Greenwood Air technician installing insulation.

What Is Insulation & How Does it Work?

Your home is one of your biggest investments and the place where you’ll spend the majority of your time. Therefore, enjoying a comfortable temperature year-round is vital. If you are looking to insulate your home, you’ve come to the right spot. In this article, we’ll discuss what insulation is, how it works, the different types of insulation, and where you can insulate your home.

What Is Insulation?

It is a common misconception that insulation keeps cold out. In reality, the function of insulation is to reduce the transfer of heat, which means it keeps heat in. Basically, insulation is any material used to fill the spaces of your home such as little gaps, crevices, and hard-to-reach places behind walls, above ceilings, etc, in an effort to reduce heat flow by reflection and/or absorption. It’s normally used to keep heat and/or sound in or out of your home, or to confine it to certain parts of your house.

How Does Insulation Work?

Insulation works by slowing the transfer of heat, which can move in three ways: Conduction, Convection, and Radiation.

Conduction, Convection, and Radiation.

Conduction is the way heat moves through materials. An example of conduction is using a metal rod to roast marshmallows on an open fire and feeling the heat rise through the rod from the fire to your hand.

Convection is when a fluid such as air or a liquid is heated and then travels away from the source, carrying the thermal energy along. It is the reason why lighter, warmer air rises, and cooler, denser air sinks in your home.

Radiation is the transfer of heat from one place to another in the form of waves called electromagnetic waves. Some common examples of radiation are ultraviolet light from the sun, heat from a stove burner, and visible light from a candle.

Most insulation materials work by slowing conductive, and to a lesser extent, convective heat flow. Radiant barriers and reflective insulation are likewise used to reduce radiant heat. Insulation decreases the amount of heat entering from outside when it’s hot and traps warmth inside when it’s cold.

Moreover, insulation is rated by its R-value. R-value measures how resistant types of insulation are to heat flow. R-values vary based on the type, thickness, and density of the insulation material. Generally, a higher R-value means better climate control and better energy efficiency for your home. However, some homes may not need insulation with the highest R-value. The Department of Energy even recommends different insulation levels depending on your region if you are looking to increase your energy efficiency.

What Are the Different Types of Insulation?

There are several types of thermal insulation to choose from, including:

  • Fiberglass insulation: A type of fiber primarily composed of glass that is used in a wide variety of applications, and is predominantly employed as a residential and commercial thermal insulator.
  • Cellulose insulation: One of the most environmentally friendly types of insulation available, cellulose is made of up to 80 percent recycled material. It is also one of the best types of insulation for soundproofing.
  • Spray foam insulation: An insulation material made from polyurethane foam or plastic. It’s remarkably adaptable and the mixture is easy to adjust for any customer’s requirement. It fills cracks, gaps, and crevices on installation.
  • Radiant barrier insulation: A highly reflective material that significantly reduces the transfer of radiant heat either by reflecting it away from its surface or by emitting a very little amount of heat from the surface opposite the heat source offering a permanent way to control radiant heat.
  • Rigid foam insulation: An innovative building and construction material that can significantly reduce a building’s energy use and help control indoor temperature. Properly installed rigid foam board provides a layer of protection against moisture.
  • Rockwool insulation: Made of rocks and minerals spun into small, high temperature-resistant fibers, Rockwool (or mineral wool) insulation is used for a variety of applications.
  • Icynene insulation: A spray foam insulation that is often installed between floor joists, and around wiring, piping, and ductwork. It’s great for maximizing the energy efficiency!

Where Can You Insulate?

Not sure where exactly to insulate? You can probably insulate more places than you think. The goal is to create a consistent wrap around the home, a “thermal envelope,” with no penetrations. Here are some places around your home that you can insulate: sidewalls, attics, flat ceilings, floors, crawl spaces, cathedral ceilings, ductwork, interior walls, basements, easy to overlook areas. 

Insulation Contractors Serving The Phoenix Metro Area

From air conditioning repairs to complete system replacements, Greenwood Air is your neighborhood’s trusted HVAC company. With 32 years of combined experience, we’ve proudly served families across the Phoenix Metro area. You’re guaranteed our best service because we hold our team to higher standards, including 24/7 availability, industry-leading warranties, and ongoing training for every one of our technicians.

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