What Kind of Insulation Should You Buy What Kind of Insulation Should You Buy

Once you have located the areas in your house requiring insulation, and have determined what R-value is needed, you will need to decide what type to buy. Some types of insulation require professional installation, and others you can install. You should consider the several forms of insulation available, their R-values, and the thickness needed. Remember, for a given type and weight of insulation, the thicker it is, the higher its R-value. The basic forms of thermal insulation are summarized in Table 1. Here is some additional information.

Basic Forms of Thermal Insulation

Blankets, in the form of batts or rolls, are flexible products made from mineral fibers. They are available in widths suited to standard spacings of wall studs and attic or floor joists. Continuous rolls can be hand-cut and trimmed to fit. They are available with or without vapor retarder facings. Batts with a special flame-resistant facing are available in various widths for basement walls where the insulation will be left exposed.





Blown-in loose-fill insulation includes loose fibers or fiber pellets that are blown into building cavities or attics using special pneumatic equipment. Another form includes fibers that are co-sprayed with an adhesive to make them resistant to settling. The blown-in material can provide additional resistance to air infiltration if the insulation is sufficiently dense.

Foamed-in-Place Polyurethane Foam Insulation can be applied by a professional applicator using special equipment to meter, mix, and spray into place. Polyurethane foam can also help to reduce air leaks.




Rigid Insulation is made from fibrous materials or plastic foams and is pressed or extruded into board-like forms and molded pipe-coverings. These provide thermal and acoustical insulation, strength with low weight, and coverage with few heat loss paths. Such boards may be faced with a reflective foil that reduces heat flow when next to an air space.




Reflective Insulation Systems are fabricated from aluminum foils with a variety of backings such as kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles, or cardboard. The resistance to heat flow depends on the heat flow direction, and this type of insulation is most effective in reducing downward heat flow. Reflective systems are typically located between roof rafters, floor joists, or wall studs. If a single reflective surface is used alone and faces an open space, such as an attic, it is called a radiant barrier. Radiant barrriers are sometimes used in buildings to reduce summer heat gain and winter heat loss. They are more effective in hot climates than in cool climates. All radiant barriers must have a low emittance (0.1 or less) and high reflectance (0.9 or more).



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