What are the best types of home insulation?

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Home insulation comes in various forms, such as reflective insulation, insulation batts, spray insulation, and loose-fill insulation. Aluminium foil is used in reflective insulation, which deflects heat from the home.

Fibreglass or cellulose are common materials used to make batt insulation. These traps heat in tiny air bubbles. Spray insulation is applied with specialised machinery and is made of plastic or polyurethane foam.

Attics or walls are filled with loose-fill insulation made of materials like cellulose, fibreglass, or rock wool. Insulation batts are pre-cut insulation pieces available in various materials, including fibreglass and rock wool.

Each form of insulation has unique advantages and might be better suited for particular areas of the house or in specific regions. When selecting insulation, it's crucial to consider the R-value, or thermal resistance, along with the expense and environmental impact.

What are the different types of home insulation available?

Insulation is a key ingredient to generating an energy-efficient home. When it comes to insulating your house. You have numerous alternatives to select from. Every form of insulation has advantages and disadvantages and variable environmental benefits that should be considered.

The various types of insulation

Reflective insulation, batt insulation, spray insulation, loose-fill insulation, and insulation batts are the most common forms of insulation. However, you may still want to be aware of some more niche types of insulation.

1. Blanket insulation

The most popular form of insulation used in homes is blanket insulation, especially roof blanket insulation. This is often sold in rolls with a foil backing. However, the material most commonly used is fibreglass wool. This is created from recycled bottles and has a high environmental rating.

Fibreglass wool insulation is one of the simplest and most cost-effective materials to install. However, care has to be taken when installing not to create gaps, which will reduce the R-rating of the installation.

2. Reflective insulation

As the name suggests, reflective insulation can resist radiant heat flow due to its high reflectivity. However, its insulation properties rely on an air layer with a minimum thickness of at least 25mm.

It is also important to note that this insulation’s thermal resistance depends on the direction of heat flow. Reflective insulation is a popular option. This is because it has a paper core and is made of aluminium foil. Reflective insulation foil works by reflecting heat away from the house.

This insulation type is usually shiny aluminium foil laminated onto plastic or paper. It is sold in sheets or multi-cell batts known as reflective foil laminates. As a result, this insulation is also known as reflective foil insulation.

Some reflective insulations include a honeycomb core to reduce heat absorption within the insulation. As well as allow airflow to travel through the insulation. Installing reflective insulation is better undertaken by an expert, as the material needs specific installation criteria to be as effective as possible.

3. Batt insulation

Batt insulation is often made out of fibreglass or cellulose, also known as insulation batts. This material keeps heat from entering the home by trapping it in small air pockets. A specific aspect of batt insulation is that it has an ‘R’ rating. This shows you how effective the insulation is.

For batt insulation, the greater the R-value, the better. It ranges from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most costly but unquestionably effective overall. Batt insulation is broken down into different types: fibreglass, rockwool and polyester. The same materials can also come in rolls.

batt insulation installed in squares in the attic
Batt insulation must be pre-cut before installation, to suit the size of its placement

4. Spray insulation

This insulation type is made up of polyurethane foam or plastic. It is known for its ability to be adaptable. The mixture is usually easy to adjust for different customer needs.

Since it has a semi-solid consistency, it is best used for pipework and roofing insulation. Another factor that makes this a commonly used insulation type is that it can provide structural integrity to the building. 

Spray insulation, like batt insulation, employs air pockets. However, spray insulation also necessitates the use of specialised equipment. Therefore it is essential to hire a professional if you want to apply this type of insulation.

Spray foam insulation is another popular option that operates similarly to liquid foam. By being poured or injected into wall cavities, making it highly adaptable. Spray foam insulation is installed using a foaming agent and expands and solidifies as the combination dries. Slow-curing foams on the market will flow past any blockages inside the wall cavity before hardening.

This is a safe and effective method of insulation when installed properly. Therefore, it is recommended that if you choose this insulation, you get it professionally installed. 

5. Loose fill insulation

Loose fill insulation is famous for ceiling insulation. This is because of its ability to fit into any cavity and shape without putting any significant pressure on the structure. It also is relatively light. In addition, air pockets are present, which increases insulation effectiveness.

This insulation is typically used when a homeowner wants to insulate an existing closed wall or in the attic. In an attic, this is not the main available option. However, blowing in loose fill insulation in existing closed walls is considered the most practical and cost-saving method.

Several materials like wool, cellulose, fibreglass, and mineral Rockwool are used to make it, with cellulose being the most common. Cellulose insulation has a thick and dense consistency, similar to feathers. The main benefit of using this insulation is that it can fit in enclosed spaces. Such as walls and can mould around obstructions like wires, pipes, and cables. 

This insulation type works by drilling holes into a wall allowing the blower nozzle to fit in. This is a different story for attics, where the insulation is blown parallel to the joists and between joist cavities. This type of insulation is also relatively inexpensive. However, it is recommended that if you choose this insulation type, it is done by a professional, as per the image below.  

loose-fill insulation
Loose-fill insulation is relatively cheap to install but should be done by a professional

6. Structural insulated panels

Structural insulated panels are prefabricated panels that may be used to construct walls, roofs, and floors. When compared to traditional approaches, they provide superior insulation. They are typically composed of 4 to 8-inch thick panels. These are manufactured to fit at a factory and then brought to the job site. They may be made in a variety of sizes. A structural insulated panel would be a suitable option in an area such as a construction property.

7. Insulation boards

Commercially available insulation boards are typically used under floors and on some walls. Modern concrete slaps regularly use these boards to insulate the slab against the elements. Many commercially available insulation boards have a high R rating, making them efficient and effective.

Foam board insulation comes in specific sizes but can easily be adjusted by cutting them. There are also different thicknesses available. However, they usually need to be specially ordered. This standard insulation is used as an alternative to the insulation mentioned above.

This type of insulation is also resistant to moisture. This makes it a great choice of insulation whenever and wherever there is the chance that the insulation could get wet. Examples include; inside a basement, the exterior of the house, under render, and the exterior foundations. However, it is more expensive than the traditional batt and roll insulation and therefore is recommended for use where moisture is crucial. 

Some boards also have a foil attached to reflect heat. Overall like all insulation, they help to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gains in summer, enabling comfortable living temperatures. However, insulation board installation is best left to experts.

Rigid foam boards are a form of insulation used to support weight, such as under a floor or in lofts. Aside from rigidity and durability, rigid foam boards offer acoustic insulation by reducing the sound that travels through walls or elevated floors, such as in flats.

8. Wool insulation

Sheep’s wool is a novel insulation product that may be used for many insulating applications. It is commonly found between roof beams, under floors, and solid walls. In addition, it is often used in loose-fill applications. Sheep’s wool is an effective insulator that may be used in place of synthetic insulation. Wool insulation has a lifespan of over five decades and is treated before installation to be fire and bug-resistant.

9. Rockwool insulation

Because Rockwool insulation is denser than fibreglass, it is appropriate when the material may be squeezed to fit in tight spaces. Rockwool, sometimes called mineral wool, is available in rolls of varied thicknesses and widths and batts. Because it is resistant to heat and fire, rock mineral wool is an excellent fire protection precaution.

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