The Different Types of Insulation and Their Benefits

Whether you are constructing a new building or renovating an existing structure, there are many types of insulation to choose from. Quality insulation should maximize energy savings and reduce the transfer of heat to combat temperature extremes in the summer and winter. The Innovative Insulation team has compiled a list describing the many different options for insulation and the unique benefits they offer. Read on to learn more:

What is Blanket insulation?  Blanket insulation comes in rolls or batts and is made of fiberglass or mineral wool (usually rock or slag), plastic and or natural fibers.  This type is used for unfinished walls including foundation walls, floors and ceilings and is fitted between studs, beams, and joists.  One advantage of this type of insulation is that you may do it yourself.  This insulation is best suited for joist spacing or stud spacing that is relatively free from obstructions.  The best part of this insulation option is that it is relatively inexpensive.

Anyone ever hear of concrete block insulation or insulating concrete blocks?  This is a type of foam board that should be positioned on the outside of the wall and used mainly in new construction.  It can be placed on the inside of a wall in existing homes as well.  This product should be researched well because some manufacturers will incorporate foam beads or air into the concrete mix for increased R-values.  Not all insulating concrete blocks have the same R-value.  Best for unfinished walls, foundation walls, new construction, or major renovations.  The product does however require specialized skills. The blocks are sometimes stacked without mortar and then bonded on the surface.  The insulating cores will increase wall R-value.  Insulating outside of the concrete block wall will put the mass inside the conditioned space and can moderate indoor temperatures.  Conventional concrete does not have the same insulating value of autoclaved aerated concrete or autoclaved cellular concrete masonry.  These units can have 10 times the insulating value.

Foam board sometimes referred to as rigid foam, is another popular option.  It is made of polystyrene, polyisocyanurate or polyurethane.  This option is used in unfinished walls including foundation walls, ceilings, floors, and unvented low-slope roofs.  For interior use, there are fire safety issues and building codes require it must be covered with ½ inch gypsum board or other fire code approved building material.  Weatherproof facing must be used to cover the board for exterior applications.  There is a high insulating value with regards to the thickness of the product. This is a great option when remodeling and space is an issue.  It can, block thermal short circuits when installed continuously over frames and joists.

Another option is foam boards or blocks which, again is a type of insulating concrete.  This is used in unfinished walls including foundation walls.  Normally it would be installed as part of the building structure thus, new construction.  The great advantage is that insulation is built into the home, not applied, which provides a high thermal resistance.

Another popular option is Loose-fill and blown-in insulation.  This is usually made of cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral (rock or slag) wool.  The best application for this would be enclosed existing walls or open spaces, cavities in new walls.  Unfinished attic floors are great and other difficult to reach areas.  This is almost always blown into place which means special equipment is necessary and, in some cases, can be poured into place.  This type of insulation is perfect for adding extra insulation to existing finished areas, irregular spaces and around obstructions.

Reflective systems are great for hot climates.  There is foil-faced kraft paper, plastic film laminated with foil, polyethylene bubbles with foil on one or both sides and foil on cardboard.  The best use for this type of insulation is unfinished walls, ceilings, and floors.  The foil is fitted between studs, joists, rafters, and beams.  Best part is this is a true do it yourself.  The foil barrier insulation is great for framing at standard spacing.  Bubble is best when framing is irregular or if there are obstructions.  The advantage of foil is that it is highly effective at preventing downward heat flow, however for the reflective properties to be highest, spacing must be used.

Rigid fibrous or fiber insulation is another option.  This is usually fiberglass or mineral (rock or slag) wool.  This is best used in unconditioned spaces and other areas requiring insulation that must withstand high temperatures.  Usually, HVAC contractors make the insulation into ducts for installation at the site.  This has the advantage of withstanding high temperatures.

Spray foam and foamed-in-place is an option for adding insulation to existing finished out areas.  This product is either cementitious, phenolic, polyisocyanurate or of polyurethane.  It may be used for enclosed existing walls, new open wall spaces and unfinished attic floors.  This is applied using small spray containers or when needed in larger quantities, as a pressure sprayed product.  Great method for irregularly shaped areas and to get around obstructions.

One of the last options are structural insulated panels otherwise known as SIPs.  This is foam board or liquid foam insulation core or straw core.  Best used for new construction unfinished walls, ceilings, floors, and roofs.  The panels must be fitted together to form walls and roof in a traditional home.  Homes made with SIP provide a uniform and superior insulation compared to traditional construction methods, and they require less time to build.

Unlike traditional types of insulation, Radiant Barrier insulation is a reflective insulation system that provides property owners a permanent way to reduce energy costs. Radiant barrier insulation systems reflect up to 95% of the sun’s radiant heat energy instead of trying to absorb it. A pure aluminized film radiant barrier reflective insulation is unaffected by humidity and will continue to perform at a consistent level no matter how humid it may be, reducing the buildup of condensation in the process. A radiant barrier insulation system is a layer of metalized film facing an airspace and is installed in the envelope of a building. Radiant barrier can be installed alongside other types of insulation, such as fiberglass, increasing the efficiency of the existing insulation.

If you have questions on the different insulation options available and how they would work for your project, please do not hesitate to contact our team at 800-825-0123. We look forward to hearing from you!