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Educational Consumer Tips

Insulation Tips

Author: Better Business Bureau

Before hiring ANY contractor the BBB offers the following tips:

  • Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not be the best.
  • Consumers should ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.
  • Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
  • Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.
  • Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
  • Read and understand the contract before signing. Get any verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract.
  • Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.

To help you get the most for your insulation dollar, the Federal Trade Commission offers answers to some basic questions about home insulation.

Q: What's the first thing I should look for when buying insulation?

A: Look for the "R-value." "R" means resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulation power. The R-value must be disclosed for most insulation products. (Pipe and duct insulation are the exceptions, although duct wrap is covered.) For instance, if you buy loose-fill insulation with an R-value of 38 from Company A, it will have the same insulating power as loose-fill insulation with an R-value of 38 from Company B. You also can compare the R-value of one type of insulation to another, such as loose-fill to blanket.

Q: How do I know how much insulation R-value my home needs?

A: Several factors affect the R-value your home needs:

Where you live - You'll need a higher R-value if you live in the Northeast than if you live in Southern California.
How your home is built - For example, is it a single-level or multi-level structure? Do you have cathedral ceilings? Is there a basement or is your home built on a slab?
How you heat and cool your home - Do you have a furnace, a central air conditioner, or a heat pump?

Q. Should I use the same R-value of insulation throughout my home?

A: It's more efficient to use insulation with higher R-values in the attic and in rooms with cathedral ceilings than in wood frame walls and basements or crawl spaces with walls.

For help in determining what R-values your home needs, contact:

* The Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network is a clearinghouse of energy-efficiency information. Find it online at; call toll-free, 1-800-DOE-EREC (1-800-363-3732) (TDD: 1-800-273-2957); or write to U.S. Department of Energy B EREC, PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116.

* Your state energy office, local building department, or your gas or electric company. They can tell you how to conduct an energy audit to help detect waste and gauge the efficiency of your current heating system. Your utility company may offer free or low-cost energy audits, or you can conduct your own. DOE offers instructions at

* Your local home improvement store (or its website) may have information to help you calculate your insulation needs.

Q: How do I know what R-value I'm getting?

A: The FTC is responsible for enforcing the R-value Rule. The Rule ensures that you get information about the R-value of your insulation before you buy it, have it installed, or buy a new home. Manufacturers must label their packages of insulation; installers and retailers must provide fact sheets; and new home sellers must include this information in sales contracts.

Q: What should I do if I don't get information about the R-value from the manufacturer, retailer, installer or new home seller?

A: Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357); use the online complaint form at; or write: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.