How to Choose the Right Insulation for Your Home

Attic insulation installation in progress

Whether you are building a new home or renovating your existing one, you may be wondering what type of insulation to use. With so many different types available it can be confusing to know which one will work best for your home. 

Electricity and natural gas can be costly. Insulation saves you money by preventing expensive heating and cooling from escaping through your walls. 

So what is insulation? Why do you need it? What kind should you put in your home? 

What is Attic Insulation?

Insulation is a barrier between the interior walls of a building and its external envelope (such as siding or roofing). It can be made of fiberglass, cellulose, or foam, but the goal is all the same- to reduce the amount of heat that passes into or out of your home through your walls. 

How Can Insulation Benefit You?

Insulation can benefit your home in several ways:

  • Lower energy costs: A properly insulated home will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This takes the strain off of your HVAC system- and your wallet. In fact, homeowners can save up to 15% on their energy bills by adding insulation to their attics, crawl spaces, and basement joists. 
  • Smaller Carbon Footprint: Insulation reduced the amount of energy it takes to keep your home comfortable. This doesn’t just save you money, it also helps the environment. 
  • Higher resale values: Modern home buyers are willing to pay top dollar for eco-friendly energy-efficient homes. A 2016 report showed that a typical attic insulation project earned a 116% return on investment.
  • Less Noise: While insulating is not the same as soundproofing your home, it can certainly help buffer out some of the noise from outside or between floors. If you live near a busy road or the kids get a little too noisy upstairs, insulation can help muffle the irritation. 

The benefits of a well-insulated house can’t be ignored, but with so many different types of insulation how can you know what to pick?

Types of Insulation

When determining the best type of insulation for your home, consider these factors:

  • How much insulation do you need? Outfitting your new build with top to bottom insulation will have different options than simply insulating a previously ignored section of your attic
  • What is the recommended R-value for your project? Each type of insulation is rated with an R-value based on it’s material, thickness and density. The higher the R-value, the greater it’s insulating effectiveness. The ideal R-value for your project will depend on several things such as how and where the insulation is being installed, the climate you live in and the type of HVAC system you have. 
  • How much are you’re willing to spend? In an ideal world we could all afford top-of-the-line insulation but unfortunately most of us have to follow a budget.

The easiest and safest way to answer these questions is to consult with an insulation contractor. They will know the correct type of insulation to use for your unique needs, guaranteeing the best results. But it helps to understand a little bit about the different types of insulation available so you can make an informed decision. 

Blanket Insulation

Blanket Insulation is one of the most common kinds of insulation you will encounter. It comes in bats or rolls and is usually made out of fiberglass, cotton or mineral wool. 

It comes in precut pieces that fit nicely between standard studs, joists and beams, though it may require some care when fitting it around wiring and pipes. Blanket insulation can be placed in any unfinished wall space including foundation walls, floors and ceilings.

Pros: 

  • Very affordable, especially if you install it yourself
  • Easy to install- if you are determined to install you own insulation, this would be your best bet.
  • Decent at noise buffering
  • Energy efficient

Cons:

  • Less durable than some other insulating materials
  • It can require a lot of space. It’s low R-value means that more layers may be needed to get the job done. 
  • Fiberglass fibers can irritate eyes, lungs and skin.

Blown Insulation

Blown Insulation is a thin, airy type of insulation that is blown into spaces like walls, attics, and crawlspaces using a high-volume fan. It is available in loose fill fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool and all are usually made from recycled materials. It can be blown in to existing finished wall, or open wall cavities as well as attic floors. 

Pros:

  • Can be used in existing walls without significant damage
  • Easy to install in oddly shaped or difficult to reach areas
  • One of the most affordable type of insulation
  • Can be reused- simply vacuum it out and redeposit in a new area
  • It settles into every nook and cranny for great coverage

Cons:

  • It tends to hold moisture which can lead to mold and mildew
  • It settles over time, compacting at the bottom but leaving the top vulnerable to drafts
  • Cellulose can be too heavy for some ceiling styles
  • Requires special equipment to install

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray Foam is a polyurethane insulation that is pressure sprayed or poured into wall cavities like a liquid but quickly turns to foam. Spray insulation is available in open cell formulas which make a lightweight, flexible, spongy insulation and closed cell formulas which is more rigid and dense. 

Pros:

  • High R-value density
  • Superior air seal
  • Effective noise reduction

Cons:

  • More expensive than most other insulation
  • Requires professional installation
  • Installation can produce toxic gasses
  • May leak through unsealed joints

Reflective Insulation

Reflective Insulation is an insulation material such as kraft paper, plastic film or cardboard that is lined with foil backing to create a reflective surface. When placed between unfinished wood frame studs, beams, rafter and joists this insulation reflects heat back into the building by trapping it in a reflective shell. Reflective insulation typically has the highest R-value per inch, the highest denier, and the longest lifespan.

Pros:

  • Effective in warm climates to keep buildings cool
  • Highest R-value per inch
  • Does not degrade over time from compacting, disintegrating or absorbing moisture
  • Thin and lightweight so it’s easy to work with

Cons:

  • One of the most expensive forms of insulation
  • Not as effective in cold climates
  • Must be cleaned and dusted occasionally to maintain efficiency

Get the Job Done Right with Peak Builders & Roofers

With so many variables to consider insulation is usually best left to the professionals. They understand the strengths and limitations of each type of insulation and know how to choose the most effective materials for your project. Don’t waste money and time attempting to install insulation that won’t be effective in your home, call the experts at Peak Builders and Roofers today for a free estimate.