May 23, 2018
Home Technology

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avoid basement insulation mistakes learn how to insulate a basement

Want to do more with your damp, energy-draining basement? Insulation can help.

Today, people want their basement to be a comfortable and moisture-free environment, suitable for human habitation and property storage. The cheapest and most effective way to achieve a livable basement is with insulation. Insulation is designed to keep conditioned air in and the elements out.

An insulated basement is optimally energy efficient. Basement wall insulation locks in expensive conditioned air and blocks outdoor temperatures to keep your home’s energy system functioning at maximum efficiency. The basement is often a major source of energy loss in homes, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

Insulating basement walls maximizes their longevity. Without proper insulation, homeowners eventually see the buildup of moisture and ultimately hazardous mold and mildew. Effective basement insulation acts a waterproof vapor barrier. It also helps prevent pest infestations and improves air quality.

How To Insulate A Basement

You can insulate a basement wall from the inside or the outside. The latter is usually done at the time of construction. Although exterior insulation is ideal for energy efficiency purposes, interior insulation is the easiest and cost-effective option for most home improvement projects. It is most practical when the basement has been constructed but is still unfinished.

Interior basement insulation can be done by a savvy do-it-yourselfer – although some people bring in a contractor to ensure the highest quality work. If you want to be your own handyman, learn how to insulate your slabs with our best tips for DIY basement wall insulation.

Type of Insulation

The most popular basement insulation materials are packaged as batts, rigid panels, or spray foam.

  • Batts are essentially rolls or blankets made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass or wool. Fiberglass batts are a cheap insulation material, but they come with some disadvantages that are worth considering – see below.
  • Rigid foam insulation is both more effective and expensive compared to batts. Rigid sheets or panels of extruded polystyrene, or XPS, are the best choice of material for many homes. One or two inches of XPS provides tough and moisture-resistant insulation. However, XPS is flammable, so it must be installed with a thermal barrier, such as a half-inch of gypsum board.
  • Foam-in-place insulation, or spray foam, can be sprayed into empty cavities to fill the entire space. Spray foam insulation achieves a higher R-value with less thickness. Closed-cell spray foam is widely considered the best way to insulate a basement wall, but it is more expensive than rigid panels.

What is the best R-value for your insulation? It depends on your climate, home design, and other factors. The Department of Energy provides a handy tool for calculating appropriate R-values based on your zip code.

To achieve a higher overall R-value, many people use a combination of materials. It’s common to lay rigid foam board against the foundation, then construct a stud wall on top. The stud wall leaves space for electrical wiring and HVAC infrastructure, and can be further insulated with batts between the studs. If you plan to install additional insulative sheathing, you can use thinner foam boards for the first layer.

Did You Know? Moisture Control Tips

The main difficulty in insulating basment walls relates to moisture. Concrete walls absorb water like a sponge, easily transporting moisture inside from the outdoors. One of the benefits of insulation is its vapor resistance, but it must be installed correctly to prevent, rather than aggravate moisture issues.

If you have serious moisture infiltration, you must fix it before applying insulation so your efforts don’t go to waste. If you notice any visible wetness on the foundation under ordinary conditions, you probably need to install a drainage system first.

Basement wall insulation should be applied directly to the concrete foundation – unless you’re using fiberglass batts. If you insulate with fiberglass, there must be space between the insulation and concrete. Otherwise, the point of contact will acquire mold or mildew. This is a surprisingly commonplace mistake. Fiberglass is not moisture-resistant!

Should you include a plastic vapor barrier between your layer of insulation and the drywall? According to the Building Science Corporation, vapor barriers do more harm than good. Properly installed insulation is the best defense against moisture and avoids the air flow problems that accompany plastic barriers.

Installation Tips

When installing fiberglass insulation, safety precautions are important. You can protect your health by wearing eye, mouth and skin protection. Use shop goggles and a dust mask. Be sure all exposed skin is covered and wear work gloves.

When you place a fiberglass batt in a wall cavity, don’t press too hard. Instead of squishing the material in, cut the insulation with a sharp knife to the desired size or shape. You can cut small pieces to fill minor spaces and achieve airtight protection. Aim for a tight, but not pinched fit.

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should you insulate a garage door using garage door insulation kits

Insulation is one of the easiest and most effective ways at saving energy. Not only does it cut the cost of heating and cooling, it also reduces noise pollution. Many home owners wonder if garage door insulation fits into the scheme of things. Is it completely necessary?

Attached garages are typically not airtight. They are usually unfinished structures built for the purpose of extra storage, and they can be pretty leaky in some spots. The thermal boundary, which is the fine line between the conditioned indoor air and the outdoor air, is really the wall where the house and garage attach. So, to keep the home insulated, the walls and sometimes the ceiling of the garage must be insulated, not the garage door.

