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What is the Best Type of Insulation

Choosing insulation for your home can be a daunting task that can leave you confused on what to buy. There are many different types on the market and a lot of factors need to be considered before making your choice. Today we are going to look at the types of insulation and their uses.

The first thing you need to understand before you begin is R-values. R-values are the ratings that insulation is graded by indicating the material’s resistance to heat flow. Varying parts of your home will need a higher R-value than others, for example, the attic.

The term “heat rises” was created for a reason and the attic is the highest point of your home where the most heat loss occurs. Reason being is that heat constantly travels to areas where the temperature is cooler. Consider where heat mainly escapes the human body is through the head, which is why in winter we cover our heads. Therefore, the attic should have the highest R-value insulation to keep your energy costs down.

Before moving forward, we need to explain the types of insulation available and they are cellulose, fiberglass and spray-in foam.

Cellulose is the most inexpensive and oldest form of insulation. It can come batted (held together with interwoven fibers and adhesives) or it can be blown-in. It is often made of recycled materials such as newspapers.  Denim (Old blue jeans is another type of recyclable insulation). The batted kind can leave gaps for heat to escape around wires and other components of your home, however, the smaller loose-fill blown-in kind tends to cover areas better. You will find cellulose in the attic of homes. A drawback of cellulose is that it can settle to 20% of its original size and it can retain moisture.

Our next type of insulation is fiberglass. Fiberglass insulation is the traditional form we are most used to today. It is made up of very small interwove glass fibers and often comes batted or can be blow-in, it will be found in the attics or walls of your structure. This type is what contractors tend to use in the walls because of its ease to fit between wall joists and joints. Fiberglass is readily available throughout the country, but its main drawback is that the fibers are so small they can be inhaled into the lungs or embedded in the skin. Precautions need to be taken while installing.

Spray foam is another form of insulation and can be used in conjunction with cellulose and fiberglass. Although, it is the most expensive type of insulation available in today’s market. Spray foam is a combination (part A and part B) of chemicals that when sprayed from a machine via a hose mix and form a foamy substance that sticks to surfaces. This goo expands and fills all cracks within walls even around wires and other things. This foam is obtainable in two kinds open-cell and closed-cell.

Open-cell foam is the less expensive of the two. The bubbles created don’t fully close as the foam dries. This does allow some heat flow to pass and some moisture to enter.

According to the EPA folks should be aware of the following:


Individuals with a history of skin conditions, respiratory allergies, asthma, or prior Isocyanates sensitization should carefully review product information when considering the use of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) products and may want to consider safer alternatives.

Manufacturers recommend in their Isocyanates safety data sheets that individuals undergo medical surveillance prior to working with these materials and individuals with a history of medical conditions as described above will be restricted from work with Isocyanates .

Health Concerns about Spray Polyurethane Foam

Health concerns associated with side A: Isocyanates

Isocyanates are a class of highly reactive chemicals with widespread industrial, commercial, and retail or consumer applications.

Exposure to Isocyanates may cause skin, eye and lung irritation, asthma, and “sensitization.” Isocyanates are irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Direct skin contact can also cause marked inflammation. There is no recognized safe level of exposure to Isocyanates for sensitized individuals. Isocyanates have been reported to be a leading attributable chemical cause of asthma in the workplace.

Dermal, eye, and respiratory exposures can trigger adverse health responses. EPA, other federal agencies, states, industry, and other countries have taken a variety of actions to address risks posed by exposure to Isocyanates . Exposures to Isocyanates should be minimized.

Educating yourself is the first step in understanding what is needed for your home over time. It can be an intimidating task, but Energy Smith Home Performance is here to assist you. Did you know that we offer the safest insulation and more for your home, including attic fans? We are also available to help you choose the best type of insulation to suit your needs with a free assessment of your home. Contact us today for more information!