Your home or building is surrounded on all sides by the forces of nature that want to steal the heating and cooling energy from your structure. Easily turn the tide in this battle, by turning energy waste into energy savings. Fight back these energy sapping beasts by simply selecting the right amount and right type of insulation for your job. There are a variety of materials available that offer different advantages and methods of installation. Selecting the best one for your home or business depends on the areas you plan to insulate and the recommended R-values (thermal resistance) for those areas. Some types of insulation are easy to install and others require special equipment. Consider the method of installation and the process involved before tackling a do-it-yourself job.
What are the Different Types of Insulation for your Job?
Batts and Rolls
Blanket insulation, the most common insulation, is available in batts and rolls. It comes in standard widths that fit easily between wall studs, attic trusses, rafters and floor joists. It’s typically made from fiberglass, but it’s also available in wool, plastic, mineral and natural fibers. Rolls and batts are available with flame-resistant facings and facings like kraft paper, foil and vinyl that keep out air and moisture. Standard fiberglass batts and rolls typically have an R-value of R-29 to R-38.
Applications: Floors, ceilings and unfinished walls, including foundation walls
Advantages: Fits standard studs and joists spacing, easy to install and inexpensive
Foam boards are rigid panels that can be used to insulate any part of your home. They provide good thermal resistance, and reduce heat conduction through structural materials like wood and steel. Boards are typically made from polystyrene or polyurethane materials that work well for interior and exterior locations. Interior applications require a fire-safety material that’s building-code approved and exterior applications require a weatherproof facing material. Foam boards provide good thermal resistance.
Applications: Floors, ceilings, unfinished walls, including foundation walls, and unvented roofs
Advantages: High insulating value, thin boards and good for blocking thermal short circuit
Fiberboard is great for exterior structure walls or air duct insulation. It’s made from fiberglass, mineral, wool or wood materials that withstand high temperatures. This type of insulation is used primarily by builders and HVAC contractors and requires special fabrication and installation tools.
Applications: Exterior walls, air ducts or other unconditioned spaces that require resistance to a lot of heat
Advantages: Withstands very high temperatures
Loose-Fill and Blown-In
Loose-fill insulation is made from small fiber and foam particles that conform easily to any space. It’s a good choice for retrofits and hard to reach locations. Recycled materials made from fiberglass, paper, rock, slag and wool are typically used for loose-fill and blown-in insulation. It can be blown-in or poured into spaces with the use of special equipment. This type of insulation requires a skilled contractor who can equate the correct R-value to the insulation density.
Applications: Any enclosed or open wall spaces and unfinished attic floors
Advantages: Good for hard-to-reach or irregular shaped areas and conforms easily to any size opening
Sprays and Foams
Liquid foam materials can be sprayed, injected, foamed-in-place or poured into almost any area. Today’s materials don’t cause harmful gases like older materials that damaged the environment. Liquid sprays and foams have a good resistance to water and air, and some offer excellent fire-resistance. The insulation expands and hardens as it dries providing easy application for any size or shape opening. Installation requires special equipment and certification for handling, so a professional should install it.
Applications: Enclosed existing walls, new open walls and unfinished attic floors
Advantages: Conforms to any size opening, good for irregular shapes and obstructions
Installing insulation is one of the more affordable improvements to a home or building, and it provides such a significant return back to you in the form of energy savings. Since there are many options to choose from, it’s important to select the right type of insulation for your application. If you’re a confident do-it-yourselfer than speak with a knowledgeable person at your local hardware center to confirm you are getting the right insulation for your job. If you feel more comfortable having a professional complete the work for you, contact a local contractor that specializes in insulation installation.
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