Why are you looking to insulate your home?

Particularly if you’re in a U.S. Department Of Energy Zone 5 state (LEARN ABOUT Your Zone here) like Massachusetts, you want to insulate for comfort and lower energy bills but also you want to add insulation so that you can keep the home at approx 68F year round in temperature and control any moisture issues that arise when dealing with hot summer temperatures and freezing winter temperatures.

We’re saying approx because there is generally a two degree different in temperature preference between male and female occupants. So that’s why we insulate here in Massachusetts - to keep our home 68F year round, regardless of the temperature outside.

Insulation 101 says, mother nature is dynamic and always flowing. Fluids are always flowing from a higher temperature to lower temperature. So in the winter, when we have the warm 68F air in our home (that we’re paying on our energy bills to create), then it flows outside where its at a lower temperature. Likewise in the summer, when we have the cool 68F air conditioned air in our home (paid again on our electric bills), the warmer air from the outside will keep flowing in. Hot to cold. Inside to outside in the winter, outside to inside in the summer, in Massachusetts. The flow is constant. We use the Flir infrared camera to capture that heat flow to allow you to make better decisions on the best place to insulate in your home.

THE QUESTION - Homeowners always ask us, "what part of my home should I insulate first?" (see the top 10 questions our Massachusetts Clients Ask Us When hiring an insulation company here)

THE ANSWER BEFORE TECHNOLOGY AND DATA DRIVEN DECISIONS became what it is today:

Well, the Department of Energy states that we lose heat or energy in the homes from the following chart: 

energy-loss-insulation-infographic-cover

THE ANSWER AFTER TECHNOLOGY AND DATA DRIVEN DECISIONS that Mass Energy Lab Insulation is able to bring to your home insulation project:

Let's begin by using our Infrared camera in your home to find out all about your home and then decide where it would be best to install insulation there. 

We frequently have homeowners that call us about insulating their garage walls because they can intuitively tell that they’re losing heat from the home into the garage space. However, once they have us come by for the insulation assessment, it can sometimes tell a different story. We then can tell that the indeed the heat loss isn’t occurring from their garage walls but rather the garage ceiling for example and then can suggest that installing insulation in the garage ceiling would be a better choice. This goes a long way in returning your investment in your home insulation. Infrared cameras can tell us a lot about obvious things in your home but it can also tell us a lot about things we wouldn’t even think about or can’t tell because they’re concealed behind a wall.

A simple case in point would be good car mechanics today. They run codes. Sure, they listen for sounds but the codes can provide us with a very solid and accurate picture when we run them. This prevents situations where we have to rent a car for the day or two or even drive a loaner. Then we need to maybe take time off from work or our lives to go to and from the mechanic. Maybe we can deal with this but definitely do want our problem solved, if we do, don’t we? Isn’t it frustrating when the issue still comes up as you’re driving and then you need to go drop the car off again, only to hear, “Oh, it's probably the brakes. They were due for a change anyways”. Its about dealing with the uncertainty, in the best way we can, under those circumstances of concealed conditions in the home. This is the major difference between an insulation company that uses advanced diagnostic tools like an infrared camera to check your home insulation and where it may be missing and where it may need an upgrade. REMEMBER THE WORDS OF LORD KELVIN, "what cannot be measured, cannot be improved". We can certainly say this - especially, in our climate zone where its sometimes 90F+ in the summer and -10F- sometimes in the winter, there is no reason for a Massachusetts based insulation company not to use an infrared camera when assessing the current insulation level in the home.

 

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We frequently get trained via FLIR InfraRed’s Boston’s Regional Training Center in Nashua, New Hampshire. Their Thermography trainers can specifically focus on using infrared cameras in building applications like insulation, vapor barriers, moisture issues, missing home insulation, pipe freezes and cold spots in the building envelope in addition to a slew of other home related insulation problems. This is critical for us to understand as an insulation firm, before we come to your home. This is why its important to have an insulation company that understands more than just home insulation. Your hired company must also understand homes.

We have been trained to distinguish the thermal patterns related to:

  1. Home Insulation Performance
  2. Air Leakage Issues in your home’s exterior systems - windows, walls, roofs, basements, floors, garages etc.
  3. Moisture Issues that could lead to mold, mildew etc.
  4. Home Ventilation systems, continuous insulation and Some structural defects so that you don’t install insulation in any part of your home that could exacerbate a latent issue.
  5. Mechanical/Electrical issues - again to ensure that when insulation is installed, it doesn’t make things worse.

So you can see the benefits now of using an infrared camera during insulation estimates. It can be very dangerous when an insulation company doesn’t use a camera and then comes by to install insulation behind a wall or in an attic that is concealed.

 

Do you think we are a good match? Great! Then let's talk. Schedule a 15 minute phone call with a technical project manager below to discuss your home insulation project or fill out our contact us form

 

Let’s get more into the details of using an Infrared Camera for home insulation assessments:

 

1. CURRENT INSULATION LEVELS ASSESSMENT AND PERFORMANCE: Is my home insulation working how its supposed to?

We can assess your current home insulation levels - cellulose blown in insulation is frequently installed in cavities of homes in walls or roof assemblies and vaulted ceilings. Over time, particularly when installed incorrectly, it can settle in the wall. This is the same for other types of home insulation, such as fiberglass batt or denim insulation as well. 

This is where the use of an infrared camera comes in really handy when you’re just thinking about where in my home should I insulate first. Some articles may tell you, insulate your attic first as hot air rises but then what if your attic already has some insulation but your basement has no insulation installed at all? That’s where we can really be of value to you in your insulation system design by using technology. It’s the Cambridge, Massachusetts in us!

