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Why a Well Insulated Home is Smart for Arizona Homeowners

October 02, 2023

When the Arizona summer temperatures top out over 100 degrees on a regular basis, it‘s absolutely essential that your home be insulated for top-quality air efficiency. Without quality home insulation, air leaks can cost AZ homeowners hundreds of dollars a year through lost cooling.

In fact, because of high utility bills, Arizona residents often search for ways to reduce air conditioning costs.

The problem isn’t in the air conditioning systems; good A/C is relatively easy to find in Arizona. But if your home doesn’t have proper insulation, your utility bills skyrocket as homeowners crank up the A/C more and more to keep their heat levels low. Lost cool air is a precious resource across our state when our daily summer temperatures often exceed 110°F. The average daytime temperature in Phoenix during the summer is 103°.

Save Money With Air Cooling Efficiency

So what’s the right solution? It’s not going bigger. At least, not usually. Getting the most powerful air conditioning system for your medium-sized home might be an expensive mistake.

Good insulation is the right answer. On average, a well-insulated home can cut typical heating/cooling costs by up to 20% in a year. But if you add extra insulation, your home can save even more money. You can calculate the time it takes to recoup your extra expense and it’s easy to see you’ll come out ahead, sooner rather than later.

What Kind of Home Insulation Should You Get?

Over the years, new standards for insulation have been instituted. The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association keeps residential builders up to date on the recommended amount of home insulation needed in various parts of the country. For instance, insulation needs are highest in the extremely cold northern states, where higher R-value insulation is needed. R-value stands for resistance to heat flow and having a higher R-value means greater insulating power in your home.

Even if your home currently has a solid layer of insulation, that doesn’t mean it’s up to par with today’s standards or that it’s still intact. Loading up your walls and ceilings with insulating materials can be a good idea, but how much depends on the material, its R-value, and other qualities.

What Is R-value of Home Insulation?

Stuffing more insulation or adding surface area doesn’t necessarily increase its effectiveness. An important factor is its resistance to heat flow into a cooler space or R-value. This number is primarily a measure of conduction. There are other factors, such as convection, air infiltration, and radiation, not measured by the R-value, so it is really just one aspect of insulation to consider. Plus, each material type and brand has a value of its own.

Another fact about R-value is that insulation materials are tested in a lab. Changes in outside temperatures, humidity, and wind create other forces, such as pressure, that play a role in how effective these materials are. A material performs to its rated R-value only if all gaps in the structure and pressure differences created by rising hot air and air forcing are managed.

Effective Arizona Home Insulation Solutions

Heat resistance values are reasonable numbers, but don’t be fooled by unusually high values being sold by some manufacturers. For example, you won’t get much return on investment by purchasing an insulating material more than R-38 for a desert home. You also won’t save more by over-insulating.

Industry experts can conduct an energy audit on your house. This will determine the type and how much insulation is needed while finding cracked ducts, air infiltration, and other issues causing air leakage and reduced efficiency. This is an important first step.

Even if you peek up in the attic and see continuous insulation, there are other considerations. Newer homes in southern Arizona are already insulated between R-30 and R-38. Homes in the northern half of the state, on the other hand, are built with R-60 attic insulation, as the winters are colder up north and at higher elevations.

What Is Home Insulation Made of?

The insulating material has a lot to do with how efficiently a home is heated or cooled. Cellulose is a good insulator, plus it blocks sound and resists (though doesn’t stop) the spread of flames. Foam insulation is another popular choice. It can be used in concrete block walls, increasing the R-value by up to five times while also being effective in older houses with little or no insulation.

Thermal insulation is most common in homes. The insulation is made up of materials such as cellulose, mineral wool, and urethane foam, which slow down hot air when it tries to take over air-conditioned rooms. Radiant barrier materials include reflective foils. While they can help cool rooms down – a poorly insulated attic is a good use – by preventing heat from entering, they are more expensive and generally don’t last as long. Yet, adding radiant materials won’t have much impact for those with insulation already in the R-30s range.

Home Insulation vs. Ventilation

A home’s ventilation is important but works best if it’s properly engineered for your home and there is a network of passive vents. Adding attic ventilation fans is not cost-effective, and they can generate negative pressure, drawing cooled air out of ductwork and the home’s interior. Combining different products and methods is costly, as well. If you have typical ventilation, then adequate insulation is all you need to hold in cool air during the hot Arizona summer.

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By Ty Lindsay

Ty Lindsay is the Director of Field Operations at Patrick Riley | Isley’s and a 15-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC trades. In 2010, Ty earned his Journeyman’s plumbing license. He became a Master Plumber five years later and earned his Journeyman HVAC technician’s license that same year. Ty’s breadth of knowledge in plumbing and HVAC includes both residential and commercial work. He’s been a loyal member of the Patrick Riley | Isley’s team since 2016.