Insulation Basics-Understanding How It Works

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Choosing the right insulation materials and methods can greatly increase your ROI (return on investment). In this article, we’re going to cover the basic principles behind insulation.

How Does it Work?

To understand how insulation works, it’s best to understand how heat transfer works. Heat is transferred through three phenomena: conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction occurs when two separate objects of different temperatures come into contact with each other. For example, a spoon becomes warm when it is placed in a hot cup of coffee. Heat gets transferred to your hand when you touch the spoon.  Convection happens when heat circulates through liquids or gas, such as air. When warm air rises, convection is taking place. Radiation occurs when a heated object emanates energy. For example, a roof heated up by the summer sun will emanate radiant heat throughout the attic.

Heat continually flows from warmer to cooler areas until they are the same temperature.  In the summer without insulation, your house will continue to heat up until the temperatures outside and inside the house are the same. Good insulation decreases the waste of energy that occurs when heat is transferred either into the home during summer, or outside the home during winter.

Most insulation works by blocking conductive heat transfer. Radiant barriers and other reflective insulation systems block radiant heat transfer.

The R-Value

The R-value is used to determine a material’s resistance to conductive heat flow. R-value depends on a material’s thickness, density, and type of insulation. When applying multiple layers, the R-value is calculated by adding the different values of the materials used. Generally, the higher the R-value, the better insulated your home is.

Different areas of the country have different R-value recommendations. R-value recommendations also vary depending on where the insulation is installed. For example, the R-value required to insulate an attic is higher than the R-value required for an external wall.

The only types of insulation without R-values are radiant barriers and reflective insulation. This is due to the fact that they do not absorb heat but block radiant heat flow.

Types of Insulation

When it comes to choosing the best type of insulation, several factors come into play. The most important relates to the area of installation. Different types are best suited for specific areas. Other factors that come into consideration include ease of installation, price, the amount of recycled material used, indoor air quality impact, ecological impact and life cycle costs.

You also have a variety of materials to choose from, such as fiberglass, rock wool, slag wool, natural fibers, rigid foam, spray foam, and cellulose. Some materials can be installed by the homeowner, while others will require professional help.

Do you have any questions?

This article is meant to provide a basic understanding of what insulation is and how it works. For more detailed information, you can check the links throughout the article, browse our blog (The Education Center), or contact us directly with your questions. 

 

Source:

https://energy.gov/energysaver/insulation

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