Choosing the right level of insulation for your house can be a tricky decision. You really have to weigh-out the benefits to the costs. Insulation is rated on the material’s resistance to heat flow or in terms of it’s thermal resistance (R Value). The higher the R value, the more effective it is at insulating. The R value is also dependent on the type of insulation used, it’s thickness and it’s density.
Having better insulation may cost more in the beginning during installation but could bring savings in the long run through lower electric bills so you want to make sure to do your homework. It is important to consider the weather in your area and your building materials in your decision. If you are building a wood-framed house, you would need to use better insulation than if you were building a block house because block is better at insulating than wood.
The Department of Energy has a great website which covers a variety of insulation related topics. They also look at insulation needs by region based on general weather trends. Keep in mind, this is for wood-framed houses.
While you want to have a higher R value for your home efficiency, it is extremely important that a house, especially a new house, can breathe. A lot of the venting for a home is through the attic. So while I wanted to add in a higher rated insulation (spray foam) into the attic to help with energy costs, our builder actually recommended we stayed away from it in attic. Part of a house breathing is letting out heat and moisture. If that heat and moisture are trapped with no where to go, it can quickly turn into mold.
We made some last minute adjustments to the insulation around the master bedroom and between the first and second floors during construction. We added additional insulation to these area to help serve as a sound barrier. Last thing we want is to hear guests snoring in a guest bedroom while we are in our master or hear people running around upstairs while we relax downstairs. It was an added cost now that will be beneficial in the long run.
All in all, insulation is one of those items that is hard to spend money on up front because you don’t really see a difference right away but is something that will pay back in dividends. Take time, do you research, and be sure to invest in your home’s efficiency.