When insulating your home, you can choose from many types of insulation. To choose the best type of insulation, you should first determine the following:
• Where you want or need to install/add insulation
• The recommended R-values for areas you want to insulate.
The maximum thermal performance or R-value of insulation is very dependent on proper installation. Homeowners can install some types of insulation -- notably blankets and materials that can be poured in place. Other types require professional installation.
When hiring a professional certified installer:
• Obtain written cost estimates from several contractors for the R-value you need, and don't be surprised if quoted prices for a given R-value installation vary by more than a factor of two.
• Ask contractors about their air-sealing services and costs as well, because it’s a good idea to seal air leaks before installing insulation.
• To evaluate blanket installation, you can measure batt thickness and check for gaps between batts as well as between batts and framing. In addition, inspect insulation for a tight fit around building components that penetrate the insulation, such as electrical boxes. To evaluate sprayed or blown-in types of insulation, measure the depth of the insulation and check for gaps in coverage.
Types of Insulation
BLANKET: BATT AND ROLL INSULATION
Blanket insulation -- the most common and widely available type of insulation -- comes in the form of batts or rolls. It consists of flexible fibers, most commonly fiberglass. You also can find batts and rolls made from mineral (rock and slag) wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers, such as cotton and sheep's wool.
FOAM BOARD OR RIGID FOAM
Foam boards -- rigid panels of insulation -- can be used to insulate almost any part of your home, from the roof down to the foundation. They provide good thermal resistance, and reduce heat conduction through structural elements, like wood and steel studs.
LOOSE-FILL AND BLOWN-IN INSULATION
Loose-fill insulation consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. These small particles form an insulation material that can conform to any space without disturbing structures or finishes. This ability to conform makes loose-fill insulation well suited for retrofits and locations where it would be difficult to install other types of insulation.
RADIANT BARRIERS AND REFLECTIVE INSULATION SYSTEMS
Unlike most common insulation systems, which resist conductive and sometimes convective heat flow, radiant barriers and reflective insulation work by reflecting radiant heat away from the living space. Radiant barriers are installed in homes -- usually in attics -- primarily to reduce summer heat gain, which helps lower cooling costs.
RIGID FIBER BOARD INSULATION
Rigid fiber or fibrous board insulation consists of either fiberglass or mineral wool material and is primarily used for insulating air ducts in homes. It is also used when there's a need for insulation that can withstand high temperatures. These products come in a range of thicknesses from 1 inch to 2.5 inches, and provide an R-value of about R-4 per inch of thickness.
SPRAYED-FOAM AND FOAMED-IN-PLACE INSULATION
Liquid foam insulation materials can be sprayed, foamed-in-place, injected, or poured. Some installations can have twice the R-value per inch of traditional batt insulation, and can fill even the smallest cavities, creating an effective air barrier.
TYPES OF LIQUID FOAM INSULATION
Today, most foam materials use foaming agents that don't use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are harmful to the earth's ozone layer.
Available liquid foam insulation materials include:
• Polyisocyanurate (polyiso)
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