Should I Insulate my basement ceiling or basement walls Mass Energy Lab Insulation

Should I Insulate my basement ceiling or basement walls Mass Energy Lab Insulation

Should I Insulate my basement ceiling or basement walls?

Posted on February 03, 2014

Whether you make the decision to insulate the basement ceiling or insulate your basement walls. there are a number of factors to consider before making the decision. A basement insulation project is usually an investment that may or may not have an immediate benefit in terms of savings on oil or gas heating, however it does make a significant difference in terms of comfort. Choosing to insulate walls or ceilings of the basement will ensure that the floors above, generally the living room, kitchen, study, dining room, at the very least, will not be cold to walk on in the winter. Thus, learning all the factors that need to be considered before making this decision should be an integral part of your Massachusetts home insulation project.

Before we decide which area in the basement to insulate, let’s go back to thinking about how the best homes are insulated and why insulation is installed in the basement. particularly in New England.

The perfectly insulated home has a well defined «thermal boundary». This is a term that fancy building scientists came up with to enable insulation companies as well as homeowners to understand and define exactly where they want the warm air in the home. in the winter to stop escaping to the cold air outside. The law of thermodynamics dictates that heat will always try and transfer from the area of higher temperatures (our home in the winter) to the area of lower temperature (the cold outside air in the winter).

This means that you would want the air in the home, that is being paid for (reflected on your gas, electric or oil bill) to be «turned into» warm air to remain in the home. So where do we draw the line? Ideally, you would think of the home as a box that holds all the warm air that you’ve invested in your heating system to create. So now if that box has any leaks, it will allow that warm air to escape. right?

That’s exactly what the thermal boundary or the thermal envelope is. Its the boundary of the box that stops «thermal transfer» or heat transfer. Hot air being transferred outside into the cold winter air and hot air being transferred from the hot summer heat outside into our cool air conditioned homes.

Now let’s think about our home’s thermal boundary, whilst thinking of the home as a box. The top of the box is the attic and if we install insulation in the attic, we have closed off the top of the box. So where would the hot air try and escape next? The side of the box, in this case, the walls. So let’s say we install cellulose insulation in the walls, now where would it go? The bottom of the box — the basement! So now you see why we insulate the basement. we want to close off the box and keep the warm air inside the box to retain the heat of the box.

If you’ve ever received a package from FedEx containing anything that needs to be temperature controlled, you’ve seen how the walls, bottom and top of the box are covered with rigid board foam insulation. That’s the same concept here — that foam insulation is the thermal boundary of that box. )

So, back to basement insulation. Why do we insulate the basement? Well, because we want to insulate the box, our home in this case and retain heat in it, and the basement is part of the home. Look at the box above. If the bottom was not insulated, would the heat not escape from the bottom? Or in the case of the Omaha steaks that you received last Christmas from the brother in law or the case of twelve perfectly sculpted chocolate dipped strawberries you received on Valentines Day, the warm air from outside will try and get in to the box right? That’s why we insulated the basement — to create a thermal boundary on the bottom part of the home. The question is — should the thermal boundary be the basement walls or the basement ceiling? Well, here are the factors to consider:

1. What will the basement be used as — this is the first factor to consider with any basement insulation project. Will this be an exercise room? A family room? A place to keep the washer and dryer? Why? Because then we will have to decide whether we want to heat it and retain heat in it or not.

Doesn’t really apply to Batman.

2. Is there any heating equipment in the basement? A furnace present changes things. Why? Because if you insulate the basement ceiling, this could mean that all the ducts as well heating equipment would have to insulated to ensure that the heat delivery from equipment to our box is efficient and no heat is lost into the basement.

Should I Insulate my basement ceiling or basement walls Mass Energy Lab Insulation

A part of every Massachusetts Insulation Project

A common sight in most basements.

4. How will you use the basement in the future? You may decide that its a good idea to insulate the basement ceiling now and thus, stop paying for the basement to be heated, however that can be a problem in the future where you decide a year from now to build a family room there or a small apartment for renting out. So the decision to insulate the basement ceiling will depend on some long term planning as well.

5. Will it increase the selling value of the home? Some types of homes will increase in value, in certain neighborhoods depending on what kind of home buyers are looking for, in that neighborhood. For example, larger, immigrant families in America tend to favor finished basements so that there is more room for the large families, whereas a baby boomer couple would not want to pay to heat the basement and would hold a home with an insulated ceiling at a premium.

There you go, all the factors to consider when thinking about how to insulate your basement. Make sure that your local insulation contractor is able to go through these with you when planning your home insulation project.

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