20 Dec Types of Insulation & How Insulation Improves Your Home Comfort(Last Updated On: December 20, 2018)
Many of us realize the pivotal role insulation plays in home comfort. Although winter weather comes to mind, insulation also improves home comfort during the summer as well. However, most homes simply do not contain sufficient insulation (in particular, older homes). Plus, building codes require a minimum amount of insulation, but what types and how much? Yes, there are multiple types of insulation that work in various parts of your home.
- Does your home contain drafty areas?
- Do you suffer from high utility bills?
- Does your home consistently lose energy throughout the year?
- Do you think your HVAC system needs an upgrade?
For many homeowners, an uncomfortable home and high monthly utility bills make them pause. Yes, these signals show an issue, but not necessarily with an HVAC system. From attic insulation to wall insulation, applying the proper types of insulation throughout your home addresses homeowner concerns.
Finally, as a homeowner, are you interested in investing in a home project that pays for itself within a year?
SolvIt is here to answer all of your questions and we even provide a FREE quote and estimate, finding the correct areas and type(s) of insulation your home would benefit from most.
To help understand some insulation basics, the following aims to unveil how insulation actually works. If you have any more questions or want to understand how insulation improves your home, then call SolvIt today!
Insulation Improves Home Comfort
We learned in science class that heat flows from a warm to cool place. As a result, heat moves from heated spaces into unheated spaces. As a result, during winter, many homes end up heating unheated attics, garages, basements and even outside. Conversely, during the summer, heat flows into these spaces, including your living space (which makes your A/C work much harder).
The fix: insulation (and air sealing)!
In simple terms: insulation traps heat and hinders its natural state to move towards cooler spaces. As a result, proper insulation ensures a warm home in the winter (and cool home in the summer), along with lower energy bills.
It’s that simple and it really works.
“Insulation doesn’t work with air flowing through it. Air leakage, or infiltration, occurs when outside air enters a house uncontrollably through cracks, gaps, and openings. Most homes have the equivalent of a large open window in combined air leaks in their attic alone! Many air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel — like those around windows and doors. But holes hidden in attics, basements, and crawl spaces are more difficult and a bigger problem. Frequently, warm air generated by the heating system rises into the attic around recessed lights, ceiling fans, attic access doors, and registers. Unfortunately, the homeowner pays for this heat in their attic! This is not something any of us want to do.”
Plus, according to the Department of Energy, proper air sealing and insulation helps reduce your home’s energy costs by as much as 30%!
Types of Insulation
Every home and climate differs. Therefore, the correct type of insulation for each home and room varies.For example, the type of attic insulation may differ from the best wall insulation. In order to determine the best type of energy efficient insulation, homeowners should find a quality energy auditor and/or HVAC company.
First and foremost, cellulose insulation offers a variety of benefits, while striking a nice balance between performance and cost. For example, cellulose insulation offers significant advantages, such as:
- Maintaining an R-value of about 3.8 per inch.
- Maintains a very low amount of embodied energy because it is made from recycled products.
- Offering superior sound barriers based on its density.
- Offering an environmentally friendly energy efficient insulation option.
Additionally, cellulose is one of the oldest types of insulation and is generally made from plant fibers (or other recycled products). As a result, cellulose insulation offers homeowners with flexibility. It fits around items in walls, such as pipes or wiring, which leaves very few air spaces or gaps.
Finally, academia looked to confirm the performance of cellulose. The University of Colorado School of Architecture and Planning conducted a study comparing two seemingly identical test structures; one insulated with cellulose and the other with fiberglass.
“The cellulose insulation lost 26.4% less heat energy over time compared to the fiberglass insulation. It also tightened the structure more than 30%. Subsequent real world surveys show cellulose performing 20-30% better at reducing energy used for heating than fiberglass.”
Another common insulation used in buildings is fiberglass, which made from very fine glass fibers. Notably, multiple types of insulation leverage fiberglass. Additionally, some benefits of fiberglass insulation include:
- Flexibility because ability to purchase in rolls (or batts) or in loose-fill.
