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Home Insulation 101: An Interview with Michael Subjin of Subjin Insulation Services

By Michael Subjin

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Subjin Insulation Services is a full-service insulation contractor. Which means, we are able insulate all the areas of the home: attic, basement, walls, and crawlspaces. We specialize in older homes and retrofit insulation to increase the energy efficiency of these homes. We can perform a series of diagnostic tests and procedures to ensure a quality job and provide safety for our customers. Our energy auditors use a Blower Door test to find drafts. We use Infrared cameras to find insulation voids and cold spots.

Our auditors and field technicians perform duct tests to check the efficiency of the duct work. We also perform combustion testing on all fossil fuel boilers and heaters. We install over 248 energy efficiency measures, including A/C replacements, bath fans, hot water heaters, oh and caulking doors and windows too. What makes us a little different than most contractors is that we can do both the energy audits and perform the work.

How exactly is a house "insulated"?

Subjin Insulation Services will make series of recommendations based on an energy audit of the home. Every home is different. Every family situation is different. Customers will contact us with individual comfort issues or a need to save on energy bills. Some issues we encounter, such as, a cold bedroom over a garage, or a cold wall. The procedure we follow is the BPI (Building performance institute http://www.bpi.org) model. This is the "house as a system" approach.

Subjin Insulation Services prioritizes these recommendations and if approved by the customer, proceeds with the work. An example of a procedure for attic insulation would be: preform diagnostic testing, air seal the attic floor including plumbing and wiring penetrations, add proper ventilation, seal any heat producing fixtures like bath fans and recessed lights, chimney bypasses, etc. and then add insulation either cellulose, fiberglass, or spray foam. Subjin Insulation Services would finish the project with post diagnostic tests.

What are the important points that every homeowner should know about home insulation?

Insulation is the most cost effective way to keep the heat in your home. Most homes in Pennsylvania are under insulated. Even if your home is only 6-10 years old, it is probably not insulated to Energy star ratings. Keep in mind warm air rises. S.I.S. prioritizes the attic. Air sealing the attic before adding any insulation will dramatically add to the energy efficiency of the home. Homeowners should measure the insulation levels in the attic.

Most areas of PA Energy Star recommend R-49 in the attic. R-49 equals about 12-14 inches of cellulose insulation, or 17-20 inches of blown fiberglass. Everything wears out; including fiberglass insulation, don't go by what's written on that old batting type insulation in the attic. That R-19 installed in 1962 isn't performing like it did. I get a lot of calls about walls, but walls are the most expensive area to insulate because of the labor and clean up.

What benefits does the insulation process offer homeowners?

A well-insulated home will: be more comfortable, have lower energy bills, quieter to outside noises. More and more home buyers understand this and are looking closely at the energy efficiency of homes.

What are the main areas in a house that should have insulation?

Insulation should be everywhere the heated space meets the outside un-conditioned space. We call this the "shell" of the home. Attic, walls, floors are areas we look at. We also look at common walls between garage and home, between condos or townhouses, garage ceilings, kitchens behind cabinets, small attics above architectural "bump outs" that are sometimes missed during construction or remodels.

What are the most common types of insulation that people in Pennsylvania install?

In new construction, residential or commercial jobs, fiberglass is still king in our area. Blown-in Cellulose and 2 part polyurethane spray foam is also popular. Builders we work with are increasing the R values in their structures, which require new techniques that some contractors don't do or understand. We've seen an increase in high performance batting fiberglass insulation, instead of R-19 in walls. New municipal codes require R-21. We recommend cellulose because of the higher R-value per inch, air stopping ability and the fact that it doesn't wear out like fiberglass. Cellulose will also perform better at cold temperatures.

Do homeowners really need to get professional help with the process? Why?

I think it helps. The process can be complex. Homeowners may not understand all the work necessary to do a safe, effective job. We work in dark, dusty, dirty, extremely hot or cold areas of the home. It is physically demanding work. It is interesting to me that after 15 years in the insulation and energy efficiency business, most customers are pretty well informed and educated on saving energy. My job is to do the "hard" stuff.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Customers can call our office at 610-264-2200 or email me at msubjin@gmail.com.

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About The Author

Michael Subjin owns and manages Subjin Insulation Services.

Phone: 610-264-2200

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