How Does Insulation Work?

Thermodynamics Words PictureWhat’s the purpose of insulation? It mainly serves as a barrier that provides resistance to heat flow. Heat always wants to mix with cool to equalize the temperature. The more heat flow resistance your insulation provides, the lower your heating and cooling costs. Properly insulating your home not only reduces heating and cooling costs, but also improves comfort. So what else do homeowners need to know about their home’s insulation? A+ Insulation breaks it down for you!

How Insulation Works

To understand how insulation works, you must first understand heat flow. If you know basic rules of thermodynamics, you know heat always wants to move to cool. Heat flows in three different ways:

  1. Conduction – conduction is the way heat moves through solid materials – a good example is when a spoon placed in a hot cup of liquid draws heat through its handle to your hand.
  2. Convection – convection is the way heat circulates through liquids and gases – this is why lighter, warmer air rises, and cooler, denser air sinks in your home.
  3. Radiation – Radiant heat travels in a straight line and heats anything solid in its path that absorbs its energy.

No matter which of these ways it flows, it will continue to flow until the temperature difference no longer exists. That means that in the winter, all of the heat in your home is trying to get out. It will flow to basements, garages, attics, etc. on its way toward the outdoors. During the summer, heat from the outside tries to get into your home. Insulating your home decreases the heat flow by providing a barrier.

Related Read: How Much Money Can You Save by Insulating and Sealing Your Home

How Insulation Materials Work

To reduce radiant heat gain, radiant barriers and reflective insulation systems work to keep radiant heat away. However, most insulation materials work by slowing the rate of conductive heat flow, and though to a lesser degree, convective heat flow as well. R-value is how insulation is rated for effectiveness. R stands for “resistance” to conductive heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

Home Insulation Either Keeps the Heat Out or Keeps the Heat In

To maintain comfort, the heat lost in the winter must be replaced by your heating system and the heat gained in the summer must be removed by your air conditioner. Properly insulating your home will decrease this heat flow by providing an effective resistance to the flow of heat. Compressed insulation, (loose insulation that has settled over time) is less effective. Also, remember that air sealing and moisture control are important to home energy efficiency and your health.

Related Read: 4 Ways to Tell if Your Home Needs More Insulation

The amount of insulation, type of insulation and R-value will depend on your climate, the type of heating and cooling system your home or business has, and the parts of the house or building you want to insulate. To learn more, call A+ Insulation at (913) 281-2250 or (816) 268-7511.