Home insulation is made from a variety of materials, and it usually comes in four types: rolls and batts, loose-fill, rigid foam, and foam-in-place. Each have their benefits, but let us discuss each one and some home insulating tips that will make your house more energy efficient.
Rolls and Batts
Rolls and batts—or blankets—are flexible products made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass and rock wool. They are available in widths suited to standard spacing of wall studs and attic or floor joists: 2 x 4 walls can hold R-13 or R-15 batts; 2 x 6 walls can use R-19 or R-21 products, which is the common R factor used in most new construction, but home insulation can be better.
Loose-fill insulation is usually made of fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose in the form of loose fibers or fiber pellets. It should be blown into spaces using special pneumatic equipment. The blown-in material conforms readily to odd-sized building cavities and attics with wires, ducts, and pipes, making it well suited for places where it is difficult to effectively install other forms of home insulation. This is one of the best ways to seal a home and make it more energy efficient.
Rigid Foam Insulation
Rigid home insulation foam is typically more expensive than rolls and batts or loose-fill insulation, but it is very effective in exterior wall sheathing, interior sheathing for basement walls, and special applications such as attic hatches. Foam insulation R-values range from R-4 to R-6.5 per inch of thickness, which is up to 2 times greater than most other insulating materials of the same thickness.
Foam-in-place home insulation can be blown into walls, on attic surfaces, or under floors to insulate and reduce leakage. You can use the small pressurized cans of foam-in-place insulation to reduce leakage from holes and cracks, like the ones commonly found around doors, windows, electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures.
There are two types of foam-in-place insulation: closed-cell and open-cell. Both are typically made with polyurethane. With closed-cell foam, the high-density cells are closed and filled with a gas that helps the foam expand to fill the spaces around it. Closed-cell foam is the more effective than open-cell, with an insulation value of around R-6.2 per inch of thickness.
Open-cell foam cells are not as dense and filled with air, which gives this home insulation a spongy texture. Open-cell foam insulation value is around R-3.7 per inch of thickness.
The type of insulation you should choose depends on how it is used and your home insulation budget. While closed-cell foam has a greater R-value and provides stronger resistance against moisture and air leakage, the material is also much denser and is more expensive to install. Open-cell foam is lighter and less expensive but should not be used below ground level where it can absorb water and deteriorate. Consult a professional insulation installer to determine the best for your circumstances.
- Consider factors such as your home design, budget and before selecting home insulation.
- Use higher R-value home insulation, such as spray foam, on exterior walls and in cathedral ceilings to get more insulation with less thickness.
- Install attic barriers, such as wind baffles along the entire attic eave to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit in to the attic. Ventilation helps with moisture control and reduces cooling bills, but don’t ventilate your attic if you have insulation on the underside of the roof. Ask a qualified home insulation contractor if you are unsure.
- Be careful how close you place home insulation next to a lighting fixture—unless it is insulation contact (IC) rated—which will avoid a fire hazard.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and wear the proper protective equipment when installing home insulation.
Long-Term Savings Tips
One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add home insulation to your attic, which is relatively easy.
To find out if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness of the insulation. If it is less than R-30, you would benefit by installing additional home insulation there.
If your attic has enough home insulation and is properly sealed, but your home still feels cold in the winter and warm in the summer, chances are you need to add home insulation. This is more expensive and usually requires a home insulation contractor, but it may be worth the expense—especially if you live in a cold climate. If you replace the exterior siding on your home, consider adding home insulation at the same time.
You may also need to add insulation to your crawl space or basement. Check with a professional home insulation contractor to assess your needs.