The greater the temperature difference, we can see rafters, thermal bridging, where heat is leaving the warm inside and traveling to the cold outside in the winter through thermal conduction. Each home is constructed a bit differently so learning all about your specific home is critical. Where has the home insulation settled? Where are the gaps? Where are the air leaks? Where has the batt insulation missing? These deficiencies in insulation must be planned for and an insulation system must be designed keeping these areas that are missing insulation in mind. Energy Efficiency goals can then be achieved for your individual home.

2. HOME AIR LEAKAGE AREAS AND ISSUES: where are the air leaks in my home leading to higher energy bills?

Air flows to reach equilibrium as in insulation 102. So when your home is at 68F, then air leaks out or in wherever it can travel from a higher temperature to lower. This is where an infrared camera works wonders. Have a bedroom or family room above a cold garage? Hot HVAC ducts or Cool ducts from the AC leaking into an attic? Drafts around skylights, windows, recessed lights in ceilings, electric outlets or kneewall areas in your home office, when you work from home? Then let’s find those air leaks together.

Can you see now why the infrared camera is a no brainer during an insulation assessment? Too many insulation companies out there advise homeowners to insulate their homes without providing them with actual data. You want an insulation partner that enables you to make better empirical based decisions, not just gut feels and whatever insulation is most profitable for that company to install in your home. Data driven insulation installs need to become the standard for all home insulation installs everywhere in Massachusetts, like they are at Mass Energy Lab Insulation. This is why we are a premium, boutique home insulation company. Premium because of the value add from such home building insulation best practices such as using infrared cameras on all insulation estimates. Boutique because we refuse to grow by hiring team members who don't absolutely believe in the same amount of measurability and accountability with projects.

3. HOME MOISTURE ISSUES AND PROBLEMS: can installing insulation lead to mold? Is my home insulation wet from ice dams or pipe freezes?

Where air goes, moisture follows. We can follow air leaks to try and determine thermal patterns associated with moisture in crawl spaces, basements, roofs (for roof leaks), bathrooms, kitchens and washer/dryer rooms. Wet insulation is a good conductor of heat and so it diminishes the capacity of the insulation working significantly. Is your gutter pouring wet water down a wall? Has ice dams or pipe freezes caused an issue with your wall insulation or roof insulation? Have been thinking about a roof leak from ice dams this winter? Is this a plumbing issue with a water leak or an air leak? Is it now leaking water down from your second floor bathroom tub into the wall of your living room? Well let’s work together to identify these problems in your home then. Moisture soaking into your building materials can often be determined by using an infrared camera. Round botches can be a dead giveaway of a roof leak from ice dams for example. You can increase the speed of a roof moisture or leak detection and resolution with an infrared camera.

We can see temperature differences with an infrared camera, however a moisture meter is best when its suspected.  The moisture meter can take over where the infrared camera leaves off. Convective heat action or capillary action of the building materials can be deceiving too. We actually got certified in Mold Remediation Training as an insulation company so that we can learn this. That’s what really separates us from other insulation companies. Knowing when insulation is not going to solve the problem. Remember the old adage - when you only know how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Wise words indeed.  

4. CONTINUOUS INSULATION, HOME VENTILATION ISSUES, EXISTING CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS AND STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS: I want to insulate my home but I want a home insulation company that will not make matters worse and is actually able to understand my home as it is and know that every home is different. 

Sometimes foam board insulation or polyiso board insulation is installed on the outside of the home building envelope and there be breaks. This can be detected as well. Double pane windows or triple pane windows with argon gas breaks can be detected as well, when window seals are broken. In Europe, home builders look at the entire home as a continuous insulation and that includes looking at the home as a box. Windows count as insulation too. The formula for a window is the inverse of R, the u-value. Is there heat loss through your windows? Let’s work together to come up with an insulation solution for your home that is custom tailored to your home.

Condensation issues when not properly ventilated can cause long term issues in a home with mold or mildew. This is where IR cameras play another great role. It can help with the design of an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) or Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) for your home, for example when spray foam insulation has been installed. When you insulate, you must ventilate.

On a smaller note, issues with framing can also be determined with the IR camera. Framing like studs, joists, window and door headers, along with structural beams show up as a thermal break in the continuous insulation. 

5. MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL ISSUES: when I insulate my home should I get all plumbing and electrical work done first before installing the insulation?

Is heat leaking out of a radiator? Is an HVAC duct leaking into an attic or crawlspace? Is a bathroom vent blowing out steam directly onto the wooden joists in the attic contributing potentially to mold? Is heat building up over switches and outlets? It doesn’t always mean there is a problem but it can be identified.

Say you’ve installed radiant floor heating in your basement ceiling and not want to insulate to keep the heat in. The key is to catch issues with the pex piping prior to the insulation. Likewise you want to insulate against these cold Massachusetts winter ice dams. Then insulate where the hot HVAC ducts are running right up against the snow on the roof causing it to melt. Duct leaks of course show up well in thermography.

Its imperative however that we explain that using an IR camera is not enough. For example, its not the smartest thing for just any insulation company to go out there right now and buy the first camera they can get. Its important to understand home construction first. Understand how insulation works with other components of the home including ventilation, heating and cooling. Home inspections with an IR camera can reveal confusing and surprising results. A careful and systematic home insulation assessment will yield consistent results along with strong home construction knowledge.

So you can see that this article explains the top 5 technical benefits of hiring an insulation company that uses an infrared (IR) camera for all home assessments. Mass Energy Lab Insulation project managers bring our cameras to every home when you call us for an insulation assessment. Period. After all we are on a mission to learn all about insulating your home right as well as all about homes. Being obsessed with home insulation is not enough, we must be obsessed with learning all about homes as well. We look forward to discussing your home insulation project with you.

Email us at service@massenergylab.com to start a dialog with us, if you're a homeowner in Massachusetts or fill out our contact us form here.