However, if the garage is used as a living space, workshop or recreational area, then garage door insulation becomes more legitimate. Garage door insulation kits are designed to fit snug with frames, carpet-like rolls or boards. From a Do-It-Yourself standpoint, it’s financially easier to learn how to insulate a garage door with garage door insulation kits.

First things first. Before even considering how to insulate a garage door, make sure that the weatherstripping is still intact. This is the seal between the door frame and the opening. It tends to get old and brittle, and it will let drafts and water into the building. Caulking can also be used alongside weatherstripping.

Types of Insulation

Batt – fast and efficient, this is flexible fiberglass that fits almost anywhere. Just take it out of its bag and stuff it where it needs to go. In a kit, they are often sandwiched in aluminum or paper, and the length of these usually match typical framing dimensions.

Foam board – these are thin panels that carry a higher insulation value. They are made from polystyrene and covered with vinyl or aluminum facing. Double paneling these together can be done for good for extra insulation.

Reflective insulation – as highly reflective boards for hot climates, they are usually polyethylene bubbles or cardboard covered with aluminum foil. These are usually about 5/16 of an inch, and they also have a dependable insulation value.

Now, it’s important to efficiently match the type and size of insulation with the garage door. A normal single wide garage door is usually 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall. Double doors average about 16 feet by 7 feet. Keep in mind that insulation adds weight, which isn’t normally a problem, but it could strain the automatic opening mechanism for bigger doors.

Types of Garage Doors

Steel or metal – at a 24 to 27 gauge metal thickness, these doors not only have insulation value on their own, they usually have recessed panels around the frames that can fit any kind of insulation. Top of the line insulating doors already have two sheets of metal with a polyurethane filling.

Wood – these doors don’t have much insulation value on their own. They need rigid panel or board insulation cut and installed around the frame.

Garage door insulation needs to be cut and framed exactly the right size and secured with adhesive to work properly. Common mistakes include cutting the insulation too long or too short, or packing it too tight or too loose. If the whole thing still isn’t working, it might be best to purchase a garage door that’s already insulated.

These insulation methods make a big difference in temperature. Nevertheless, first make sure that the existing walls and ceiling, especially where they are adjoined to the house, are completely insulated themselves. The only better thing that could be done is building a complete wall in front of the door.

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the pros and cons of using an asbestos testing kit

Asbestos is a mineral mined from the ground. All forms of asbestos are known human carcinogens. They cause a variety of malignant cancers, from mesothelioma to lung, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers. Even small amounts of asbestos are unsafe. Many people have died from both primary and secondary exposure to asbestos.

Banned Years Ago?

Some people say asbestos was banned in the ’70s or ’80s, so you don’t need to worry about buildings constructed after that year. This is a dangerous myth. In reality, the most recent ban in 1989 was partial. Moreover, most of the regulation was overturned by the courts just a few years later. Today, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos can still be used in, for example:

  • Cement sheets
  • Shingles
  • Pipes
  • Flooring
  • Millboar
  • Gaskets
  • Siding
  • Roofing

See the EPA website for a complete list.

Usage of Asbestos Today

Yet, asbestos is still found in many common materials and products. Its utility in industry has enabled it to thrive, despite the serious health risks associated with its usage. Many people aren’t waiting on the government to act. They are taking matters into their own hands and actively looking for ways to eradicate extant asbestos.

Building materials are a particular area of concern. Some 35 million homes in the U.S. reportedly contain asbestos, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, many homeowners aren’t sure if their property is contaminated. Houses built in the 50s and 60s have higher rates of contamination, but any home is potentially at risk.

To determine the extent of infiltration in their household, homeowners need to identify potential hotspots, collect samples, and have them chemically tested for the toxic mineral fibers. Professional testing services are available for this purpose. More recently, asbestos testing kits have also become commercially available as a DIY alternative for identification.

Which is the best option – asbestos testing kits or professional testing services? It depends on your priorities. Read on to learn about the major advantages and disadvantages of using asbestos testing kits versus calling in the experts.

Why Use an Asbestos Testing Kit? The Advantages

Asbestos is difficult to detect. It may lurk in insulation, floor tile, drywall, paint, cement, and more. Unless there is a label indicating it is present, there is no easy way to visually identify asbestos, so running a chemical test is necessary for identification. An asbestos testing kit will get you started. A home testing kit can help building managers decide whether they have an asbestos problem that needs to be addressed by a professional.

