A Guide to Choosing the Proper Home Insulation
We often hear from Colorado homeowners who have no idea which type of insulation is right for their home. Comparing alternatives can feel like an excessively technical exercise.
There are two main challenges in determining the best type of insulation for your home:
- Every option comes with pros and cons, so there is always at least one drawback to consider.
- The right type of insulation depends on what type of house you have, how old it is, how energy-efficient it is, and what part of the country you live in.
Below, we’re going to look at each of the four leading types of home insulation — fiberglass, mineral wool, cellulose, and spray foam — and break them down into an easy list of pros and cons.
Moreover, the tips you’ll find on this page are geared specifically to homes in Colorado. As a Denver-based home energy efficiency company, we have years of experience in making the most out of home insulation in order to maximize comfort and energy savings in a wide variety of Colorado dwellings.
At the end, we’ll tell you our pick for the all-around best type of insulation for a home in our state… though, as you’ll see, there’s really no wrong answer.
What Is Fiberglass Insulation?
The most common type of home insulation is Fiberglass. It is available in long-roll blankets, batts, loose fill, and blown installation. It is made with fine strands of glass that are woven into the insulation material.
Pros of Fiberglass Insulation
- Minimizes heat transfer effectively
- High R-values (though not quite as high as some other materials)
- Doesn’t shrink
- Not attractive to insects
- Comprised largely of recycled or renewable materials
- Relatively inexpensive
Cons of Fiberglass Insulation
- It can still allow for some airflow into the attic.
- Even though it is considered “easy to install,” improper fiberglass insulation installation is surprisingly common, and that’s a problem. Even small gaps in insulation can significantly reduce efficiency and performance. (If you choose fiberglass insulation, make sure you work with someone who can install it properly to avoid high energy costs and/or future repairs.)
- While the material itself is largely made up of eco-friendly materials, the process of producing fiberglass insulation is less eco-friendly, as it uses a lot of energy and releases some air pollution.
- Some people have concerns about inhaling the extremely fine glass fibers that are woven into fiberglass insulation, as well as about the risk of those fibers coming into contact with skin.*
*Most experts agree that fiberglass insulation is perfectly safe as long as you are avoiding direct contact as much as possible. In fact, fiberglass insulation first became popular as a safe alternative to asbestos, and you will find some degree of fiberglass insulation in the majority of American homes. In a 1994 study, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that any of fiberglass’s carcinogenic properties would be unlikely to pose any health threat through ordinary consumer exposure.
Houses Fiberglass Insulation is Good For
Fiberglass insulation is a reasonable and cost-effective choice for virtually any Colorado home.
Mineral Wool Insulation
What Is Mineral Wool Insulation?
Mineral wool insulation is similar to fiberglass in that it is made up of tiny particles woven into the insulation. But instead of fiberglass, mineral wool uses natural fibers. There are various types of mineral wool insulation. Rock wool, for example, uses natural stone fibers. Slag wool uses fibers made from iron-ore waste.
Mineral wool had previously fallen out of favor in the United States (with homeowners preferring the cheaper, easier fiberglass alternative) but has rebounded in popularity in recent years.
Pros of Mineral Wool Insulation
- Naturally moisture-resistant
- Blocks a fair amount of sound
- Can slow a house fire, thanks to its ability to withstand temperatures up to 1,800ºF and beyond
Cons of Mineral Wool Insulation
- One must be very cautious when installing mineral wool installation. Protective gear should be worn at all times. Even though the fibers are natural, they are easily inhaled and may also embed in skin. (As with most types of home insulation, your best bet is to hire a professional.)
- Those with health concerns about fiberglass have many of the same concerns about mineral wool insulation. Here again, though the data has produced mixed results, there is some consensus that when properly installed by a professional for ordinary consumer use, there is no clear evidence of any risk of harm to the home’s occupants.
Houses Mineral Wool Insulation is Good For
Mineral wool is often used as supplementary insulation. It can help to insulate larger areas in almost any Colorado home.
What Is Cellulose Insulation?
Cellulose is prized as the most eco-friendly form of home insulation available to homeowners today. Made of loose recycled materials packed tightly together, it can be very effective in improving your home’s energy efficiency in the short term while also minimizing damage in the event of a fire.
Pros of Cellulose Insulation
- Environmentally friendly
- Fire resistant (treated with boric acid)
- Not attractive to insects
- Higher R-value than most fiberglass insulation
- Generally considered healthier and safer than fiberglass or mineral wool
Cons of Cellulose Insulation
- Even though cellulose material is less expensive than fiberglass, insulation is more complicated, so the cost of putting it in your home can be somewhat higher.
- Cellulose insulation can settle over time, reducing its R-value from year to year (this is especially true of dry-blown cellulose installation). It is generally less durable than other options.
- Absorbs moisture more easily than some other kinds of insulation, which compromises long-term durability and poses a threat for mold and rot.
- The copious dust produced during installation can pose a health concern for installers; requires caution. Installation is best left to a professional, who should wear a protective mask.
- All forms of cellulose insulation require a vapor barrier.
Houses Cellulose Insulation is Good For
As with mineral wool, cellulose insulation is ideal as supplementary insulation for Colorado homes, especially in older homes that may need large parts of their existing insulation retrofitted.
Spray Foam Insulation
What Is Spray Foam Insulation?
Spray foam is made of polyurethane. Installers create the foam on-site and then spray it on the desired areas, allowing for a great deal of precision and control. Once applied, the foam expands to fill each and every crevice, creating a tight and effective barrier.
Pros of Spray Foam Insulation
- Allows for tight air sealing
- Barrier for both air and moisture (impermeable to water)
- Keeps pollen and allergens out
- Mold resistant
- Time-efficient & cost-effective installation
- Reduces noise
- Environmentally friendly
- Maximizes year-round in-home comfort
- Not attractive to insects
- Very high R-values
Cons of Spray Foam Insulation
- Careless or improper installation can keep you from reaping the many benefits of spray foam insulation and may also result in insect, allergen, mold, and/or fire hazards.
Houses Spray Foam Insulation is Good For
While every form of home insulation has its pros and cons, there is probably no better all-around solution for home insulation in Colorado than polyurethane spray foam. When properly installed, it is a fantastic insulator that simultaneously addresses your concerns about home energy costs, home comfort, long-term durability, water and fire damage, noise intrusion, and environmental friendliness.
Schedule a Colorado Home Energy Audit in Denver or Fort Collins
Want to learn more about your home energy options? Not sure whether you need new insulation at all or, if so, what the best type of insulation for your home might be?
We can help you identify the right insulation solution for your particular home, budget, and any energy-related problems you might be experiencing.
REenergizeCO is a Colorado-based home energy efficiency company that helps homeowners increase their comfort, decrease their energy bills, and prolong the life of their home.
We encourage you to contact our office and schedule a home energy audit. We’ll send a certified building performance analyst to your home to assess your current insulation situation and overall home energy performance.
Whether you need to replace your home insulation or pursue a different solution, we’ll make recommendations without any obligations whatsoever.
The process is relatively quick and easy, and it can make a big difference in your quality of life and monthly budget. Learn more about a Colorado home energy audit in Denver and contact our office to schedule yours today.