency Contractor Training Grants
Training for contractors involved in installation of home energy efficiency and electrification improvements
Funding through September 2031
What is not clear as of yet is how these newly introduced funding and program parameters will fit into Maryland's current Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program which already offers incentives to Maryland homowners that make the right energy efficient upgrades to their attics, basements and crawl spaces.
Subscribe to my blog for updates and they piece things together.
Home performance work makes the difference in energy savings and better home comfort.
What is lurking in your attic?
Getting a home energy audit is one of those things that many do not fully comprehend the benefits until the assessment is complete. At that time, a well trained energy consultant will be able to walk you around your home and illuminate issues that you have likely been walking right past for many weeks, months or in some cases YEARS! Don't wait any longer and empower yourself TODAY to make your home more efficient, sustainable and comfortable.
At the completion of an energy audit I can feel the gratitude and appreciation flowing from my customers. I know that I have enlightened them on some level. Learning about some of the opportunities that houses with similar styles/build types will help you see the connection between the value of the energy audit and how it can help educate you and set you on the right path towards better comfort and energy efficiency...
Most are not familiar with the benefits of a comprehensive home energy audit. This article highlights the reasons it is beneficial and demonstrates why it should be an assessment everyone gets.