- Easily installed in many locations within the home.
- Efficient installation because not as dusty as cellulose (or other types of insulation).
- Purchase in many different widths and thicknesses that promotes easier installation.
Additionally, fiberglass insulation remains produced in medium and high density products, which offer higher R-values. Plus, fiberglass provides flexibility and remains a viable option for insulating unfinished walls, floors or ceilings, as well as fitting between studs, joists or beams. Finally, according to according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
“Fiberglass as an insulator slows the spread of heat, cold, and sound in structures. The material does this by trapping pockets of air, keeping rooms warm in the winter and cooler in the summer.”
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation helps provide lower heating and cooling bills, while enabling a more comfortable indoor environment. Compared to cellulose, spray foam is a chemical, but works in the same capacity.
“Spray foam is a chemical product created by two materials, isocyanate and polyol resin, which react when mixed with each other and expand up to 30-60 times its liquid volume after it is sprayed in place. This expansion makes it useful as a specialty packing material which forms to the shape of the product being packaged and produces a high thermal insulating value with virtually no air infiltration.”
Spray foam insulation acts as the insulation resisting heat loss and the air sealing resisting air leakage in walls, floors and ceiling cavities. The foam is sprayed into open building cavities and expands to fill all the nooks and crannies. Plus, the expanding nature of spray foam helps eliminate the need for additional air sealing because the foam completely fills open cavities.
Spray foam remains a good option for retrofits, such as:
- attic conversions.
- basement remodels.
- crawl space upgrades.
- intensive remodeling projects when walls are opened for other reasons.
Many homeowners misunderstand the important benefits of proper wall insulation. For example, homeowners experience the following advantages with proper wall insulation, such as:
- Reducing drafts.
- Experiencing cooler rooms (in the summer).
- Quieter home because less less noise penetrates the walls.
- Lower utility bills because heating and cooling equipment runs less often.
- Increased safety because in the event of a fire, insulation filled cavities helps slow fire advancement.
For existing homes, proper insulation typically includes filling the wall cavities with insulation from the outside of the home. Technicians remove small pieces of siding, drill holes and fill wall cavities with insulation. When complete, the technicians plug the holes and re-install the siding.
This Old House shares a quick, high level overview of the proper wall insulation process.
“Filling walls with a fluffy layer of fiberglass insulation is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to make your home more energy efficient. All it takes is a utility knife, a straightedge, and a little patience to make sure the insulation completely fills the stud cavity, side to side and top to bottom, without being overly compressed. Work with batts made to match the depth of the studs and the width of the stud bays; for typical 2×4 construction, that’s 3½ inches deep and 15¼ inches wide with an R-value of 15. Fiberglass is easy to cut, so if your stud spacing is irregular, buy batts that will fill the widest bays, and trim the rest to fit.
When you’re ready to begin, protect your skin, eyes, and lungs by wearing a long-sleeve shirt, pants, gloves, safety glasses, and dust mask. Then follow these basic installation tips to help the work go faster and make sure your insulation does its job.”
Heat rises. Therefore, attic insulation helps prohibit heat from entering the attic.
“Heat flows naturally from a warmer to a cooler space. So, in the winter, heat moves directly from all heated areas to unheated attics, garages, basements, and even to the outdoors. It can also move indirectly through interior ceilings, walls, and floors — wherever there is a difference in temperature. During the summer, heat flows from the outdoors to the interior of a house and also radiates down from the attic where there is insufficient insulation.”
As a result, proper attic insulation maintains heated air within the living space of your home. In an ideal home, the attic remains cool or cold during the winter. Heated air remains in the home and cold air (from the outside) remains in the attic.
Finally, to help achieve these results, home energy, experts recommend R-40 to R-60 in attics, which maximizes comfort along with utility bill savings.
