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Insulation Tips to Help You Save Money & Energy

These tips can help you save money and energy when retrofitting an old house with insulation. Find out about insulation types, removal techniques, installation methods, eco-friendly options, and other details. 

How can you determine if insulation is necessary?

Check to see if insulation is present. You can easily check if your attic has insulation. It is usually loose fill between ceiling beams or exposed batts made of colored fiberglass. Check your exterior walls for any patched holes. This is an indicator of insulation. 

Older houses can become drafty and warm air can escape from many places. You should inspect your home to find out where heat is being lost. It is common to have fireplaces or chimneys that do not work. You should also consider air leaks through cracks around windows, electrical outlets, ducts and recessed lighting. 

What can you do with the insulation that is already in place? 

Recently, a friend opened sealed pocket doors on the top floors of his 1900 triple-decker in Boston. From inside the walls, shredded paper was also found. Primitive insulation was made up of paper, newspaper, wood shavings and corncobs in the late 1800s. Mineral wools, which are made from substances like rock slag and “spun” into fibres, were also used in homes as early as 1875. They are still being used today. You can leave these early materials in place. 


In 1910, asbestos was an integral part of heating system insulation. By the 1930s, it was also used in building insulation products. You should have your insulation tested if you suspect it contains asbestos, a well-known carcinogen. It would be too difficult to remove all asbestos insulation from older houses. If your project involves total rehab, you will need to take down walls and ceilings. You can encapsulate asbestos if it is flaking. Asbestos fibers are not a health risk when they are airborne. 


Urea-formaldehyde is a mixture of resin, hardener and compressed air that was developed in the 1970s as an insulation material. It was foamed into closed walls. The 1980s saw the discontinuation of Urea-formaldehyde due to the possibility of the product vaporizing as it cures. However, today’s knowledge of the product shows that there is a finite amount of vapors. The material will not release vapors after the initial curing. If it is in direct contact with moisture or water, it may break down and start off-gassing again. An environmental company can test your home for these vapors. 

Insulation blown-in

Expanding sprays and blown-in Home Insulation Walnut Creek are used to fill existing walls. Blowed-in cellulose, a lightweight shredded paper product, can be used to fill in difficult-to-reach spaces within the building envelope. 

Rigid Insulation

Rigid insulation can be used for masonry walls, such as foundations and exterior walls under finishing.

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