Monthly Archives: August 2017

Fiberglass, Spray Foam, or Cellulose: Which Home Insulation Should You Choose?

Home Insulation

It has long been known that home insulation comes with many benefits. For one, it helps maintain a comfortable temperature in your home, all year round. For another, it reduces dampness in your basement or crawlspace, keeping your home at lower risk of mold infestation. But more importantly, it dramatically lowers your monthly energy bills, as well as reduces your carbon footprint.

Now, you’re probably considering installing insulation materials in your home – but, which material should you choose? After all, each insulation type comes with a unique set of benefits. So, to help you decide, here’s a comprehensive comparison of different types of home insulation materials:

Fiberglass Insulation

Made from thin, lightweight glass fibers, fiberglass is a cost-effective and practical option for insulating a home. Its millions of bound fibers trap pockets of air and prevent heat from travelling through the material. These fibers also absorb and reduce even high levels of noise. It is fire resistant, as well as moisture resistant, on account of its glass-made fibers. Fiberglass insulation may come in various forms, such as batts and rolls, and it is commonly installed in attics, floors, crawl spaces, and basements.

  • Value Energy Savings – When we talk of fiber glass, it is important to keep the thermal resistance or R-value – the measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness – in mind. Standard fiberglass batts have an R-value between R-2.9 and R-3.8 per inch of thickness. But high-performance fiberglass insulations, such as the Blow-in-Blanket System (BIBS), offer the highest R-values attainable today. Remember, the higher the insulation R-value, the greater the heat flow resistance, and of course, this means more energy savings, as well. Just a bit of a reminder, though: the recommended R-value varies from region to region. So, the R-value where you live may be higher or lower, depending on the climate in the area. The specific location in the home in which you will install the fiberglass also affects the R-value recommendations.
  • Installation Requirements – To work properly, fiberglass insulation requires air sealing and walling-in. But, it doesn’t entail drying or curing time, thus, it doesn’t introduce any moisture into the wall or basement cavity.
  • Mold Resistance – While no material can fully prevent mold growth, fiberglass insulation is not a food source for health-harming mold spores. Plus, as mentioned above, it doesn’t readily absorb moisture, so it can help keep your basement, attic, or crawlspace dry all year long.
  • Sustainability – Fiberglass insulation often contains 40 to 60% recycled materials, depending on the manufacturer. It is also reusable at its end of life, and it doesn’t give off any potent greenhouse gasses.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose insulation materials are composed of cellulose fibers made from paper, wood, or paperboard stock. It is a “blown-in” type of insulation which creates a virtual blanket around your attic or crawlspace for superior thermal efficiency.

  • Value Energy Savings – With an R-value of approximately R-3.5 per inch of thickness, cellulose insulation has a substantial thermal resistance ideal for most regions. What’s even more notable is its superb air-blocking quality that prevents air leakage through cracks, gaps, and voids in the wall or flooring. Air leakage is responsible for around one-third of a home’s heat loss; so, with cellulose insulation, your heating system doesn’t have to work too hard during colder months.
  • Installation Requirements – During installation, cellulose acts like a liquid, wrapping itself around the attic or basement walls and floors. It fills nooks and gaps that fiberglass batt insulation can’t, thus, it prevents air leakage. But like fiberglass, cellulose insulation still requires air sealing for optimal performance.
  • Combustibility – Cellulose material is commonly treated with chemicals before installation to make it non-combustible. The problem, however, is that the application is not standardized. In some cases, the fire resistance of the material wears off over time, putting the property at some degree of risk.
  • Mold Resistance – As it acts like a liquid during installation, cellulose insulation is a possible food source of mold spores, unless it is properly dried and cured. The risk level of mold growth when using this insulation type depends mainly on the quality of installation; hence, DIY installation is rarely encouraged.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam is a chemical-based insulation that contractors mix on-site to create the foam which they apply with a sprayer into wall cavities, crawlspaces, and attics. It is available in two options: the open cell foam and closed cell foam insulation. The latter is the more popular choice, as it is denser, stronger, and has a higher R-value. Once it becomes solid, the foam does not only serve as a powerful insulator, it also strengthens the area of application. The open-cell foam has lower R-value and is not water resistant, but it is more affordable; thus, some installers still prefer it for certain applications.

  • Value Energy Savings – Closed cell foam has a higher R-value (average of R-6.0) than other insulation materials. This is because, when installed, the foam expands up to 100 times its original size, filling every little space in the area. Plus, the foam doesn’t sag or settle, so, it prevents any gaps which would allow air leakage. With closed cell spray foam insulation, you can save a significant amount on your monthly energy bills.
  • Installation Requirements – Unlike cellulose and fiberglass, closed cell foam insulation no longer requires air sealing – that is, for as long as the contractors or installers have mixed and applied it properly. Many factors can influence the foam quality. These aspects include the mixing process, the age of chemicals, and the air temperature and humidity in the area during installation.
  • Combustibility – According to Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA), spray foam insulation ignites at 700°F. To lower the risk of a house fire, you may ask your contractor to install a thermal or ignition barrier that can separate the insulated area from the occupied spaces in your home.
  • Mold Resistance – Spray foam insulation is made from chemicals; thus, it isn’t a source of food for mold spores. As mentioned earlier, closed cell spray foams are dense enough to insulate air and prevent drafts. They can keep the humidity of the area in check, preventing any mold from growing speedily.
  • Sustainability – While you can lower your carbon footprint by using fiberglass and cellulose insulation, you can’t say the same with spray foam materials. They are chemical-based products; thus, they are not reusable and there is no assurance that they don’t give off dangerous greenhouse gasses.

