Insulation provides a barrier in your home’s roof, walls and floors to reduce heat transfer from those areas of your home that you pay to heat and/or cool to the outdoors and unconditioned parts of your house. The benefit to you as the homeowner, is a house that’s more comfortable year round (warm in the winter, cool in the summer) and more cost effective to maintain your desired temperature.
This article series reviews the growing list of insulation choices as the construction industry introduces more energy efficient building products.
If you want to learn more about how insulation works, read Insulation 101 For Smart Homeowners and Attic Sealing, Insulation and Ventilation which explains what’s required to maximize the benefit of your home’s insulation.
Types of Insulation
There are two basic types of insulation — bulk insulation and reflective insulation, and some products combine features of both bulk and reflective insulation. Bulk insulation acts as a barrier to air flow (loss of heat during cool weather and loss of air conditioned air during warmer months) while reflective insulation that deflects radiant heat. In the photo above, there is blown in insulation (pink) lying on the floor of the attic and reflective insulation (shiny aluminum foil) stapled to the roof deck at the top of the attic.
When insulation is manufactured, facings are fastened to the materials to protect the surface and hold the insulation together. This facing is often used to attach the insulation to the house structure, i.e. staple to wall studs. Different types of facings also act as an air barrier, radiant barrier and/or vapor barrier to reduce the flow of air and moisture, and some even provide flame resistance.
- Blanket insulation is recognizable as batts or rolls of most often, pink fiberglass.
- Loose-fill is typically found in attics or blown into walls of existing homes when you have access because you’re replacing the siding on your home.
- Foam boards found at your box store in various colors, and are most often used by homeowners to insulate garages, basements and other small spaces.
- Insulating concrete forms (ICFs) are interlocking, hollow-core foam insulation blocks.
- Reflective systems or radiant barriers are popular in warmer climates.
- Spray foam when installed properly, do a better job of sealing gaps missed by traditional insulation.
- Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are prefabricated panels that include a form board sandwiched between OSB (similar to plywood).
To learn more about any of these materials or facings, visit the US government’s energy website or our second article provides short 2 to 4 paragraph summaries on each of these insulation options.
Insulation is a key component in building today’s energy efficient homes. Exterior walls and your attic are critical as you can loose up to 45% f your heating/cooling energy via the roof. Porches, sunrooms and garages may also benefit from insulation if you live in a hot climate and spend a lot of time in these places. You’ll also want to insure water pipes in exterior walls are insulated.
Adequate insulation in your attic is the highest priority as warm air rises from your heated space, so sealing openings between conditioned space and your attic along with adequate insulation, is very important.
When remodeling and adding space, or opening existing space up to the wall studs, you’ll want to request and ensure adequate insulation is installed as we had several homeowners contact my handyman business because there was no insulation in their addition, causing bathroom plumbing to burst in the winter.
Lastly, building codes upgrade insulation requirements periodically so whenever you replace your home’s siding or roof deck, it’s the perfect time to evaluate the cost-benefit trade offs of adding insulation to your home.
Better Insulation Needs Better Ventilation
Around the world we’re doing a much better job of creating homes that are airtight. The good news is we’re able to keep the temperature of our homes at more comfortable levels while cutting energy costs, both heating and air conditioning. The not so good news is … indoor air quality in our homes isn’t great (read What is Healthy Air and Is There Air Pollution in Your Home?) but don’t panic. This just means homeowners need to understand the role and importance of ventilation to keep our homes healthy.
Which type(s) of insulation are new to you?