How Is Insulation Rated?
Most people don’t even think about the insulation in their home until it fails to do its job. If you notice drafts, cold spots, and high energy bills, it may be time to think about upgrading your insulation.
As you start looking into insulation materials, you may be unsure what kind of insulation you need. Insulation ratings can be especially confusing.
Keep reading for more information on how insulation is rated and what material you need for your home. Or, find out how REenergizeCO can help you upgrade your insulation today!
What Is an R-Value?
Home insulation is rated according to its resistance to heat (also called thermal resistance). This is known as the R-value. If you divide the thickness of a material by the rate at which the material conducts heat (thermal conductivity), you will have the R-value of the material. The higher the R-value is, the more effective the insulation.
Although you may see the R-value labeled on packages of home insulation, it is important to keep in mind that R-value is a calculation of thermal resistance, not a lifetime quality rating. A multitude of factors can impact the heat resistance of the material and decrease its effectiveness. These can include:
- The age of the insulation material
- Compression and settling of the insulation
- Extreme shifts in temperature
- Moisture buildup
- Animal activity
- Use of new insulation on top of old
The R-value of insulation is subject to change based on external factors. As such, the quality of the installation is more important than the value advertised on the packaging.
Because homeowners can run into a number of problems if they try to install insulation themselves, it is often worth hiring a professional to upgrade your home insulation. Leaving gaps, adding too much insulation, and other mistakes will decrease the resistance to heat. Hiring an insulation contractor, meanwhile, will ensure that the R-value translates into ROI for your home energy efficiency and comfort.
Do Different Types of Insulation Have Different R-Values?
Yes, R-value does vary with the type of insulation used. Research by Colorado State University reveals the following R-values for common types of insulation materials:
- Rigid Polyurethane Board or Spray Foam: 6.0-7.5 per inch
- Extruded Polystyrene Sheets: 5.0-5.5 per inch
- Expanded Foam Board (Polystyrene): 4.0-4.5 per inch
- Cellulose: 3.7 per inch
- Fiberglass Batting: 3.2 per inch
- Mineral Wool: 3.1 per inch
- Loose-Fill Fiberglass: 2.5 per inch
Combining the surface area, density, and heat resistance of these and other materials will give you the total R-value for each kind of insulation. The material with the highest R-value per inch is closed-cell polyurethane spray foam insulation – the best insulation on the market today.
What Is the Best R-Value for Insulation?
Although it is important to be aware of the R-value for different kinds of insulation, the more important consideration is the insulation you need for different areas of your home. This depends heavily on the local climate.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given our variable weather and diverse landscapes, Colorado is divided into four different climate zones. For the majority of homeowners in the Front Range, however, the climate is classified as Cool Dry.
The recommended insulation R-values for various parts of the home in a Cool Dry climate are:
- Attic Insulation: R-49
- Wall Insulation for Walls Above Grade: R-13 or higher
- Crawl Space Insulation: R19 using closed cell spray foam on all exterior crawl space walls
Some parts of a home (such as attic walls) are effectively insulated by adding layers of material with different R-values (or even combining two different kinds of insulation). A professional home energy audit can reveal what upgrades may be necessary to achieve your insulation goals.
What R-Value Do I Need for Insulation?
How you heat your home is a key consideration when you are trying to determine what R-value your insulation needs. If your home uses natural gas, your insulation R-value can be lower than if you use electric or propane heat.
Another important consideration when assessing your insulation needs is the age of your home. Building codes in years past didn’t always require insulation. Alternatively, the standard for insulation from when your home was built may be very different from today’s requirements.
Today, houses in Colorado must be constructed according to standards established by the International Energy Conservation Code. A qualified insulation contractor can fully assess your home and advise you what upgrades can help you save money and enjoy a more comfortable interior.
Upgrading insulation is a daunting task. Trying to handle the project on your own can lead to a lot of time, a big mess, and minimal improvements if the insulation is insufficient and/or all of the problem areas are not addressed.
With REenergizeCO, you can avoid these problems and feel confident in a professional solution individualized to your home. Our team will assess your insulation needs and provide recommendations for proper insulation based on your needs, goals, and budget.
REenergizeCO serves homeowners in Denver, Fort Collins, and throughout the Front Range of Colorado. Find out how our insulation professionals can help you maximize your home energy savings and enhance the comfort and health of your home.