How to Tell if Your Home is Underinsulated

North American Product Manager – Insulation Systems

Your home’s insulation and weatherization systems work hand in hand to keep your home comfortable through the year by restricting the conduction of temperature from the outside of your home to the inside. Without proper insulation, utility costs rise, pipes freeze and upstairs rooms can be significantly warmer. Yet how bad is the problem? The U.S. ENERGY STAR program estimates that the average home’s air leaks and insulation issues are the equivalent of leaving a window open year-round.

In this post, we will look at how to tell if your home is underinsulated and what you can do to fix that problem.

  • Frozen pipes in an average winter. With the weather somewhat unpredictable the past few years, some homeowners have had frozen pipes for the first time because of extreme cold. However, if you’re having problems with frozen pipes during regular winter weather, you’ll want to take a look to see if your insulation is sufficient where your pipes are run.
  • Ice dams on your roof. Ice dams form when heat from your home passes through an insufficiently insulated attic to your roof’s surface. The warmer temperatures thaw any snow on your roof, which flows down to the cold areas at the eaves, where it refreezes. As time goes on, the ice becomes higher and backs water up onto your roof and under your roofing material, causing water leaks.
  • High or rising energy bills. Take a look at your average utility bills over the past few years. Are they starting to creep up as time passes? If they are, it could be a sign that your climate control system has to run more often to provide the same level of comfort of which you’re accustomed.
  • HVAC system running constantly. Speaking of climate control, does it seem as though your HVAC system has been running more than usual? When your home can’t retain its temperature, your HVAC system has to work much harder to keep up. Not only can this impact your utility bill, it can cause your HVAC system to fail more quickly.
  • Warm upstairs in the summer. A warmer upper story can be the result of poor insulation that can’t provide enough of a buffer between your home’s air-conditioned interior and the hot summer sun on your roof. It may also be somewhat cooler in winter for the same reasons, though it’s not as noticeable because heat rises.
  • Uneven temperatures between rooms on the same floor. If rooms with similar features are different temperatures, you’ll want to check the insulation to see if it’s beginning to fail in one of the rooms. Remember that if a large window or a southern or western exposure is a feature in one room, it will have some issues with heating and cooling.
  • Attic moisture issues. If your attic is insufficiently insulated, it can get hot, causing the cool, damp air inside to lose its moisture, starting problems with mold and mildew in addition to water stains on your ceiling.
  • New drafts. Are your walls drafty at the top? This is one of the signs that the insulation may have settled. This particular effect is common with blown insulation, which is one of the many reasons spray insulation works better.


It can be far too easy to ignore the signs of an underinsulated home, but doing so will result in more and more damage to your home’s interior and weatherization systems, making it more expensive to fix as time goes by. A simple inspection will help you decide whether it’s time to upgrade or replace your home’s insulation. You can quickly recover the cost through lower utility bills while enjoying a more comfortable environment. Depending on the materials used, you may even see superior performance compared to the original insulation that was installed. If your home needs more insulation, it’s important that you contact a contractor to get the process started soon.


Author bio: Speaker, author, building scientist  — Stephen Davis has been in the insulation and construction industry for 30 years. He is currently the North American Product Manager – Insulation Systems, for Accella Polyurethane Systems™, LLC. Davis is involved with product management, product innovation, and providing building solutions to internal and external clients.   



U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Saver: Insulation

U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star: Why Seal and Insulate?

U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Saver: Adding Insulation to an Existing Home

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