Q. My house needs additional insulation, but I have avoided adding it because it makes me itchy. Other than the standard itchy stuff, are there any new types of insulation I can easily install myself?
A. There are insulation materials that are not itchy like standard fiberglass batts. They are extremely effective, and adding them can cut your utility bills year-round. Don't necessarily write off professional installation as too costly because the energy savings often pays back the cost quickly.
Using new manufacturing procedures, some fiberglass insulation is fairly itch-free. Although it looks like standard itchy insulation, it feels like fluffy cotton balls. I have installed some in my attic and it is itch-free.
Itch-free insulation is made by fusing two different forms of glass into a single fiber. This fusion process causes each tiny fiber to curl and twist randomly. These fibers are resilient, so the insulation rolls look small at the store. When they are unrolled, they quickly fluff up to full thickness.
Another new type of no-itch insulation is made of recycled cotton from denim production. It is a natural product and it really does look like blue jeans. The denim materials is treated with chemicals to make it fire resistant. The insulation valve per inch is similar to fiberglass batts.
Several types of insulation are encapsulated in poly-film wrap. Even when filled with standard fiberglass insulation, it is easy to handle, and to install without getting itchy. Since you must slice the wrap when you cut it to length, you may have some contact with the itchy fiber, but very little.
When insulating a wall or when insulating around plumbing and electrical obstructions during construction, it is important to fill it completely with no voids. Using a professionally installed non-settling type of insulation is often the most effective method in these areas.
One type of nonsettling insulation uses fiberglass fibers mixed with adhesive. After it is blown into the wall cavity to fill all the gaps, the adhesive sets up to eliminate settling. When installed in new walls, nylon netting is stapled over the studs and the insulation is blown in behind it.
Another type of effective professionally installed non-settling insulation is low-density polyurethane foam. Its volume expands about100 times creating millions of microscopic insulating cells. It fills in well around obstacles and also seals air and moisture leakage spots inside the wall.
When buying insulation, you pay for the R-value insulation level, not just the thickness. Insulation can be fluffed to be thicker, but it still has the same, or lower, R-value.
Q. I have decided to get a range hood for my kitchen instead of just opening windows. My budget is limited. Should I get an overhead model or one that pops up from behind the range surface?
A. Any range hood is more efficient and effective than just opening a window. Opening a window loses too much conditioner indoor air and most of the grease vapor has already settled before it reaches the window.
An overhead model that you can find at most home center stores is probably your least expensive option. Overhead models also require less air flow than most down-draft (pop-up) models because hot air naturally rises.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 448, which gives a buyer's guide of 10 insulation material manufacturers, R-values, sizes, features, insulation selector guide and a U.S. map showing recommended insulation levels. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.