What is the Second Best Insulation?
We all want the best insulation we can afford, but if the cost of installing spray foam insulation is beyond your budget consider installing cellulose insulation. Cellulose insulation is actually shredded paper with a fire retardant chemical known a borate. During the manufacturing process, this paper is broken down into its most basic element, cellular fibers from a tree. It's these fibers that provide the insulating power for cellulose insulation.
Cellulose is the second best insulation available for several reasons.
No Gaps or Voids
Cellulose insulation completely fills the space between the framing by easily filling in around all of the obstacles. Pipes, wires, ductwork and electrical outlets are no problem for cellulose insulation because it is blown into the space is tiny pieces that fill in around the obstacles.
Reduced Air Leakage
Densely packed cellulose limits air movement and prevents drafts much better than fiberglass insulation. This is well documented by the University of Colorado in their 1990 evaluation of identical homes insulated with fiberglass and cellulose. The results of their study showed cellulose reduced air leakage by 38% and required 26% less money to heat and cool than the fiberglass home.
Superior Fire Resistance
Fire is fueled by oxygen in the air. Cellulose insulation is 2-3 times denser than fiberglass insulation. This reduces the amount of air between the framing in your home.
As a fire tries to spread through the walls, floors and ceilings in a home, the density of cellulose insulation starves the fire of oxygen. This prevents the fire from quickly spreading. Scientists at the National Research Council of Canada found that cellulose performs 22% better than fiberglass in their fire resistance tests.
Need Proof? Watch The Big Burn video where 3 identical houses are burned to the ground.
Who would have ever guessed that the old newspapers we put out on the curb would someday wind up back in our homes? But that's exactly how cellulose insulation is made, by shredding recycled newspapers. Cellulose manufacturing reduces our need for landfills and the manufacturing process is remarkably energy efficient.
Installing Cellulose Insulation
Installing the granular fibers that comprise cellulose insulation is done with a specialized machine known as an insulation blower. During the installation, the cellulose fibers flow through a long hose guided by the insulation contractor where it's blown or sprayed into the space. Controls on the machine allow the installer to select the density of the insulation which enables them to densely pack it into a wall or floor cavity creating a continuous even layer of insulation.
DIY Installation Realities
A DIY alternative to dense packing cellulose insulation is a loose fill application. Dense packing requires a powerful blowing machine to force the cellulose fibers into position. But blowing cellulose insulation in an attic, known a loose fill, is an easy DIY project that you can do with a buddy in a few hours.
Lowes and The Home Depot sell Green Fiber cellulose insulation that comes in 18 pound bags. They also offer a free rental on the blowing machine if you purchase at least 20 bags.