Heating and cooling makes up the majority of your energy bill. Luckily, you can make your home a lot more comfortable and energy-efficient with today’s insulation options. Insulation works year-round to slow down the flow of heat and cold into and out of your home, but there are some insulation options that are better than others, especially when it comes to keeping the heat out or keeping the cool in.
Before you start thinking about insulation options for your Northern California home, speak with the insulation experts at Bell Brothers. After a free assessment of your attic or basement, we’ll help you choose the best insulation for your needs and budget.
In the meantime, let’s go over the two best insulation options for keeping the heat out and the cool air in: fiberglass insulation and radiant barriers.
Fiberglass insulation, micro-thin fibers of glass made from silica sand, is the most common insulation option for good reason. Not only is it economical, effective, and nonflammable, it’s also been proven to be completely safe when proper processes are followed.
It comes in two basic forms: blankets (batts and rolls) and loose-fill. Usually, paper-backed blankets are installed into walls and floor joists while loose-fill fiberglass is blown into attic and ceilings.
Although fiberglass insulation used to be known to present health risks, such as outgassing and even cancer, new fiberglass material is free of fire retardants and formaldehyde binders. This eliminates the potential for outgassing. As far as the concerns over cancer, both the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) removed the material from its list of possible carcinogens. You can read more about the removal of cancer warning labels from fiberglass building insulation products in this National Insulation Association article.
Yes, fiberglass fibers can cause skin and lung problems if you’re using it without proper protective gear, but when proper processes are followed, fiberglass insulation is completely safe to manufacture, install, and use. Wearing a respirator or certified dust mask can eliminate the main problem with fiberglass insulation — inhalation of microscopic slivers of glass.
Today’s fiberglass insulation is designed to bind together without chemicals, making it much stronger than standard fiberglass. In general, the more tightly packed the fiberglass, the higher its R-value — resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the energy efficiency. Higher-density fiberglass costs more, but the upfront costs will be made up in long-term energy savings.
One of the best things about fiberglass insulation is that it holds up over time. Fiberglass insulation won’t settle unless it is compromised, such as being stepped on or smashed. Additionally, fiberglass insulation uses a higher percentage of recycled glass (about 40%) than ever before.
The only real problem with fiberglass insulation is improper installation. As long as you hire a certified insulation contractor with good references, there should be no risks, only the benefits of a more comfortable and efficient home.
Grading the Installation Quality of Insulation
There are three grades given to insulation installation: Grade 1 (best), 2, or 3 (worst).
Grade 1: The insulation material uniformly fills all sides, but some very small gaps are acceptable.
Grade 2: Up to 2% missing insulation
Grade 3: Between 2% and 5% missing insulation
The diagram to the right comes from Appendix A of the RESNET Energy Rating Systems Standards.
Basically, Grade 1 installation fills the cavities better by making sure there are no gaps around the insulation and framing (and other obstructions). There’s an R-value difference of about 12% when you compare Grade 1 to Grade 3. No matter what, your energy bills will go down, but that 12% difference can add up to hundreds of dollars a year. For more information on the installation grading system, read the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) grading criteria.
If you’re installing insulation, get Grade 1 (the best) installation by calling Bell Brothers. We’ve been providing Grade 1 installation to Northern California homes for decades. Contact Bell Brothers to schedule your free home evaluation.
Fiberglass Insulation Benefits
- Doesn’t shrink or settle
- Won’t burn
- Unappealing to insects and pests
- Economical and effective
Keep in mind that fiberglass insulation, like most insulation materials, won’t seal your building leaks and cavities very well. It’s highly recommended that you seal your air leaks before installing insulation. You should seal air leaks, then add insulation. Additionally, you will want a vapor barrier to protect the insulation from moisture.
In conclusion, fiberglass insulation has suffered from a damaged reputation, but mostly due to misinformation. As long as fiberglass insulation is properly installed, you’ll enjoy all of the benefits of health, comfort, and energy efficiency with none of the drawbacks.
ThermaShield Radiant Barrier
Heat enters your attic through the radiant heat transfer process. As the sun beats down on your roof (shingles on most roofs), the heat starts to conduct downward through the roofing materials. When the roof absorbs heat energy from the sun and reaches the underside of the roof, it begins to radiate down into the attic. The heat that builds up in the attic then seeps into the rest of the home.
ThermaShield radiant barriers are installed in the attic to reduce this unwanted heat gain, up to 97% of radiant heat entering the attic. It is engineered with highly reflective aluminized metal to reflect radiant heat away from your home. Radiant barriers can also be used as the thermal insulation’s facing material.
Some studies show that radiant barriers reduce cooling costs by 5% to 15%. While radiant barriers are most effective in reducing cooling bills, they can also help reflect radiant heat back into your home, saving you about 2% to 5% on winter heating costs.
Radiant Barrier Benefits
- Reduces 97% of radiant heat entering attic
- Reduces attic temperature by up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit
- Reduces cooling costs by 5% to 15%
- Keeps your HVAC equipment running cooler, especially if it is located in the attic
- Less wear and tear, which increases HVAC lifespans and cuts down on repairs
- Improved comfort and energy efficiency
- No maintenance required
- Can reduce AC requirements by up to ½ ton, allowing for a smaller unit
- In 2013, radiant barriers became Title 24 requirement for new homes built
The Bell Brothers team is trained to evaluate your home for your radiant barrier savings potential. Radiant barriers will make your current insulation even more effective. Regardless of how much insulation you have, radiant barriers will increase your comfort and reduce your heating and cooling expenses.
Safety procedures and code compliance must be followed for proper radiant barrier installations, so it’s best to hire a certified installer. The effectiveness of the radiant barrier depends on professional installation. Bell Brothers is proud to offer certified ThermaShield radiant barrier installation for extra durability and energy savings.
What to Know Before You Insulate Your Walls, Ceilings, or Floors
Insulation not only lowers energy bills and improves comfort; it also reduces HVAC repairs and replacements while preventing airborne contaminants from entering your living spaces.
Whether it’s spray foam, fiberglass, or radiant barriers, contact Bell Brothers to speak with one of our insulation experts about your insulation options, including:
- R-value: All insulation is given an R-value, which measures how well the insulation slows down heat transfer, whether into our out of the home. R stands for resistance of heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
- Vapor barrier: Vapor barriers, required in most cases, keep moisture away from your framing and insulation. They come in a variety of forms, but typically get installed between the insulation and the interior finished wall. Some insulation already comes with a vapor barrier, such as paper-faced, foil-faced, and encapsulated insulation.
- Air sealing: Maximize the effectiveness of your insulation by sealing air leaks around doors, windows, attic hatches, and other areas of the home. Some insulation, such as spray foam, can also be used to fill in gaps and cracks. (*For increased efficiency a removal of your existing insulation will need to be done to ensure a better seal of all cracks)
Instead of guessing where your home could benefit the most from improved air sealing and insulation, hire a professional to assess your home’s insulation. Bell Brothers is happy to provide comprehensive insulation and duct inspections at no charge. Once you know where your inefficiencies are, you can decide to add insulation to those areas before you replace your HVAC system. This could potentially save you a lot of money by allowing you to purchase a smaller unit.
Bell Brothers has provided Northern California homes with Grade 1 installation for decades. We’ve installed insulation into every kind of space imaginable, and have the experience and expertise to accomplish your insulation project with speed and ease — all within your budget, with no surprises.
Contact Bell Brothers today to schedule your free home energy evaluation.