Crawl Space Insulation
If your home contains a crawl space, then it likely needs some additional insulation. Unfortunately, during construction many builders often forgo crawl space insulation (or they install the incorrect type). As a result, the lack of proper insulation not only creates an uncomfortable, but also creates an environment ripe for mold growth from a damp crawl space, or wood rot. Proper crawl space insulation requires rigid foam insulation specially made for crawl spaces. This helps prevent the absorption of moisture or mold growth.
Why? The experts at Building Science provide an overview how proper insulation for your crawl space.
“Crawlspace walls should be insulated with non-water sensitive insulation that prevents interior air from contacting cold basement surfaces—the concrete structural elements and the rim joist framing. Allowing interior air (that is usually full of moisture, especially in the humid summer months) to touch cold surfaces will cause condensation and wetting, rather than the desired drying. The structural elements of below grade walls are cold (concrete is in direct contact with the ground)—especially when insulated on the interior. Of particular concern are rim joist areas—which are cold not only during the summer but also during the winter. This is why it is important that interior insulation assemblies be constructed as airtight as possible.”
Ductwork must be well-sealed, insulated, and balanced to ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems work as efficiently as possible. As we all know, lots of homes contain leaky ductwork and insufficient air flow, which results in an uncomfortable living environment — regardless of the thermostat setting. As a result, a properly insulated (and air sealed) duct system makes your home more comfortable, energy efficient and delivers cleaner air.
For example, frequently uninsulated ductwork remains located in attics, basements or crawl spaces. This means the ductwork maintains the same temperature as those (frequently) uninsulated spaces. As a result, the ductwork must heat up before heating your home, which makes it work twice as hard.
Insulation Ratings Make a Difference
The various types of insulation all work essentially the same way. Insulation blocks or traps air into a specific room or space. However, insulation ratings help technicians know how the necessary amount of insulation.
So, how does someone know how much insulation to install?
Insulation ratings, which are measured universally by an R-value or the ability of the insulation to resist heat flow. Therefore, higher R-values mean more insulating power. Plus, depending on your area and weather, experts recommend different R-values for walls, attics, basements and crawl spaces.
“The R-value measures how well an object, per unit of its exposed area, resists conductive flow of heat. The greater the R-value, the greater the resistance, and so the better the thermal insulating properties of the object. R-values are used in describing effectiveness of insulation and in analysis of heat flow across assemblies (such as walls, roofs, and windows) under steady-state conditions. Heat flow through an object is driven by temperature difference between two sides of the object, and the R-value quantifies how effectively the object resists this drive. Moreover, as long as the materials involved are dense solids in direct mutual contact, R-values are additive. For example, the total R-value of an object composed of several layers of material equals the sum of the R-values of the individual layers.
Plus, an R-value can be given for a material (e.g. for polyethylene foam), or for an assembly of materials (e.g. a wall or a window). In the case of materials, it is often expressed in terms of R-value per unit length (e.g. per inch of thickness).”
Energy Audits Determine Types of Insulation Needed for Your Home
According to the Department of Energy, energy audits provide an assessment that helps homeowners determine where their house loses energy (and money). As a result, audits reveal how homeowners would fix such problems, which results in a more energy- and cost-efficient home. To put it simply, a home energy audit gauges how much energy your home consumes and identifies energy-efficient solutions to potentially save you significant money over time!
Naturally, insulation levels remain at the core of a comprehensive energy audit. For example, an effective energy audit inspects and uncovers:
- Insufficient insulation
- Air leaks
- Defective air ducts
- Ventilation issues
- Inefficient lighting and low-efficiency appliances
- Gas leaks
Upon completion of an audit, the auditor provides prioritized recommendations based on the homeowner’s goals. Common fixes include air sealing to reduce drafts and adding insulation to make the home more comfortable and resistant to condensation-related problems like rot and mold.
For example, at SolvIt, our energy audits rely on advanced technology, such as infrared cameras. The infrared camera provides essential information regarding current insulation levels that enable our techs to recommend the proper amount of insulation required as measured by R-values (not guess and check)!
Interested in learning more about our SolvIt Home Comfort and Energy Check Up?
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