Most homes lose a lot of heat through the roof, so getting your attic insulation right is essential. Without it, you will be uncomfortable, your energy bills will be high, and your carbon footprint will be enhanced.
For a better understanding, read on to find out what IRC codes say about too much attic insulation, its diminishing returns, and much more.
Guidelines for attic insulation cover minimum requirements or recommended ranges. They don’t speak about absolute maximums. So, there is officially no such thing as too much attic insulation. However, excessive insulation is not often worth the cost and it can compromise airflow, which would be detrimental.
Only Minimum Insulation Is Officially Stated
The International Residential Code (IRC) covers minimum insulation requirements. However, there are no maximum values stated.
The minimum value is important to have in place, and it is easier to provide this parameter without issues. To add a maximum value would put limitations on insulation that can be detrimental.
This is because the amount of insulation needed to reach optimal energy efficiency varies depending on several factors, such as:
- Climate zone
- Local energy costs
- The type of home you’re insulating
- Type of heating and cooling system
Generally, the more insulation used, the better the energy efficiency and cost savings will be. Some states even have their own insulation guidelines that are more stringent than the IRC’s recommended minimums.
However, it is essential to note that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to insulation. We will talk about this in more detail shortly.
EPA Provides a Recommended Range
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does give an upper limit for insulation R-value. However, these values are only recommendations, not legal requirements.
The EPA recommends that attic/ loft insulation should range between R38 and R60, with an average of R49.
This is usually achieved by adding 12-18 inches of blown-in insulation. The exact amount of insulation you need depends on the type of insulation. Climate zone and how much insulation is already in your attic also play a role.
You may be wasting energy and money if you have more than 18 inches of attic insulation. More insulation does not necessarily mean greater efficiency.
Problems With Excessive Attic/Loft Insulation
Two possible problems can occur if you exceed the minimum required insulation value by a substantial margin.
Cost Doesn’t Match Benefits
Undoubtedly, high thermal insulation is good for your home. It will save you on costs and provide more comfort. So, the idea of additional insulation may seem appealing.
Unfortunately, however, the cost associated with what can be considered to be excessive insulation does not often justify the benefits it provides.
This is not to say that one layer of insulation is always enough. The point is understanding how R-values work. Essentially, it is a rating system that tells you how well a layer of insulation reduces heat flow. The greater it is, the more effective it is in resisting conductive heat flow.
Therefore, achieving more robust insulation means more of the material is required, which tends to be more expensive. Alternatively, you would need to use a more inherently insulating option, which also tends to be more costly.
Research indicates that the most energy-efficient insulation level is usually at or just over the minimum recommended R-value. Any further insulation beyond that level becomes redundant and a waste of money.
Adding insulation layers does less work for you since little heat flows through them. Even if the subsequent layers had a higher R-value, the first few layers already did most of the work.
Overall, it’s possible to over-insulate a home. There’s no harm in it. But too much investment in insulation can become a waste.
Can Cause Issues With Airflow
Insulation aims to regulate the amount of heat entering and leaving your home. But there is another feature that is vital to home health and that is airflow.
Homes have to have some kind of attic ventilation, typically in the form of soffit vents and ridge vents. This allows air to be drawn into the attic and expelled through the roof.
Excess attic/loft insulation can lead to obstruction of roof ventilation. Baffles are supposed to prevent this but may not be effective in the presence of too much insulation.
Continuous airflow in the attic prevents humidity buildup, which can all sorts of problems for the house and even your health. Consequently, excessive insulation will impede this process.
Excess insulation leads to decreased air pressure in the attic. Consequently, the air is drawn up and out of the upper areas of your home, resulting in reduced air circulation.
Low air pressure may also cause warm air from the upper levels of your home to seep into the attic/loft. It then combines with the cooler air in the attic, creating condensation. This can lead to mold and mildew growth.
Wet insulation is also less effective and may need to be removed and replaced, so you’ll spend more money installing a new one.
When airflow is restricted, the air within the attic can stagnate, trapping dust, allergens, and other pollutants. This can cause poor indoor air quality, increasing the health risks to the occupants.
Moreover, too much insulation will cause the attic to be hotter than the rest of the house. This can cause hot spots that can be problematic for cooling the entire home.