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Let's Talk Home Insulation

Just about every home has some form of insulation. And while we may generally understand what insulation does due to its name, there's more than meets the eye when it comes to all the different types of insulation and their benefits. Here are some helpful tips on the ins and outs of insulation!

what is home insulation?

What is insulation?

Insulation is essentially a material (the actual material can vary) used to keep weather-related elements outside of your home. It also helps keep air from inside your home from escaping out. Insulation is used in areas where this is most likely to occur, such as the attic or crawl space.

How it works

The way insulation works is a bit more involved than what you may think. It works through a process called thermal insulation. This type of insulation focuses on reducing the transfer of heat between objects of differing temperatures. Essentially it works by slowing the transfer of heat from a hotter space to a cooler space.

This is so important because heat travels easily from warmer to cooler spaces. So during the blazing hot summer when it's much cooler inside your home, it's beneficial for heat to be kept as separate as possible from the interior of the home. Similarly, in the cold of winter retaining heat inside the home from the cold elements outside is ideal.

What parts of a home should be insulated?

In order to make sure your home is properly insulated and that you're retaining as much heat/AC as possible, there are a number of areas you should check for insulation (if possible). If you're building a new construction home, it's worth reviewing with your builder the areas they plan to insulate.

  • Unfinished attic spaces
  • Attic access door
  • Attic bypasses
  • Finished attic rooms with or without a dormer
  • Joist spaces
  • All exterior-facing walls
  • Around dryer vents
  • Floors above cold spaces (crawl space or unheated garage)
  • Replacement or storm windows
  • Foundation walls/floors

types of home insulation

Types of insulation

Different forms of insulation have been used for many years, and over time have evolved. Below are some of the most common insulators.

Conventional Insulation

Fiberglass

This is the most common insulation. It's easily recognized by its cotton candy-like appearance. The name originates as it's made by weaving very small strands of glass (along with other minerals) together to form a material like insulation. Considering it's non-flammable, does not absorb water, has a great insulation value and is relatively inexpensive — it's a top choice by many. Keep in mind that you must wear protective clothing and eyewear along with a mask when handling this insulation as the tiny shreds of glass that make up the material can cause damage.

Pro Tip: If you ever get fiberglass insulation fibers embedded into your skin, roll up a piece of duct tape and pat it over the area — it's one of the best ways to dislodge the prickly fibers!

Mineral Wool (Rockwool)

This type of insulation is usually made of natural or synthetic fibers (often recycled). It has similar characteristics as fiberglass with a few differences. It doesn't have any additives to make it fire resistant but it does hold its shape, which helps prevent the spread of fire. It does, however, insulate a bit better than fiberglass and is easier to install. The cost is a bit higher than fiberglass.

Cellulose

Cellulose is inexpensive and eco-friendly as it's made from recycled material like cardboard, paper and other similar materials. Because of its makeup, it contains no oxygen which makes it extremely fire resistant and can aid in the reduction of fire damage. Cellulose is often used as loose fill, blow in insulation — great for blowing into small areas but just as effective in large areas as well. It's a great insulator and is also a relatively inexpensive. The downside is that some may be allergic to the dust found in the recycled materials from which the insulation is made.

Polyurethane Foam

This type of insulation is a foam that not only provides great insulation but also provides an air seal and moisture barrier. Although it's not used nearly as much as other insulation types, it's great because of its ability to stick to areas that traditional insulation would not work. It's installed with a spray gun so it gets in all the nooks and crannies. When dried it takes on a hard, rigid structure, which makes it fire resistant. The cost is a bit higher than traditional insulation.

Polystyrene (Extruded and Expanded)

A waterproof foam that can be found in two types — extruded (XEPS) and expanded (EPS). The insulation is also known as Styrofoam and has a smooth surface that no other insulation does. While similar, XEPS is the more expensive of the two as it's a better insulator. It's great for using within walls because it can be cut into blocks. It's also a great insulator against sound but must be sprayed with a fire-resistant coating as polystyrene itself is very combustible.

home insulation tips

Innovative Insulation

Aerogel

New to the world of insulation, Aerogel is being touted as one of the best insulation options available. It's a lightweight material composed mostly of air, made by removing the liquid from gels. It's becoming a more affordable option to replace traditional insulation options.

Pyrogel XT

Also a leading innovation in insulation, Pyrogel XT is a very thin sheet of insulation material that is highly effective. Although application spaces are still limited and the cost is higher than traditional insulation, it's quickly becoming a more popular option for insulation.

Maybe you're researching insulation for a new construction home or possibly to upgrade or repair your current home's insulation. Regardless, there are many options to explore. With both conventional and innovative insulation to choose from there is something that will work for all spaces and can greatly affect your home's comfort level through all seasons. It's one of the elements of your home that is often forgotten but can make an incredible difference long term.

home insulation tips

So next time you're warm and toasty in the winter or staying cool during the hot summer, just remember that your insulation plays a huge role in your comfort, and your power bill!

Want more advice about all things home — including homebuying or selling advice? Nestiny is a great place for homebuyer education and to help you gauge how ready you are to buy a home. Journey Homeward allows you to enter all your wants and needs while the True Affordability Tool will break down your budget, showing what you can comfortably afford. You will also receive a Ready Report that will give you a vital head start in the home buying journey, saving you valuable time and money.

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Ready To Become A Smarter Homebuyer?

By signing up, you agree to Nestiny terms of use .
Whether you need a step-by-step guide, video resource or one of our many helpful tools, Nestiny has your back 24/7 for all things home buying and selling. You choose the pace, material, and when and where to learn. Unlock your free access to Nestiny today!
Are you a real estate professional? Go here .
By clicking this button, you'll enjoy free unlimited access to Nestiny and agree to our terms of use . And don't worry! Nestiny will not share your information with any parties without your consent.