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Adding insulation

So glad I found this site.
Just a few q's....
Just bought this home about 4 months ago. Built in '96. Just got out heating bill and nearly fainted. At our old home the house was much smaller and the gas/water bill was obviously much smaller as well.

The problem we have is the upstairs bedroom we sleep in, (2 story Colonial with an unfinished basement), is running about 2-4 degrees cooler than the main level. With heat rising, I would think if anything, the temperature upstairs would be 2-4 degrees warmer if anything. So now I'm wondering if it's in the insulation and the heat is just going right through the roof. The main level is running a little colder, (at night here in Wisconsin it gets pretty cold this time of year), but with nobody sleeping on that level I guess I can live with it. The three boys' bedrooms upstairs are about what the thermostat is set at.

Took a peek in the crawl space up in the attic, and there's about 6-10 inches of blown in fiberglass. I know that's not enough and most places recommend about an R45-R49 for Wisconsin and 6-10 inches of blown fiberglass isn't even close to R45-49, so we're getting estimates from insulation companies right now. Hoping that getting up to the R45-R49 will make that temperature go up to either what the thermostat is set at or above like it should and then obviously lower that heating bill as well.

We put on some window insulator kits on the three windows and that seems to have helped a bit as the temperature has gone up a degree or two in our bedroom but I want it either at or above what the thermostat is set at. We also have closed some of the vents in the basement going to rooms that we're happy enough with the temperature to force more air up to that bedroom but it just isn't where I'm hoping it'll be yet.

So far I've gotten two estimates from reputable local places and the two aren't even close in price (one of them was a referral so they may have given me a break). One quote is for $657.00 and they would blow R-19 fiber glass (6.75") insulation into the attic and also Return batt and install 18 vent chutes at eaves. Not sure what that part means but it must be a good thing. They also say to add $45 to that estimate if I'd rather have them blow R-15 (4.3") cellulose fiber instead of the R-19 fiberglass.

The other company gave me a quote of $990.00 and they would clear all roof rafter ends where necessary, install proper vent chutes between all rafter ends, blow 6" of new cellulose insulation over existing across entire attic, glue 2" of styro-foam over back at attic panel. It also says R-26 existing insulation R-19 new cellulose insulation R-45 after installation. He also says he would go around the entire perimeter and push what's in there already in a foot and blow dense pack cellulose around the perimeter to get a good seal in there. The less expensive company says they wouldn't advise doing that.

Not looking to pin anyone down here or anything but what would you folks recommend I go with and why? The thing that concerns me is the first company that gave me the $657.00 bid, says they walk between the joists (on the ceiling I'm guessing). They said nobody has fallen through in years but still that concerns me. Maybe everyone does it but isn't that taking a big chance? If they do fall through are they responsible for paying the damage? Or am I worried about nothing? When I asked the guy and when I made it seem like I was concerned, he said, "That's how everyone has to install it at new builds", and the experts on the TV and the internet need to get real that the companies do it all the time. Maybe the second more expensive company also does it but who knows. Should that be a red flag for me?

Wondering also if the written estimates are negotiable? Or isn't that a good idea because if you try and haggle, maybe they wouldn't do as good a job and might leave a bad taste in their mouths when performing the work and maybe not be as thorough?

If I'm not going to be bringing my heat bill down a lot I guess I should go with the cheaper bid in this case because it'll take less time to make up the cost of the insulation job, but does the second company with the more expensive bid sound that much better than the other to make up the difference? I can't get a real feel for what I should do here especially with the bids so far apart. Or should I even get a third estimate?

Thanks in advance for the help and sorry this was so long. I'm a total newbie when it comes to these things. At my old home we didn't really have to worry about these things because the house was much smaller and the second floor was much warmer than the main level.

I should say that I've also got the HVAC company that installed the furnace back when the house was built coming in to see if there's anything going on with the furnace or if needs any adjustments or repairs. I just replaced the furnace filter but with us just buying this home 4 months ago I don't know the full history of the furnace and they do.

Keep up the great work here and thanks for providing this service to us people not "in the know" as much as the experts. This is really a great forum to have available. Have a great weekend.

Re: Adding insulation

You may want to contact your energy provider first. Ask about their services for home energy inspections. Many energy companies provide free or nominally charged infrared energy inspections that can pinpoint specific areas of your home where heat/cold is exchanging. The scan can show cold spots in your walls or ceilings or floors and show where you're losing heat and/or gaining cold.

The bids you’ve gotten seem adequate for what you’re asking. Essentially you’re asking them to insulate your attic and you’re not asking them to assess your energy usage or to offer advice. So, you’re getting what you’re asking for. And both bids, as you’ve described them, seem reasonable. However, you may want to learn more about where your heat is going and where the cold comes from before making decisions.

Your description of your home didn’t include many important concerns. What year was your home built? Was the second floor an addition or original construction? Is it frame or brick or block construction? Are the main and second floors different constructions? Is the unfinished basement open air to the rest of the home or is it closed? Do you have any draft vents in the second floor that could remove warm air from that area? Etc.,

Re: Adding insulation

Ok thanks anyway. Didn't really answer the questions I had but I know it was a long post so most people don't read all the way through those. Thanks for trying to help. I'll try the electric company but my questions were mostly in regards to the bids and q's associated with them. Again, have a great weekend. Great site.

Re: Adding insulation

Just keep us updated on your situation, and dont be afraid to ask some more questions!

Re: Adding insulation

Cheap is not always the best, when in doughty get more quotes, you should really think about getting an energy audit. They can pen point the problem areas and also find other areas that need to be addressed i.e. electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, it might cost a few hundred dollars but it is well worth it. Most of the time they are independent and not trying to "push" a product they sell. Every house is different and they should have a thorough report, and infrared pictures. I have heard of reports of 100 pages or more for one house. That just means that you got your moneys worth.

Re: Adding insulation

I'm not the person to ask about the reasonableness of the estimates you got. But I do know this: any piece of insulation, when installed correctly, will do its job.

Go get your caulking gun and seal up any openings, such as the gap around outlet boxes. The more you can reduce air infiltration/exfiltration, the warmer your house will feel.

Re: Adding insulation

Just a question, has anyone actually walked between the joists (on the drywall I assume) as the one contractor stated and not fallen through?
Walking on the rafters only is something I've always done.

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