Insulation is one of the coolest parts of our homes–literally! Humans have actually been constructing their homes with some form of insulation since the middle ages. Though we’ve advanced beyond mud-and-straw insulation, the main function of insulation remains the same: keeping outdoor temperatures out and keeping indoor temperatures in. Quite literally, insulation insulates your home by reducing unwanted heat gain, and heat loss, in the home. This means that insulation will keep your home cool when it’s hot out (and keep your home warm when it’s cold out) simply by preserving your indoor temperatures through the prevention of heat-gain or heat-loss.
Insulation comes in many different forms made out of many different materials. Each variety of insulation has its own distinct benefits, often better serving one area of the home over another. It is important to have insulation installed in areas of the home directly facing the outdoors, such as the attic and exterior walls. Without insulation, your home would lose 60% of its energy through your attic and exterior walls alone. With ineffective insulation (or no insulation) heat transfers freely, meaning the summer heats will overwhelm your air conditioning and your winter warmth will seep out into the cold. With ineffective insulation, your HVAC system works overtime, increasing your energy bills. Insulation dramatically reduces your energy costs and increases the overall comfort of your home. Often, insulation is also installed through internal areas of the home in order to better maintain comfortable internal climates and muffle the transfer of sound between rooms.
There are 9 major types of insulation that may be installed in your home. Each type of insulation offers different benefits and different installation methods, serving different areas of your home. Though some types of insulation can be installed by homeowners themselves, it is always preferred that insulation be installed by a professional contractor. When insulation is installed poorly it is ineffective and usually has to be frequently replaced. When a professional installs your insulation, you can be assured that it is being installed expertly and thoroughly. Professionally installed insulation can last a lifetime with minimal maintenance.
1) Blanket Insulation
Blanket insulation is the most common type of insulation. Blanket insulation comes in two forms: batts and rolls. Blanket insulation is made of flexible fibers, the most popular of which is fiberglass. Blanket insulation can be cut and trimmed to fit the shape of your walls, floors, or ceiling. Blanket insulation is popularly used to fit between beams, studs, and joists–often, already sized to fit the standard spacing of residential rafters, attic trusses, wall studs, and floor joists.
2) Concrete Block Insulation
There are a few ways to insulate the concrete blocks that are commonly used to build home foundations and walls. Sometimes the concrete blocks are manufactured with polystyrene beads built-in as insulation. They can also be manufactured to specifically accommodate rigid foam inserts. When the concrete blocks are not filled with steel their core can be packed with insulation. Though, it is far more effective to have insulation installed over the blocks themselves, with insulation laid along the exterior foundation walls or the interior foundation walls.
Concrete block insulation is light, large, and easily shaped. During construction or major home renovations, concrete block walls can be constructed out of insulated concrete blocks. If block walls were previously constructed, insulation can be installed from the inside.
3) Foam Board Insulation
Foam board insulation and rigid foam board insulation are hard, firm panels of insulation that can be used to insulate practically any area of your home. Foam board insulation is often used to insulate foundations, roofs, exteriors walls, interior walls, basements, and attic hatches. For exterior installations, foam board insulation must have a weatherproof facing–for interior installations, it must have a fire-safe coating applied.
4) Insulating Concrete Forms
Insulating concrete forms are constructed during the physical pouring of concrete walls and are a crucial part of the wall assembly. Insulating concrete forms are installed as a system of interlocking foam boards or connected hollow-core foam insulation blocks. These systems may be hinged together using plastic ties and reinforced through steel rebar. All of this must take place before the concrete has been poured because insulating concrete forms are literally a part of the home’s walls, meaning this form of insulation can only be installed during a new construction process.
5) Loose Fill Insulation
Most commonly made of fiberglass, loose-fill insulation is comprised of tiny particles that can mold into any space. Loose fill insulation can be poured or blown-in to an existing space without disturbing any of the current structures. Loose fill insulation is an excellent option for oddly shaped areas, areas with large obstructions, areas with tight nooks or crannies, and areas that are hard to reach. Because it can conform to any shape, loose fill insulation can be used in any part of the home but is popularly used in walls, attics, and crawl spaces.
6) Radiant Barriers & Reflective Insulation Systems
Radiant barrier insulation and reflective insulation systems are generally installed in the attic of homes in incredibly hot climates. Usually made of highly-reflective aluminum foils inserted between the studs of wood-frames, rafters, beams, or joints. Reflective insulation systems and radiant barrier insulations combat the sun’s direct, radiant heating of the roof and attic.
7) Rigid Fiber Board Insulation
Made of fiberglass or a mineral wood material, rigid fiber board insulation (or fibrous board insulation) is popularly used to insulate residential air ducts. Rigid fiber board insulation is installed directly into the ducts by HVAC contractors at the HVAC site or job site before the ducts themselves have been installed.
8) Liquid Foam Insulation
Because it can be sprayed or foamed-in-place, liquid foam insulation is often used to insulated enclosed existing walls, wall cavities, and unfinished attic floors, and hard to reach areas. Liquid foam insulation is applied, rather than “installed,” through small sprays or large pressure-sprays. Liquid foam insulation can also be poured into place or injected, meaning it can fill even the smallest spaces. When “installed,” liquid foam insulation completely fills the space, expands, then hardens: sealing the cavity thoroughly. Liquid foam insulation must be installed by a certified contractor using specialized equipment.
9) Structural Insulated Panels
Structural insulated panels are custom made through the gluing of sheathing materials to a foam board. The materials are bonded together in a vacuum and expertly cured to ensure they don’t delaminate. Often, they are constructed with a liquid foam insulation core or even a straw insulation core. Structural insulated panels are usually installed in the walls, ceilings, floors, and roofs of a new construction. During construction, contractions connect the insulated panels at the job site, ensuring that there are no gaps.