Insulating your home is one of the few necessary things that you need to do to ensure your family’s safety. After all, insulation protects you against the heat, the cold, and lowers your electricity bills significantly.
It’s important that all homes are insulated well. But in order to know how to insulate your home, you need to know the different types of insulation so you can find out what is best for your home and the climate.
Primary Types Of Insulation
Here we have the primary types of insulation sorted into the way it is applied and how it is packaged. Though there are other types of insulation, these are the five types that you’ll probably see most often.
Batts are probably the easiest and most beginner-friendly types of insulation. They come in packaging that you can cut open easily then put the batts up without cutting for size. Most batts come in 4-ft long pieces.
So you will need a couple for each wall and a few for each ceiling on average. But most of the time you don’t need to cut them. Worst case scenario is you have to cut the last one on each row, but this isn’t much work.
Rolls are just like batts only they come all in one piece. The advantage is that you can cut them to size but the disadvantage is that you can’t piece them, you have to cut each piece which is more work.
Rolls are probably the cheapest and most common type of insulation you can get. You can buy them at any hardware store and get enough for your entire house in a few rolls. There are also multiple trusted brands.
Foam board insulation is a great alternative to batts or rolls. It works well and is safer to use because it isn’t usually made with exposed fiberglass. This makes it preferable to those with asthma or breathing problems.
It is also super easy to put up and installs in a way similar to wall siding, plywood, or sheetrock. This is because they are in solid pieces and won’t fold down on the installer like rolls of insulation will.
Spray foam insulation works best for small areas and holes that are difficult to use other types of insulation on. It’s quite expensive per square inch compared to rolls or even foam boards, but it does cover tightly.
That said, it’s very difficult to take spray foam insulation out. It isn’t ideal for walls that need wiring or plumbing checked regularly though it does work well directly around them in really cold climates.
Blown-in insulation works similar to spray foam only it sprays on lightly and with a special machine. You have to mix the material first before spraying it and it will come out surprisingly fluffy when sprayed.
Blown-in insulation also comes in many different materials, so you need to ask what is available before deciding on it. While it may be easy to install, it can be confusing at first and isn’t as reliable to install as rolls or foam.
There are dozens of different ingredients in insulation. Some insulation is made of one primary ingredient while others are made of many. But these are ingredients found collectively in all insulation types.
Fiberglass is made of extremely fine glass fibers and is the most popular insulation material in America. This is the material you’ll find in rolls and batts of insulation. It is cheap compared to other insulations.
Fiberglass works so well because the fibers are fine and tightly wound. The fiberglass itself can be flammable but it is protected with a fire barrier that also can protect it from light moisture. Each fiberglass insulation comes with an R-value.
Mineral wool can refer to rock wool or slag wool. Rock wool is made of natural minerals like basalt while slag wool is made from slag. This is the waste matter of molten metal. Because it is fire-resistant alone, it is a preferable material.
Mineral wool insulation can be found in rolls but is most commonly found in foam boards. This type of insulation is more expensive than fiberglass but its fire-resistance makes it better in some ways.
Cellulose is made from recycled paper products making it very cheap for manufacturers to make. The paper is processed into small fibers that are packed tightly for a good insulation factor for something made of paper.
Minerals are then added to create a fire-resistant, insect-resistant material that makes good insulation. Cellulose comes in a thick paper or foam roll or spray and is often an added ingredient in insulations.
Natural fibers are the oldest type of insulation you can still buy. These include cotton, sheep’s wool, straw, and hemp. All of these are flammable so borate needs to be added to make them resistant to both fire and insects.
While some natural fibers are quite rare, materials like cotton are still used often combined with other materials to make it go further. If you live a natural lifestyle, natural fibers would be preferable.
Now we’re getting to works you may not normally recognize. Polystyrene is a clear plastic that is used for foam board insulation and other solid insulations. It is made with small plastic beads and works well for insulating houses.
While it is most commonly a foam board, polystyrene can also be a type of spray foam. Due to the compressed nature of the plastic beads, polystyrene insulates well and isn’t as flammable as paper-based insulators.
Polyisocyanurate is another type of plastic that is a type of foam used for insulations. It can also be bought as a foam board or spray foam, but also as laminated insulation panels to use on exteriors of houses.
In most cases, a facing is added to this type of insulation to keep it from deteriorating or from losing its insulating properties. Because of its inconsistency, it isn’t as popular as fiberglass and alternative foam insulators.
Polyurethane is a word you probably recognize but never considered it for a foam insulation material. It is very similar to polyisocyanurate in many ways considering it uses a closed-cell or open-cell formula.
Polyurethane insulation is available as a liquid spray foam and foam board. The spray in this case is often cheaper than the boards and works better due to the fact that it molds to surfaces, but again, spray has its downfalls.
Vermiculite, and perlite, is an insulation material that works best as attic insulation, but it is much rare now than it was in mid-century times. This is because vermiculite insulation can contain harmful asbestos.
This type of insulation is very rare today, despite not all vermiculite having asbestos. However, all of it needs to be tested if it hasn’t been tested before just to make sure your family is safe. It may need to be replaced if it tests positive for absestos.
Urea-formaldehyde (UF) foam is another old type of insulation that isn’t common anywhere. It posed concerns because of formaldehyde emissions and because it shrunk over time. So it isn’t used in residential homes.
However, it can still be used in commercial buildings and covered with concrete to keep emissions at bay and keep the insulation itself insulated. The foam itself is a type of spray foam but isn’t expanding foam.
Cementitious insulation is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a cement-based foam used as spray foam. It looks a lot like shaving cream and is used to fill hard-to-reach places that can’t be insulated with sheets or rolls.
It is safe, fire-resistant, insect-resistant, and very strong. So it works perfectly for small areas and surprisingly costs the same as other foams like it, which is why it’s becoming more popular for nooks and crannies.
Phenolic foam used to be made into foam board insulation but nowadays, it is currently available only as a blown-in foam. While it is easy to spray on and uses air as a foaming agent, it does pose problems.
Because it shrinks as it cures, it is often difficult to determine how much you need to use. It takes someone trained to use it to figure out how much they need and how much they should apply to the wall.
This is something you’ll see primarily in rolls and batts. The R-value affects how well insulated your house is. While some climates and rooms need a better value some can get by with a lower value rating.
In technical terms, the R-value equals the temperature difference between the warmer surface and colder surface of a barrier divided by the heat flux through the barrier. Or in layman’s terms, the effectiveness of the insulation.
The colder the climate, the higher the R-value should be. In places like Florida, you probably need an R-value of less than 50 for attics and less than 13 for crawlspaces. But in the Northern States, you may need something stronger.