More than any other time of year, the first chilly days of winter bring the topic of insulation to the head of priority lists for chilly homeowners. An un-insulated room can make for not-so-cozy temperatures and even less-than-cozy gas and electric bills.

An improperly insulated home is not much better than one without insulation.

“Years ago they just said build a bigger fire and crank up the heat if you didn’t have insulation. It was all cheap. Now it’s not,” says Sue Combs of Sunlok Windows and Insulation.

A properly insulated home should be insulated from the top, bottom and sides, Combs says.

In any room, heat tends to flow from a warm spot to a cool one. To maintain comfort, home climate control systems kick on to make up temperature differences, resulting in more energy use.

A great approach to trapping costly heating and cooling inside the home, insulation is rated in terms of thermal resistance, or R-value. Higher R-values mean greater insulating effectiveness, based on material and thickness of the insulation.

If a home is already insulated, installing more insulation in your home increases R-value and the resistance to heat flow — thus reducing energy bills and the number of chilly nights to come.

In order to determine the quality or existence of insulation in a home, consider a home energy audit offered by local power companies such as Pacific Power. An energy audit will identify the type, if any, of insulation a home has, and the kind it should have.

Up to the task yourself? AA Insulation office manager, Ernie Sheehan, recommends checking behind an electrical switch plate cover — remember to turn off the power first — to check for signs of insulation. If a home has an accessible attic or basement, crawl up or down and look for insulation from there. From outside, remove a small section of exterior siding to get a peek.

For proper insulation, Combs says floors, which can have rolled batting or blown insulation, should have an R-value of 25. Attics require R-38 and are usually outfitted with blown insulation.

As for walls, homes still under construction can be outfitted with rolled batting consisting of an R-21 value, while existing walls can be modified, at best, using a drill and fill method to add a value of R-11, “which is better than no R-value,” says Combs.

Drill-and-fill methods involve drilling tiny holes beneath siding panels on the exterior of the home, filling between wall studs with blown insulation and capping the holes.

For homes not currently insulated, Sheehan says the difference in energy bills and comfort makes adding insulation a no-brainer. If a remodel is forthcoming, install insulation then. If walls are in place for good, consider drill and fill.

“It’s just so much more comfortable. A perfect example, we have two offices where we rent. One office is not insulated and (as of October) the heater is always on. We built the second office and we insulated it. We haven’t had the heater on yet!”

A no-brainer indeed.