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Insulation Types: Which Is Right for Your Home?

Project Planning
November 03, 2017

Insulation upgrades can have a significant impact on energy costs and the way your family enjoys your home. Increasing or replacing insulation in your home means using your heating and cooling system less, and adding this element of energy-efficient house design may help reduce your energy bills. Older homes usually lack sufficient insulation, and bringing your home’s insulation up to modern standards could offer some serious improvements in comfort and savings.

How to Compare Different Types of Insulation

Every type of insulation features a label detailing the material’s R-value per inch. The R-value defines the material’s ability to resist heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation.

There are various types of insulation, some of the most common materials are:

  • Fiberglass insulation: Fiberglass insulation is the most common type of insulation used in homes. It is made from glass cullet and other raw materials which are melted and spun into fibers that resemble the texture of wool. Fiberglass comes in batts, rolls, or loose-fill forms and is commonly used throughout a house in sidewalls, attics, floors, crawl spaces, cathedral ceilings and basements. Fiberglass insulation is naturally noncombustible.
  • Cellulose insulation: Made from recycled paper, cellulose insulation is mechanically blown into attics and wall spaces. As a paper product, it must be treated with chemical flame retardants to resist fire.
  • Mineral wool: Made from rock, blast furnace slag and limestone that is melted and spun into fibers to resemble the texture of wool. Mineral wool comes in batts, rolls or loose-fill forms. Like fiberglass, it is also used throughout a house in sidewalls, attics, floors, crawl spaces, cathedral ceilings and basements. Mineral wool insulation is noncombustible.
  • Reflective/radiant barriers: This type of insulation is usually found in the attic, as the material helps reduce heat and cold. Primarily made of aluminum foil applied to one or both sides of another material such as kraft paper, plastic films, cardboard or oriented strand board, radiant and reflective barriers reflect the sun’s rays and absorb heat before it makes its way into your home. Reflective or radiant barriers do not reduce heat conduction like thermal insulation materials.
  • Spray foam: Spray foam insulation is made when two chemical-based products are combined to create a foam that hardens as it is applied with a sprayer into attics and wall cavities. The two main types of spray foam insulation are open cell foam and closed cell foam and the properties of each type are different. Spray foam insulation can be consumed by flame. Exposed foam must be protected using a 15-minute thermal barrier when installed in a habitable area.

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How much does insulation cost?

How Much Does an Insulation Upgrade Cost?

The price of insulation depends largely upon where you plan on insulating (and how big the space is), but many other factors can affect the overall cost for this energy-efficient home design feature. Common expense factors include the size of your space, the type of insulation selected, and installation fees. The average attic insulation project costs anywhere from $400 to $1,800 according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

While federal tax credits and rebates expired a few years ago, certain states may still provide rebates and discounts for insulation upgrades. As you draw up your energy-efficient home plans, check with your local districts to determine if there are incentives in your area.

How much can you save with insulation

How Much Can You Save with Insulation Upgrades?

Investing in different insulation types can pay off in the long run. Insulation helps keep your home at your desired temperature, which means more energy-efficient cooling and heating as as you'll need to use your HVAC system less. The EPA reports that you can save an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs with insulation and air sealing home improvement projects, although this varies by location and the different insulation types available.

Properly insulating your home could help you save money on your utility bills and keep your family more comfortable. Make an investment in your home’s energy efficiency today with an insulation upgrade.

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