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Modern Categories of Insulation

Updated on January 4, 2014


If you live in a house built after 1980, then you probably will never have to worry about your insulation. All buildings built after 1980 are up to standard energy codes. Also, most insulation comes with a lifetime warranty so as long as the building is still standing, the insulation is still good. If you live in a house built before 1980, however, you will probably need to replace the insulation. Replacing insulation is energy efficient and will reduce your heating and cooling bills anywhere from 20-30% per year. You can either install insulation yourself or hire a company to do it for you. It all depends on the type of insulation you need.

Doing It Yourself

If you want to save money and install insulation yourself, you first have to check and see if your state has a mandatory energy R-value code. The R-value is how thick your insulation has to be in ordered to be up-to-code. If you aren’t sure if your state has a code, ask an employee at the store where you buy your insulation. The best (and sometimes only) do-it-yourself insulation type is called blankets. These are rolls made up of fiberglass or other types of insulation product. These blankets need to be hand-cut and trimmed to fit the exact shape of your wall. You also need to cut out areas such as electrical outlets or windows. This can be time consuming and usually needs at least two people to install. If you like the blanket type of insulation but don’t want to install it yourself, there are companies who will install it for you.

Blown Insulation

Blown-in insulation are installed by professionals. They usually use a long hose and snake it through a window. Then they blow the insulation through the hose into the wall or floor. The most common types of blow-in insulation are cellulose and fiber pellets. This insulation is usually blown into wall cavities or to fill-in around obstructions. If you have a crawl space, using blow-in insulation is much easier than trying to shape blanket insulation. Also, the floor of the crawl space is very hard to insulate using blanket insulation because the floor is unfinished. Professionals also use foam insulation. It works the same as blown-in insulation but it’s lower in R-value. Foam insulation is usually used just to plug leaks or drafts around windows or vents.

Reflective Insulation and Radiant Barrier

Reflective insulation is a type of insulation that is more eco-friendly. The reflective side is made out of aluminum foil. The main purpose of reflective insulation is to reduce heat transfers in open spaces. It also increases heat or cool air in crawl spaces and basements. Reflective insulation is used mostly on floors because it directs the radiant heat back towards the floor, which increases efficiency. However, most reflective insulation only has an R-Value 16 so be careful if you live in a state where there is a mandated R-value code. The insulation works best if it is installed on concrete slabs and basement floors because it creates a thermal break between the ground and the floor.

Radiant Barriers are mostly used in warmer climates. When the sun hits a roof, it feels hot after awhile, like if you’ve been standing in the sun for a long time. A radiant barrier reduces the heat from the roof to the other surfaces in the attic. Radiant barriers are best used when cooling air ducts are located in the attic. Radiant barriers can reduce cooling costs by 10%. Also, radiant barriers reduce heat, which allows for smaller air conditioning units.

Ask The Experts

Many of the topics mentioned here are simply a brief overview for those who have never dealt with insulation before. At some point in your journey, it's likely going to be necessary to contact someone in person who is more familiar with the topic than yourself. For more insight and particulars about this topic, the guys over at Insulation Types have a lot to offer. Additionally, when preparing to do any of this work yourself, referring to the services expertise at your local Home Depot can prove invaluable.


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Blown insulation can now be done by DIYers.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 3 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Thank you for sharing.

      Lots of important info, voted up, useful and interesting

      regards Zsuzsy