What is Insulation?
What is Insulation?
Insulation is kind of a mystery to most of us. We know you're supposed to put it in the walls, floors and ceilings of a home to make them more energy efficient and comfortable. Beyond that, what insulation is and how it works are anybody's guess.
I'd like to lift the veil on insulation to help you solve the mysteries of:
What is insulation?
How does insulation work?
How much insulation do you need?
What's the best insulation?
So Exactly What is Insulation?
Insulation is any material that has the ability to effectively slow down heat. Throughout history, mankind has been using insulation to keep our homes and our bodies comfortable. Over the years, we've tried just about everything from straw and mud to fur and feathers control heat and slow down it's natural desire to reach the cold.
We've learned a few things along the way about what materials work best and which ones can stand the test of time. Insulation manufacturers have developed some new materials that do a better job at slowing down heat and deliver consistent results at a lower price. And we've learned a lot about how our homes use and lose heat and how much insulation we need to make our homes energy efficient.
How Insulation Works
Insulation in its most basic form is just a means of trapping air, more specifically a gas, in little pockets or bubbles. Insulation works by dividing the space in our walls, floors and ceilings into billions of these tiny air pockets or bubbles. As heat tries to move through the insulation towards the cold, it must warm each bubble independently before moving on to the next bubble or air pocket. This slows down the transfer of heat through your home making it more comfortable and energy efficient.
Without insulation, heat flows right through your home because there's nothing to offer any type of resistance. No air pockets or bubbles to get in the way that make it hard for heat to move. This resistance provided by the insulation is known as its Resistance Value or R-Value.
Heat Searches for Balance
Most things in nature are constantly in search of balance. Water follows gravity as it finds its way back to the oceans. Even this concrete dam can't stop water from reaching its final destination.
Similar to water, the heat inside or outside of your home will naturally flow from a warmer to a cooler space.
How Much Insulation Do You Need?
Simple answer: As much as you can fit into a space. But the real answer revolves around the cost of energy and the climate where you live. After all, if it's 70 degrees all year round, you probably don't spend a lot of money on energy. And if you cut down your own trees to heat your home, your cost of energy is basically 0.
Unfortunately, most of us don't live in a perfect climate or have a free source of energy. So we need to keep the heat or air conditioning we pay for in our homes. We use insulation like a giant blanket around our homes to prevent our energy dollars from disappearing.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy put together this fancy chart with recommended levels of insulation for the various climates throughout the country. The recommendations are based on R-values. R-value is a term that measures the effectiveness of insulation at resisting heat transfer. The higher the R-value the longer it takes for heat to pass through your walls and ceilings.
What's the Best Insulation?
Believe it or not, there actually is an answer to this question. But the answer can not be found in the sea of misinformation provided by the insulation manufacturers. Instead, the unbiased answer comes from the research of hundreds of scientists.
They've learned that for insulation to work properly it needs to:
- Completely fill the space inside of a wall, floor or ceiling.
- Fill in behind and around wires, pipes, outlets and ductwork.
- Offer the highest possible r-value per inch to reduce heat transfer.
- Remain in place for the life of the home.
- Stop air and moisture from leaking through walls, floors and ceilings.
This may sound simple, but there are only a few ways to do this and only one kind of insulation that creates an air-tight seal in your floors, walls and ceilings. This insulation is known as spray foam insulation and it is as revolutionary as insulation gets.
Spray Foam Insulation is the BEST Insulation
Spray foam insulation is a combination of chemicals which are sprayed out of a machine through a hose. The spray foam chemicals mix together at the tip of the hose creating a thick paint-like goo that sticks to anything it touches including wires, pipes and ducts.
Within seconds, the foam begins to expand trapping a gas inside billions of tiny bubbles. As the foam expands, it forms a continuous even layer of insulation and creates an air tight seal. Exactly what insulation needs to do, right?