Basics About Insulation

The Importance Of Insulation

Insulation is perhaps the most significant mechanism for controlling home comfort. It ensures that each layer of the home envelope is moderating and retaining temperature properly. In addition, your home’s insulation boosts the effectiveness of your sealing and ventilation efforts. At the same time, it can hinder those efforts when installed poorly.

How Insulation Works

Insulation is the material used within a home to help regulate and manage the building’s internal temperature. Built into the very constructs that comprise a building, insulation is a critical component of any residential or commercial structure, and no building is properly functioning without it.

In general, insulation works by impacting the transfer of heat from one side of a building envelope layer to the other, whether that be indoors to outdoors or vice versa. Insulation is used to maintain desired conditions within a structure, and in combination with sealing and ventilation, it can effectively negate exterior conditions and keep home energy costs to a minimum.

There are three ways that heat can transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation.

Most insulation operates primarily by reducing the total heat transferred through conduction within the building. By impacting conduction, insulation reduces the total heat that is stored in each layer of the home envelope.

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R-Value: The Metric You Need To Know

For an insulative material, there is one measurement metric which stands above the rest in importance: the R-value.

Every form of insulation retains heat, but some forms of insulation are better at it than others. In addition, some insulation is more effective in certain climates or in conjunction with certain materials. The R-value is the measurement used to determine how effectively any kind of insulative material retains heat and halts heat transfer. The R-value is measured through a combination of factors, including the insulation’s specific material, density, thickness, how it handles moisture, etc.

In short, the higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation.

A high R-value is not necessary for every home. As designated in the U.S. Department of Energy Graphic on this page, specific regions should incorporate different insulation with varying R-values to fit their specific environmental and climate needs.

ZoneUninsulated AtticExisting 3-4 Inches of InsulationFloor
1R30 to R49R25 to R30R13
2R30 to R60R25 to R38R13 to R19
3R30 to R60R25 to R38R19 to R25
4R38 to R60R38R25 to R30
5R49 to R60R38 to R49R25 to R30

*Data compiled by U.S. Department Of Energy and EnergyStar