The first and most obvious benefit of DIY kits are the saving on labor costs. Asbestos test kits run from about $30 to $60, though each kit is different. A DIY kit is often less expensive than the hourly rates of a specialized contractor. You don’t have to be a professional contractor or asbestos expert to collect samples, and home test kits are readily available online.

Moreover, it may be relatively difficult to locate a qualified asbestos contractor. Many states require additional certification of contractors before they can offer services related to asbestos abatement. If you are in a rural or otherwise poorly staffed area, it may be more practical to handle identification yourself.

Some people believe the chance of exposure is minimal with the proper protections, reasoning that asbestos is only dangerous when airborne. Simple dust respirators, goggles, and work gloves can be purchased at Home Depot.

Disadvantages of DIY Asbestos Testing Kits

Collecting asbestos samples is a health hazard worth taking seriously. Asbestos fibers are quick to spread. They are released into the environment when disturbed and easily carried elsewhere on clothing, skin and hair. The most common method of contamination is simply by breathing asbestos particles in. They are microscopic, so you won’t be able to observe any exposures. Professionals know how to guard against these risks.

A professional is also more likely to know where to look for asbestos. With comprehensive knowledge of the products, brands and types of environments likely to harbor the stuff, hiring a professional to collect samples gives you a better chance of discovering all the asbestos that is present. That’s a major drawback to using a kit; it presumes you know something about the contemporary use of asbestos in construction materials.

If you do discover asbestos in your home, hiring a professional may afford you easy access to removal services. Removal services are not a project for even the ambitious do-it-yourselfer. Inappropriate handling of materials that contain asbestos can lead to criminal charges and fines at the federal and state levels. In many states, any removal or sealing of asbestos requires a special contractor’s license.

Professional testing services often have quicker turnaround on laboratory results compared to home kits. Processing of home kits is done by mail and typically takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete and report.

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use a sun angle calculator to maximize your solar panel potential

Solar panels are the hallmark of sustainable energy. Harnessing the power of the sun gives us energy that is clean and efficient, but are there ways for maximizing this energy? Surely, without spending a fortune on fancy tools, we can learn how to use a sun angle calculator to reap all the possible energy from the sun in any given season.

The sun angle calculator is a method of devising what angle the solar panel will sit to catch every smidgen of sunlight. Since the position of the sun changes with the seasons, this method involves adjusting the panel to a fixed position that can be tilted towards the sun as needed. Depending on your energy needs, solar panels can be adjusted as so:

  • four times in a year to follow the sun during spring, summer, fall and winter,
  • twice a year for maximum summer and winter harvest,
  • or they can sit stationary in a winter position.

Of course, it is easiest to adjust the solar panel and leave it there the entire year. However, you can gain a significant amount of energy by adjusting it for summer and winter, and a small increase for spring and fall. The typical seasonal dates are:

  • spring, starting March 5,
  • summer, starting April 18,
  • fall, starting August 24,
  • and winter, starting October 7.

Using The Sun Angle Calculator
Calculating the latitudinal degree to point the solar panel is very simple. All you need is a compass, a regional latitudinal map and a calculator. You will also need to find the magnetic declination, which is just a magnetic variation depending on where you are located. The magnetic declination is what makes magnetic north on your compass different from true north.

To start, point the panel true south if you are in the northern hemisphere, or point it true north if you are in the southern hemisphere. Remember, you must correct the magnetic declination to determine what the true direction is. The National Geophysical Data Center has a useful declination calculator.

The simplest way to calculate the tilt of the solar panel is to determine your latitude and add 15 degrees in the winter or subtract 15 degrees in the summer. For example, if you are at 50 degrees latitude in the winter, add 15 degrees and point the panel at 65 degrees. In the summer, subtract 15 degrees and point it 35 degrees.

You can also be more precise. In the winter, multiply your latitude by 0.9 and then add 29 degrees. So, if our latitude is still 50 degrees, it would be (50 x 0.9) + 29 = 74 degrees.

In the summertime, multiply your latitude by 0.9 and subtract 23.5 degrees. So our example would be (50 x 0.9) – 23.5 = 21.5 degrees. This is nearly a ten degree difference, so once you master this formula, it is worth the extra math.

The formula for both spring and fall is also very easy. Simply subtract 2.5 degrees from your latitude. So, 50 – 2.5 = 47.5 degrees.

These formulas point solar panels to gather the most sunlight during the entire day. They assume that you live in a perfect solar panel environment, which is one without trees, mountains, hills, clouds and so on. These calculations can be tweaked according to your situation. For example, if your area is cloudy in the morning but clear in the evening, then point the panel more towards the west for optimal results.