Today, there are nine types of insulation used in home construction and remodeling. The type of insulation used can be based on the area of the house needing insulation as well as the budget requirement for that item.
Rolls and Batts
These are blankets of flexible products such as fiberglass or rock wool. They come in continuous rolls with widths suitable for standard wall stud spacing and attic or floor joists. These can be purchased with or without vapor retarder facings or with a special flame resistant side for basement walls where the insulation will be left exposed. This type of insulation is great for areas which have standard stud and joist spacing and are relatively free of obstructions. They do not readily fit irregular spaces and can create insulation voids. Loose Fill or Sprayed-in-Place insulation is more effective in these irregular locations.
A void of 1-2 percent can result in a 25-40 percent loss in R-value in that area The R-Value of Fiberglass insulation is 3.14 per inch.
This insulation is made of cellulose which is recycled, shredded newsprint that is chemically treated to resist fire, fungal, and insect growth. These shreds are blown into the space with special pneumatic equipment and is a great choice for irregular areas where other types of insulation are difficult to install. Cellulose must be installed at a density of 3.5 to 4.4 pounds per square inch to ensure it will not settle and that gaps will not form. When having cellulose installed, always get a written guarantee of the settled depth from the installer.
The R-Value of Cellulose Insulation is 3.70 per inch. Manufacturers use recycled waste materials in the production of loose fill insulation. Cellulose contains more then 75 percent recycled newsprint.
This insulation uses cellulose, fiberglass and mineral wool that are mixed with an adhesive and blown into wall cavities. When properly installed, wet-spray insulations resist settling and shifting, and allow the cavity to be completely filled.
This type of insulation is typically more expensive than the fiber insulation but is very effective where higher R-values are required or, in irregular areas of your home which would not be adequately covered by a Batt type insulation. Foamed-in-place insulation is either polyurethane or isocyanurate and is applied by a professional using special equipment to meter, mix and spray the foam into place. Foam can be used for a variety of applications but is especially effective with irregular-shaped surfaces and narrow openings such as shim spaces around doors and windows. The foam does not act as a vapor barrier and should be protected from prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Foam boards are rigid and lightweight, and provide structural support and acoustical insulation. These are designed to be used in confined spaces such as exterior walls, basements, exposed foundations, attics, concrete slabs, and cathedral ceilings.
These are manufactured from aluminum foils and are used to reduce cooling loads. The common use is under roof rafters to reduce the heat gain from the sun or on walls that absorb direct sunlight. Because they are designed to reflect the heat, they work well in warm climates but are not recommended in cold climates.
Reflective Insulation Systems
Similar to the Radiant Barrier, the Reflective Insulation is made from aluminum foils with a backing of kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles, or cardboard. It is typically used between roof rafters, floor joists, or wall studs because it is most effective in reducing the downward heat flow.
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF)
These serve as both insulation and as part of the wall assembly of your home. The forms are made of two foam insulation boards and are connected by plastic ties. Concrete is poured into the forms and the forms are left in place for their insulative value.
ICFs can cost up to 4 percent more than the standard wood framing but a home built using this product requires an estimated 44 percent less energy to heat and 32 percent less energy to cool when compared to an equivalent wood-framed house. (U.S. Dept. of Energy)
Structural Insulating Panels
SIPs are made up of rigid form core insulation, laminated between two layers of wood sheathing called OSB (Oriented Strand Board). SIPs replace several components of conventional building such as studs, joists, insulation, vapor barrier and air barrier. SIPs are most commonly used to build exterior walls but are also used for floor and roof systems. Work with your contractor and architect, or designer to carefully plan how the insulation in your home will maximize the effectiveness of your HVAC system and lower your ongoing energy needs.