Insulation in the roof and walls is clearly beneficial for its ability to reduce heating and cooling losses and costs. The savings achieved by reducing heat transfer by conduction justifies the cost of adequate insulation.
But don’t forget that convection is another source of heat transfer when air moves between two spaces. Minimizing or controlling losses via convection is desirable but requires more consideration. Adequate outside air is necessary for breathing, and sufficient air transfer is required to ventilate other gases and odors from interior spaces.
Most homes are so leaky that there is plenty of opportunity for air to intrude and be enough for the occupants. However, as structures become more air-tight and interior materials become more synthetic, there is the possibility that the indoor air quality is compromised.
To prevent heat escaping through the attic and the walls of a home fiberglass batts have been a traditional insulation. New advances in insulation offer a better solution that is easy to install and on the budget.
The contemporary best practice is expanding spray foam insulation installation. Foam fills the cavities in between the framing studs of the walls and attic. Spray-on foam expands to fills in air gaps, unlike standard fiberglass insulation, which lets air pass through and around it. Even as a house expands and contracts the foam insulation expands and compresses with it. This prevents warm air from escaping through cracks and spaces.
Although the emphasis on saving home heating and cooling energy has been on attic insulation, exterior walls have a similar surface area that transmits energy.
Homes built prior to 1960 had no insulation or at best R-5. Between 1960 and 1980’s average R values increased to about R-11.
Insulating wall cavities that were empty or under-insulated will save energy. A 2″ x 4″ stud framed wall filled with expanding foam insulation will provide an insulating value of R-22.
Before insulating side walls you need to find out what is in there. Visual inspection through openings may reveal what is already in place, if anything, or an infrared thermal imaging will reveal heat loss in areas that are hidden or have varying insulating value.