The Importance of Proper Installation

Insulating House AtticThere is no such thing as the best insulator, according to the Building Sciences Corporation (BSC). All the insulation materials work efficiently when properly installed and air sealed. So, apart from looking for the materials with features that meet your home needs, you need to search for a reliable installer, as well.

A+ Insulation, for instance, not only has the skill and know-how to properly install various types of home insulation, it is also well-versed with the material that best suits your needs. Professional contractors, after all, can guide you in selecting the insulation type that will provide optimal efficiency and value for money. Given the fact that all types can, in fact, provide efficient service when properly applied, your goal is to maximize the R-value you get for the dollar you spend.

So, before you proceed with buying insulation materials for your home, it is best to seek the counsel of a professional contractor. This a sure-fire way to get all the benefits that insulation can offer your property, as well as your family.

10 Creative Ways to Stay Cool While Conserving Energy This Summer

Summer Vacation

Summer is a wonderful time to slow down, bond with the family, rekindle past hobbies, and spend plenty of time outdoors to just soak up the sun. But, such activities demand a comfortable home environment. Keeping your home cool during the summer months can be very expensive, but a little effort will go a long way.

Here are a few practical and creative ideas to take a load off your air conditioner and still stay cool this summer:

1. Plant Vines and Trees

Vines and trees not only add a vertical touch to your landscape, they also give your home an immediate cooling effect. Climbers and creepers, such as ivy, bougainvillea, and Russian vine, act as natural shading from the sun and cool your home in a process called evapotranspiration. And, if that’s not enough to convince you, those twining leaves and perfectly spaced flowers add an extra layer of privacy and charm, as well. Trees can likewise boost your home’s curb appeal.

2. Get an Attic Fan

We all know that heat rises, and having good ventilation in your attic can eliminate the need to turn your AC on for hours. Having an attic fan comes in handy in humid subtropical regions, such as Missouri. Attic fans are 10-15% more energy efficient than a central air conditioning system. Just make sure your attic vents or windows are open while the fan is running.

3. Cook Outside

Summer is a great time for fun-filled backyard cookouts and pool parties. And guess what? Cooking outside can help cut your cooling costs, too. Indoor cooking tends to use up a lot of energy and cause heat to remain inside your home, prompting your AC to work even harder. It’s also a chance to give your oven a break and to allow your kitchen to breathe. So, get yourself a grill and take the cooking outside whenever possible.

4. Replace Your Bulbs with LEDs

If you’re still lighting your home with incandescent bulbs, consider giving your fixtures an upgrade. LEDs and CFLs are big energy savers and don’t generate much heat compared to incandescent bulbs. They are a little more expensive than ordinary bulbs, but they last much longer. Choose white to yellow tones, or preferably those that are dimmable or offer convenient features, such as motion and daylight sensors.

5. Insulate Your Windows

Installing Window InsulationUnprotected windows are a major source of solar heat gain. Get the most out of your current windows by adding extra layers of protection and insulation. Replacing old weatherstipping is a cost-effective, all-season trick to save energy and enjoy a better quality of indoor air. Cover windows you rarely open with clear plastic to prevent cool air from escaping from the room. Solar shades, low-emissivity window films, or awnings make great home additions, as well, as they prevent direct sunlight and glare from affecting your home’s indoor environment.

6. Mount a Programmable Thermostat

While it’s nice to relish the cool air after a long day out in the sun, you should always keep the temperature in check. Thermostat setbacks are where the energy savings come from, and raking in more energy savings rests on how well you program the device. Also, when buying a programmable thermostat, make sure it’s compatible with your home’s heating and cooling equipment.

7. Build a Green Roof

A green roof doesn’t always include vegetation and complicated systems. It’s an umbrella term for roofing techniques that improve a building’s thermal performance. As your home’s first line of defense, your roof should be reflecting sunlight instead of absorbing heat. Paint your shingles with bright-colored, high-reflectance paint, or replace them with Energy Star-rated metal roofs.

8. Do Your Chores at Night

Appliance gains make up a huge chunk of a home’s cooling load, even greater than heat gains coming from the windows and attic ducts. Logic follows that the more appliances you have, the more energy you use. The lingering presence of heat coming from ovens, refrigerators, clothes dryers, electric devices, and other modified appliances can thwart your efforts to keep cool. It’s advisable to do household chores that involve the use of these appliances at night, where the air outside is cooler.

9. Sleep with the Windows Open

If the air quality outside is favorable and you don’t have allergies, try opening your windows at night to let the cool air flow inside and replace the warm air. Breathing air-conditioned air for prolonged periods can cause certain discomforts, such as dry nasal and throat passages, among other things. Let your room and lungs breathe better for a night or two if the warm air is still manageable. Sleeping with the windows open can benefit your overall wellbeing, as it promotes better sleep and reduces dehydration.

10. Add Energy-efficient Insulation

Updating your home’s insulation is a low-cost and long-term solution for year-round comfort and reduced energy bills. Insulating your home can significantly increase your home’s thermal performance. Plus, it eliminates the need to crank up the AC because a properly insulated home doesn’t take long to cool. To know how much insulation you should get and which areas you should insulate, have a reputable contractor, such as A+ Insulation, perform a free evaluation.

These are just some of the many energy payback projects you can do before the summer heat sets in. With these tried and true methods, you won’t need to break the bank or pull off a major green-oriented home remodel. Identifying the various cooling loads in your home and understanding the physics behind air movement are not easy tasks, but they are useful in reaching your energy-saving goals. So, roll up your sleeves and try these DIY fixes to keep your cooling costs down every summer.