Home Insulating 101
Insulation helps protect the home against adverse weather conditions, especially in regions where the climate is colder. It is also important in reducing energy bills as insulation offers a non-electric method of retaining heat inside your home.
However, it is possible to over insulate and under insulate your home. The benefit of home insulation is to seal the interior of your home tightly. If you seal it too tightly with too many insulation layers, moisture gets trapped inside those layers, and mold can start to grow. Moreover, over insulating your home could make one breathe in lower quality air.
Therefore, before one begins the journey of insulating their home, they have to find out the type of insulator best for them according to their budget. They can do so by determining where they want to install the insulation and knowing the recommended R-values for the areas they want to insulate.
Installing an insulator could be in more places than just the walls and attics we think of. It could be in the ceilings with unheated spaces, basement walls, porches, and interior walls, especially bathrooms. Insulation is basically the building envelope, which means you can use several insulation types in any given area.
Measured in terms of its thermal resistance, know the insulating materials’ resistance to conductive heat flow. It is also popularly known as R-value. This is of great value because if the R-value is higher, the greater the insulating effectiveness. When considering an insulation type to use, we should consider what the R-value is dependent on, which could range from thickness, density, temperature, aging, and moisture accumulation.
One should always bear in mind that the amount of R-value a wall needs depends on the climate, cooling system, the part of the house where the insulator’s installation will take place, and the type of heating system.
However, after noting where to install the insulator and the R-value, there are other considerations like life-cycled costs, embodied energy, indoor air quality impacts, and ease of installation, especially for those who want to do the installations themselves. You can now choose the best insulator for your home from the different types available in the market.
Types of Home Insulators
- Blanket batts and rolls: Made with materials from fiberglass, mineral wool either of rock or slag, plastic fibers, and natural fibers. These are best used in unfinished walls, including foundation walls, floors, and ceilings. The installation is done between joists, studs, and beams. They’re relatively expensive, and are easy for one to install due to its facing, which helps during installation. These are a commonly the used type of insulator. The R-value is between R-2.9 AND R-3.8 per inch of thickness.
They’re made with fiberglass, are non-flammable and resistant to moisture damage. Still, they can be an irritant on the skin and lungs if they come in direct contact with anyone.
However, if made with rock wool, they can be fire-resistant as well as noise-resistant. On the downside, they’re more expensive than any other insulating material.
- Concrete block insulation: Its materials are made of foam board. You can install them outside the wall of a new construction or in the wall of existing homes. Most times, manufacturers put foam beads or air into the concrete mix to increase the R-value. Installing this insulator is common in unfinished walls, including foundation walls and new construction or major renovation. The installation requires specialized skills, and sometimes you can stack them without mortar.The R-value is between R-1.9 and R-2.5.
- Foam board or rigid foam: The materials include polystyrene, polyisocyanurate, and polyurethane. This board’s installation is best for unfinished walls, including foundation walls, and floors, ceilings, and unvented low slope roofs. During installation, cover interior applications with half-inch gypsum board or other building code-approved material for fire safety.
At the same time, you should cover exterior applications with weatherproof facing. For relatively little thickness, these have a high insulating value which is an advantage. The R-value ranges from 3.6 to 4.2
- Insulating concrete forms (ICFs): The materials include foam blocks or foam boards. Perfect for use in unfinished walls, like a new foundation wall construction, and installing of the wall in the building structure. There is the advantage of creating high thermal resistance. The R-value is approximately R-20
- Loose-fill and blown-in: The materials include cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral wool, which could either be slag or rock. You can use them in new cavities and enclosed existing walls. If you want to add insulation to an existing finished area, this material is a great choice. The R-value is approximately R-3.5 per inch of thickness. However, they are not waterproof and prone to moisture.
After choosing the insulator type, we should also remember that insulators are not a hundred percent efficient. As climate conditions become less predictable, look for additional ways to ensure that your home stays warm regardless. Stock up on appropriate clothing and bedding, and always have the materials for a non-electric fire handy.