If you’re warm to the idea of keeping your house comfy, but cool to the thought of wasting energy dollars, check your insulation.

Insulation can deteriorate over time, becoming less efficient.

Signs that you have insufficient or ineffective insulation include difficulty keeping upper floors heated or cooled, or if ice dams form along the roofline.

Our team recommends starting in the attic. In general, if you can see the attic floor joists, you don’t have enough insulation.

While it’s usually easy for homeowners to check attic insulation, other areas of the home can be difficult to assess, such as insulation tucked inside walls. In such a case, consider hiring a professional energy auditor.

If a service provider suggests adding insulation, ask for a recommended R-value, which indicates the insulating power of a product. The higher the R-value, the more powerful the insulation. For most attics, Energy Star — a voluntary energy-savings program of the U.S. government — recommends an R-value of 38, which is about 12-15 inches of padding. An R-value of 49 may be recommended for areas with a colder climate.

Before hiring a company to perform an energy audit or install insulation:

—Ask others for recommendations, and check online reviews.

—Get multiple bids.

—Ask for and check references, as well as proof of insurance, licensing, certifications and affiliations.

A federal tax credit for insulation is available through the end of this year for 10 percent of the cost of the product, but not installation, up to $500. Other products, such as weather-stripping, may also be eligible for the credit if the product comes with a Manufacturer’s Certification Statement.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Follow her on Twitter at @Angie — Hicks.

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