Choosing the right type of insulation

December 23, 2014

Insulating your home or business properly can save money and improve energy efficiency, while also keeping the temperature more comfortable.

Choosing the right type of insulation

Properly insulating your home or business with the right type of insulation can keep cold drafts out and the heat in during the winter, which will save you money on heating bills. Not only will it improve energy efficiency, but it will also keep you comfortable by regulating the temperature more effectively.

There are several different types of insulation you can choose from. Before you pick one, you first need to determine where the insulation will go, and the recommended R-values for the areas you want to insulate.

What is R-value?

R-values measure the effectiveness of a piece of insulation. Different types of insulation hold different R-values. This is based on the insulation's thickness, material and density. The more effective a piece of insulation is, the higher its R-value will be. The R-value is very dependent on proper installation.

Here is a quick overview of the four most commonly used types of insulation:

Loose-fill insulation

Loose fill insulation is a good choice when the area you want to insulate is hard to reach or an odd shape, such as an attic. It can be made of cellulose, fibreglass, mineral wool, perlite or vermiculite. Loose-fill insulation can be blown in using special equipment, or poured in from bags. It's a more costly choice, but it is also more efficient in making things airtight

Blanket insulation

Blanket insulation is composed of either processed fibreglass or rock wool, and comes in blanketed batts or rolls made to specific widths so that they fit precisely into the standard distance between studs in wood framing. Blanket insulation is normally fitted between wood frames and rafters to insulate below the floors in homes, above the ceilings and within the walls. It's the least expensive option, but requires a great deal of care during installation for it to be effective.

Rigid board insulation

Rigid board insulation is made of plastic foam or fibre material that is pressed together. It's generally composed of fibreglass, polystyrene, or polyurethane and comes in varying degrees of thickness. This high quality insulation typically has a higher R-value than other types of insulation. Its downside is its flammability. It is primarily used for reproofing flat roofs and basement walls.

Spray foam insulation

Spray foam insulation is a two-part liquid containing a polymer agent and a foaming agent. It is sprayed into small spaces and cracks to make things airtight and has high R-values – generally twice as high as blanket insulation. It is very thorough and works well for irregularly shaped areas. When applied, spray foam is in liquid form but expands quickly and sets into a solid plastic. It is usually better applied by a professional, but can be purchased at a hardware store in a can for do-it-yourself insulation.

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