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Home Insulation Fact Sheet

Home Insulation Fact Sheet

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Published by Barbara Saunders
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Published by: Barbara Saunders on Aug 29, 2010
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Insulating your home is an investment whichkeeps paying dividends long after installation.The California Energy Commission’sConsumer Energy Center states, "Properlyinsulated homes can use 30 to 50 percentless energy than homes without insulation”.
Insulating Your Home
saves you money on heating and coolingprovides year-round comfort foryour homeconserves energyprotects the environment by reducinggreenhouse gas emissions
How Does Insulation Work?
Heat flows from warmer to cooler spaces.In winter, your heating system uses energyto replace escaped heat. In summer, yourair conditioner uses energy to removeentering heat. Insulating ceilings, walls,and floors adds resistance to the flow ofheat and decreases the heating or coolingneeded to keep your home at a comfortabletemperature.
Heat Flows Due To:
which is movement throughsolids. When you warm up your hands ona cup of hot chocolate, heat travels intoyour palms and fingers through conduction.
which transfers on the currentsof a moving fluid. When you boil water,convection moves heat through the waterto the surface, and then through the airas steam.
which is the transfer of solaror infrared energy through space. Radiantsolar energy travels in a straight line. Thisis why you move to the shade to avoiddirect sunlight.Insulation materials with low conductivityhelp prevent the flow of heat through walls,doors, and pipes. Some materials slow downheat flow by creating tiny pockets of air orother gases through convection. Air sealingminimizes the flow of air and prevents heatloss from convection. Reflective insulationmaterials serve as a physical barrier,radiating heat back toward the heat source.Insulating effectiveness is expressed as anR-Value (Resistance Value) –the higher theR-Value, the greater the effectiveness. Usethe R-Value to compare individual products,evaluate the value a contractor proposes inyour estimate, and help calculate estimatedenergy savings. The R-Values are determinedby material type, thickness, and installedweight per square foot, not by thickness alone.The Federal Trade Commission requiresthat the labels on insulation packagingstate the R-value and certain specific health,safety, and fire-hazard information. Useonly insulation materials approved by theState of California Bureau of HomeFurnishings. Your contractor should provideyou with proof of acceptance of the products’performance ratings.
Home Insulation
Insulating ceilings, walls,and floors adds resistanceto the flow of heat anddecreases the heating orcooling needed to keepyour home at a comfortabletemperature.
The insulation your home needs depends onthe climate; whether or not you have an airconditioner and a heater, and whether youuse natural gas, propane, oil, or electricityfor heat.Some relevant variables are:how much insulation you needhow easy it is to get to the locationwhere the insulation will be installedthe space available for the insulationmateriallocal availability and price of the insulationwhether you will install the insulationyourself or have it professionally installed
, (in the form of batts or rolls) areflexible products made from mineral fibers,including fiberglass, recycled cotton/polyesteror rock wool.
Blown-in loose-fill insulation
includescellulose, fiberglass, or rock wool in the formof loose fibers or fiber pellets that are blowninto spaces by using pneumatic equipment.These product types may be used incombination, usually with lower density(weight per unit volume) material placedon top of higher-density product.
Foam insulation
comes in two types:Open-celled foams, (such as polyicynene)and closed-cell foams, (such aspolyisocyanurate and polyurethane).Closed-celled foams provide a greaterR-value for a given thickness.
Rigid insulation
is made from fibrousmaterials or plastic foams and is producedin board-like shapes and molded pipecoverings that leave few heat loss paths.The boards may be faced with a reflective foil.
Reflective insulation or radiant barriers
aremade from aluminum foils with a backingsuch as kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylenebubbles, or cardboard. This type of insulationis most effective in reducing radiant heat flowand is less effective at reducing conductiveheat flow.
Installing recommended levels of insulationduring initial construction is a better valuethan adding it later. The Federal TradeCommission (FTC) requires the seller ofa new home to include in the sales contractinformation about the type, thickness, andR-value of the insulation to be installed onevery part of the home. If your builderparticipates in the ENERGYSTAR
program,third-party inspectors will ensure that theinsulation has been installed properly.
BATTS (blankets)LOOSE FILL (Blown-in) LOOSE FILL (Blown-in)R-value Fiberglass/Rock Wool Fiberglass/Rock Wool Cellulose
11 3.5 4” 4 5” 3 4”195.5 6.56.5 95 622 6 7.57.5 106 730 8.5 10” 10.25 13.75” 8 9.25”38 12 13” 15 -16.5” 10.25 12”
This chart represents the average R-value of different kinds of insulation. The actual value may vary betweenmanufacturers. The R-value of foam insulation varies from 3.4 to 8.6 per inch. Be sure to check the R-value for the specific type of foam insulation you’re considering.
The first step is finding out how muchinsulation you already have. To evaluateyour home’s current insulation:
Check your attic, inside the walls,and under the floors 
. If you are notcomfortable performing these checks,a licensed insulation contractor canverify your home’s insulation R-valuelevels for you.Measure the thickness of the insulation andtry to determine what type it is:
Estimate the R-Value by type of insulation
Loose fiber fiberglass
2.5 x depth in inches = totalexisting R-value
Rock wool
2.8 x depth in inches = totalexisting R-value
3.7 x depth in inches = totalexisting R-value
Vermiculite or Perlite
2.7 x depth in inches = totalexisting R-value
Fiberglass batts
3.2 x depth in inches = totalexisting R-value
Look at the ductwork of your heating and air conditioning system.
Theyshould be insulated if they run throughunconditioned spaces in your home, suchas attics and crawl spaces. Repair leaking joints and seal remaining leaks. Wheresections of insulation meet, overlap thefacings and seal with fiberglass tapewithout compressing the insulation.
Air sealing makes your home morecomfortable as well as saving energy. Itminimizes drafts in the winter, keeps hot airfrom entering in the summer, and preventsbathroom shower steam from moving to theattic. Hot air tends to rise and cold air to fall,so leakage patterns usually lead toward theattic. Therefore, it is important to stop leaksbefore adding insulation. Insulation does notstop or plug air leaks, nor does it hide themafter the process is complete.The following chart illustrates the proportionof air that flows in and out of various areasof a typical home.
Fiberglass (light yellow,pink, white); Rock wool(dense gray or near white,may have black specks); orCellulose (small flat piecesor fibers, grey if madefrom newsprint or brown ifmade from cardboard)
Granules (light-weight)
Vermiculite (golden color)or Perlite (white)
Batts (light-weight)
Fiberglass (yellow, pink, orwhite)
Source: California Energy Commission's ConsumerEnergy Center.

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