The EPA states that the number one way of improving energy efficiency is to buy or upgrade to a better insulation. Properly installed it can save the occupants over 55% on cooling and heating bills, depending on the strength of the product. Not only does it help save money, but it improves year-round comfort in the home or business as well.
Decreasing the flow of air between the interior and the exterior of a structure is affordable and will generally pay for itself in less than five years. In addition, there are rebates available for some homeowners that buy a more efficient product, so talk to the salesman or a tax preparer to learn more on this.
There is a lot of lingo the buyer will encounter, and often times the buyer is left confused at what it all means. How much is enough? Can there be too much of a good thing? What is a rating and a factor?
Let’s start with the K factor. By definition, the K factor is the amount of time it takes a steady flow of heat to transfer through a unit of homogeneous material. In other words, the K factor measures how long it takes for air to go through a surface such as a wall, window, or ceiling. The lower the K factor value, the more effective the insulation.
The C factor is another important term. It means Thermal Conductance Factor, and it is calculated by dividing the K factor by the thickness of the material. It is measured in BTUs and is basically a measurement of the amount of heat that passes through the material. As with the K factor, the lower the number, the more protection the product will provide the property.
The R value is the measurement most commonly seen when it comes to insulation. If purchasing it by the roll, it is the number (R 11, R 22, etc.) on the outside of the packaging. Unbeknownst to most buyers, it is actually an ever-changing number and is never constant. It is the value that determines how much heat the product blocks rather than radiates. The buyer wants a product that has a high R value.
There two basic types of insulation: bulk and reflective. They work by slowing down or stopping heat transference through conduction, convection, or radiation. Sometimes, the product is maintenance free, and other times it will need to be properly cleaned to keep its effectiveness.
Bulk depends on millions of miniscule pockets that trap still air, and those pockets of air then provide a barrier to the heat transfer process. In other words, it traps the heat in the tiny pockets so they do not make it into the house. Bulk is able to reduce convective, conducted, and radiant heat transfer; and it is the most common type of insulating material on the market today.
However, reflective insulation has its purposes. Bulk products can tend to be somewhat cumbersome. Reflective is less bulky and able to provide protection without taking up a lot of space. It works by reflecting the heat away from the property. In fact, it can reflect up to 95% of radiant heat, so only 5% of the radiant heat makes it through. Contractors and homeowners commonly use a small amount of the bulky type along with the reflective to maximize the effectiveness.
There are many things to consider before deciding to which insulation to purchase. All of the values and factors can get confusing. However, the right type with a high R value can have tremendous positive benefits to a property. Remember, talk to an accountant or tax preparer to see if making a small purchase now is tax deductible or qualifies the buyer for additional governmental rebates.