Radiant Barrier is not just for Texas anymore

Radiant barriers have historically been popular in regions with hot climates for some time.  But, radiant barrier is also an easy and cost-effective method to help you save on your winter heating costs and make for a more comfortable home as well.  

Essentially, your home is just a huge box.  Your goal is to maintain the air at a particular temperature. Heat always has a tendency to flow from warm areas to cold areas. Hence, during winter, heat is flowing out from your home. The amount of heat that flows out is determined by the temperature differential between the inside and outside as well as the thermal properties (insulation) associated with the structure.

Typically, your walls do a good job of minimizing heat loss. Walls usually have an inner air barrier (sheetrock) and an outer air barrier (sheathing).  Packed in between, are wood studs and insulation for minimizing air infiltration and outward heat flow.

However, the attic poses a problem. Attics still have the insulation (generally blown-in cellulose or fiberglass) and the inner air barrier (sheetrock ceiling). However, a majority of homes lack an outer air barrier topping the insulation above the ceiling. This is similar to removing the outer layer from a winter jacket. The jacket becomes much less effective if there’s a little wind, since the wind is allowed to move throughout the jackets interior insulation.

So, how can a radiant barrier help out in cold climates? First, it helps by reducing the loss of radiant heat. Second, it can aid in decreasing convective air looping within the insulation.

By providing a radiant barrier foil that covers the insulation of your attic, it works off the emissivity quality inherent in pure aluminum foil. This is like wrapping a potato with foil for keeping it hot. The heat stored in the potato cannot easily be converted to radiant energy with the radiant barrier foil surrounding it.

The other benefit you receive from installing a radiant barrier under cold climatic conditions is reduction of convective airflow within the insulation. If you consider a standard attic, you will find the insulation is “open” to the cold air that is within the attic. The insulation's effectiveness is reduced to a great extent because cold air is dense and heavy. Because of this, the cold air "falls" down through the insulation of the attic. Warm air near the ceiling then rises and, as a result, a "convective loop" of air is formed and pumps through the attic insulation making your insulation less effective.

The installation of a radiant barrier over the attic insulation mimics a jacket's outer wind layer. Air movement gets lessened, leading to an enhanced R-Value performance for your home’s insulation.

Using a perforated radiant barrier is important for allowing moisture in vapor form to get through. Otherwise, moisture will likely condense on the bottom of the foil and result in wet insulation, mold and maybe wood rot. You’ll also need to make sure the ceiling is sealed airtight, too. Holes around ceiling lighting as well as other fixtures can create a path for warm-moist air to penetrate the insulation. This leads to moisture within the attic insulation. In regions with cold climates, the importance of using a perforated radiant barrier cannot be emphasized enough.

A final reason for installing radiant barrier is comfort. By preventing the heat from escaping, you will find your home feeling consistently warmer from room to room. This will reduce the urge to push that thermostat up, which of course will enable you to save up on this winter’s heating bills.

Now is the best time for installing a radiant barrier. You can either do it yourself or hire a professional to get the job done.

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