Insulation FAQs Be Green. Live Better!

Windows FAQs

  • Q:What does R-value mean?

    A:R-value measures insulation’s resistance to heat flow. It can also be referred to as “thermal resistance.” The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. All materials having the same R-value, regardless of type, thickness, or weight, are equal in insulating power. The R-value of different insulating materials must be based on test methods established by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Don’t forget that R-values are determined by material type, thickness, and installed weight per square foot, not by thickness alone. Insulation helps keep your home cool during the summer months and warm during the winter months and with a higher R-Value, it will do a better job for a lesser cost.

  • Q:How much will I save by adding insulation to the walls, ceilings, and floors of my home?

    A:Insulation saves money, increases home comfort, and protects the environment by reducing energy use. Department of Energy (DOE) statistics show that, typically, 44% of a homeowner’s utility bill goes for heating and cooling costs. The DOE states that homeowners may be able to reduce their energy bills from 10% to 50% by taking certain steps. One of the major steps is increasing the amount of thermal insulation in their existing homes or purchasing additional insulation when buying new homes.Unless your home was constructed with special attention to energy efficiency, adding insulation will probably reduce your utility bills. The amount of energy you conserve will depend on several factors: your local climate; the size, shape, and construction of your house; the living habits of your family; the type and efficiency of the heating and cooling systems; and the fuel you use. Energy conserved is money saved, and the annual savings increase when utility rates go up. Insulation upgrades also add to the value of your home.

  • Q:How much insulation should my house have?

    A:“Insulation,” says Bob Vila, host of the nationally syndicated TV program that bears his name, “is the most efficient energy-saving expenditure.” Vila says homeowners should check attics to determine the amount of insulation already installed. “Most homes built before 1980 have inadequate insulation,” he said, noting that if insulation between the joists of the attic floor comes only to the top of the joist, it probably makes sense to install more insulation. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends home insulation R-values based on where you live. Be sure your new home complies with current building code requirements for insulation. These building codes establish minimum levels of insulation for ceilings, walls, floors, and basements for new residential construction. The BPI certified representative should provide you with a recommendation for your home upon completion of the initial assessment.

  • Q:What is the difference between fiberglass, rock and slag wool, cellulose, and foam insulations?

    A:Fiberglass is made from molten sand or recycled glass and other inorganic materials under highly controlled conditions. Fiberglass is produced in batt, blanket, and loose-fill forms. Rock and slag wool are manufactured similarly to fiberglass, but use natural rock and blast furnace slag as its raw material. Typical forms are loose-fill, blanket, or board types. Cellulose is a loose-fill made from paper to which flame retardants are added. Foam insulations are available as rigid boards or foamed-in-place materials that can fill and seal blocks or building cavity spaces. Foams are also used in air sealing to fill gaps, cracks, or openings. Reflective materials are fabricated from aluminum foils with a variety of backings such as polyethylene bubbles and plastic film. Reflective insulations retard the transfer of heat; they can be tested by the same methods as mass insulation and therefore assigned an R-value. A Radiant Barrier is a building construction material consisting of a low emittance (normally 0.1 or less) surface (usually aluminum foil) bounded by an open-air space. Radiant barriers are used for the sole purpose of limiting heat transfer by radiation.

  • Q:What words should I watch out for in contracts or job estimates?

    A:Once you have chosen an insulation contractor, make sure the contract includes the job specification, cost, method of payment, and warranty information provided by the insulation material manufacturer. Make sure that the contract lists the type of insulation to be used and where it will be used. Pay attention to the type of insulation listed and the R-value. Avoid contracts with vague language such as R-values with the terms “plus or minus”; “+ or -“; “average”; or “nominal.” Beware of any contract or verbal offering that quotes the job in terms of thickness only (e.g. “14 inches of insulation”). Remember, it is the R-value — not the thickness — that tells how well a material insulates. When buying insulation, be sure not to get sidetracked by the thickness of the material. The contractor that installs insulation properly will most likely not be the cheapest bidder.

  • Q:Can insulation help reduce unwanted sound?

    A:Yes. Insulation is an efficient way to reduce unwanted sound, and it is commonly used to provide a more comfortable and quieter interior environment. Insulation effectively reduces noise transmission through floors and through the interior and exterior walls. A professional Home Performance contractor can help you select the proper insulation for your needs.

  • Q:Where can I get more information about insulation?

    A:General: U.S. Department of Energy and Energy Star, a service of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

    Fiberglass, Rock, and Slag Wool Insulation: North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA)  
    Cellulose Insulation: Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association (CIMA)  
    Spray Foam: Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA)

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