You wouldn’t leave your house without a coat in the wintertime, would you? Well just imagine what it would be like if your house never wore a coat. You would have to bundle up all winter long! While you slept, while you ate dinner, while you entertained company, and I hate to think what it would be like to take a shower . . . That’s why your home’s insulation is so important! It keeps out all those chilling drafts in the winter and, when combined with your heater, keeps you nice and cozy. Plus, it’s also handy in the summertime. Because it doesn’t allow any heat transfer, a well-insulated house will block out the sun’s heat and help lower your energy bills. So if you’re building a new home or you’re just looking to update your insulation, it’s important that you study the insulation types available to decide which material will be best for you and your home.
The most common type of insulation, blanket insulation comes in batts or rolls made of flexible fibers (usually fiberglass, but you can also find wool, plastic, and cotton, amongst other materials). Blanket insulation is available in different width sizes that fit typical wall spacing (taking into account the wall studs, attic trusses, rafters, floor joists, etc). Standard blankets have an R-value (measure of thermal resistance) between R-2.9 and R-3.8, while high-performance blankets reach from R-3.7 to R-4.3. Blanket insulation is inexpensive, works well with most houses, and can easily be installed by the homeowner.
If you’re trying to fill a hard-to-reach space, like an attic or a wall cavity, you might prefer blow-in insulation. Made of fiberglass or cellulose (i.e., recycled paper fiber), it is blown or sprayed into the space with special equipment. It can be installed over existing insulation and provides a high level of thermal resistance. Blow-in insulation usually provides about R-30 to R-50 in heat resistance (depending on the thickness) and it is also relatively cheap.
Foam board insulation works well in all areas of of the home. The most common types are polystyrene and polyurethane. Foam board insulation, which comes in thicknesses that vary between 1/2 inch and 2 inches, reduces heat transfer through elements like wood and steel studs. Although it’s thin and inexpensive, it still provides a high level of insulation (R-4 to R-8 per inch). It is often used to insulate basement walls and floors.
Foam insulation is a latex or polyurethane foam that is sprayed into place with either a spray can (for small areas) or special equipment (for large areas). It can be used to fill small gaps and cracks, but it can also easily cover larger areas. Foam expands to fit the allotted space, creates an air-tight seal, sets quickly, and can be painted and trimmed if needed. Although quick and perfectly suited to irregularly shaped areas, spray foam should be installed by a professional and it is the most expensive type of insulation available. Spray foam typically has an R-value of R-6 to R-12.5.
Remember that even if one of our insulation types is more expensive, if it has a higher R-value, it might be worth it to pay that money upfront in order to save more on your energy bills for years to come. If you choose a quality product, you’ll surely make back that extra cost in savings.
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