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Understanding Radiant Barrier Insulation

Is It Worth the Investment?

Ever noticed how Gordon Ramsey checks to see if his beloved cast-iron skillet has heated up enough before placing it in the raw ingredients? By hovering his hand a few inches above the heated skillet, he can sense how hot the pan is without touching it because 

A, He’s an experienced celebrity chef. 

B, Radiant heat is a thing.

Energy from any heat source conveyed without physical contact is known as radiant heat. When an object or material is heated by radiant energy, it will eventually start to give-off gradual heat of its own in all directions. Some materials are better at conducting this heat than others.

During summer, your home’s roof and attic act like a cast iron skillet. The roof and attic are made of many layers of material, such as decking, shingles, drywall, and wood. Some of the sun’s heat is reflected into the atmosphere, while about half is absorbed and retained by your roof and attic.

That heat continues into your living spaces during the day and night. Cranking up the air conditioning is not the answer here because, in most homes, attics house the HVAC systems.

That means all air ducts run through one of the hottest parts of your home’s structure. Radiant heat warms up the ducts making your air conditioner work harder than it needs to.

During the cold months, insulation isn’t enough to stop heat from leaking from your home. Without a proper radiant barrier and insulation, your attic is the main source of heat entrance & leaks and for those hefty heating bills.

What Is Radiant Barrier Insulation ?

To understand radiant barriers, let’s first see how heat transfer occurs. There are four main culprits responsible for heat entering and leaving your home that you might be overlooking:

  • Attic
  • Walls
  • Crawl space
  • Ducts

None of these are part of your living space but have a significant impact on the internal temperature and air quality of your home. Radiant barrier insulation prevents heat from pretreating your home during the summer. It also helps retain more heat during the winter months.

How? Because its reflective, light-colored surface repels the sun’s heat. Usually, radiant barriers are reflective on both sides. Internally, the same reflective surface keeps heat from the HVAC system circulating inside.

A radiant insulation barrier is your first defense against keeping heat out when it’s hot and inside when it’s chilly. It works on the principle that “prevention is better than cure” by reducing the heat transfer between the outside atmosphere and your home indoors.

Radiant insulation barriers won’t keep out all the heat. Some will still penetrate through into your attic. But if your attic heats up to around 150º F without radiant barrier insulation, it should be around 100-90º F with it.

What Is Radiant Barrier Insulation

How Does Insulation Work With Radiant Barrier?

Radiant barriers and insulation work very well together. Each makes the other more efficient in maintaining the temperature within your home
How Does Insulation Work With Radiant Barrier

Without a radiant barrier, your attic insulation will heat up from the sun during summer. Your HVAC unit will then have the double duty of cooling down the insulation material and your entire living space.

Reducing your energy bill is a team effort. Here are the three players that ensure your HVAC system is working in the most energy-efficient way possible:

  • Adequate ventilation
  • Radiant barrier
  • Insulation

A radiant barrier stops the main chunk of heat from entering your attic. Insulation on your attic floor is how you ensure no conductive heat penetrates down further into your home. Ventilation is how you get any radiant heat back outside.

Radiant barriers make your attic insulation even more productive, regardless of the type of insulation you have. Meaning pre-installed insulation or insulation put in along with your radiant barrier.

Is Radiant Barrier Better Than Insulation ?

Radiant barrier or insulation? Which one’s better and provides a better return on investment?

The answer is both. Radiant barriers and insulation are a power couple. Here’s how the two act differently:

  • The radiant barrier keeps the heat outside with its light color and reflective properties, even though it contains very little insulating material. Insulation, however, is designed to maintain your home’s internal temperature and reduce heat leaks as much as possible.
  • During the summer months, a radiant barrier is your first defense against heat getting in. But during the colder months, its insulation primarily retains heat from your HVAC system and keeps your living spaces comfortably toasty.

Even though a radiant barrier and insulation work together towards a common goal, they can’t replace each other. Both systems are essential to your HVAC unit giving its most efficient performance.

Is Radiant Barrier Better Than Insulation

Why Should You Consider Investing in Radiant Barrier Insulation ?

You might be wondering if you should invest in a radiant barrier for your home. Here are some benefits you stand to gain by investing in one:

having radiant barrier insulation will save energy

Energy Savings

The number one reason homeowners get radiant barrier insulation installed is because of heavy energy bills. A radiant barrier is an excellent tool if you want to cut down on your energy usage. The recent energy price hikes give you even more reason to make smart investments in your home. Especially since radiant barriers give year-round comfort and savings.

Sustainability

Less energy usage isn’t just good for your pocket. It’s great for the environment too. Global warming is causing temperatures to hit record lows and highs. You can do your part and reduce the carbon emissions produced by your home by investing in technology such as radiant barrier insulation. Lightning your HVAC unit’s load helps you in two ways:

  • Your HVAC unit will need less frequent and detailed maintenance.
  • you help conserve energy by cooling and heating your living space more efficiently.
radiant barrier insulation can prevent global warming
radiant barrier insulation usually pays for itself in a few years

It Pays for Itself in a Few Years

Think of investing in a radiant barrier paying part of your energy bill in advance for some time. They help keep up to 97% of radiant heat from entering your home, reducing energy bills. Depending on your energy consumption, radiant barrier insulation usually pays for itself in a few years. They also help increase the property value of your home should you decide to sell.

No Remodeling Needed

One of the best things about getting radiant barrier insulation is their discretion. You don’t have to remodel your home or clear your schedule to install it. In most cases, installation takes less than a day.

No Remodeling Needed for radiant barrier insulation
Radiant barrier insulation helps keep your air ducts from heating up or cooling down

No More Bursts of Icy Cold or Humid Air When You Turn Your Air Conditioning On

This might seem like a minor detail, but one that you’ll come to appreciate in the years to come. Radiant barrier insulation helps keep your air ducts from heating up or cooling down by maintaining temperatures within your attic. They won’t blow hot, humid air during the summer for the first minute of turning on your AC

During winter, you won’t be hit by a cold burst of air whenever your HVAC unit turns on either.

Selecting the Right Radiant Barrier Insulation for Your Home

There are many options to choose from when selecting radiant barrier insulation. Each has applications in different climate zones and installation methods. Here are a few commonly available types of radiant barriers:

Foil

Single-sided or double-sided highly reflective foil sheeting is the most widely used radiant barrier material. Typically, it’s available in rolls of different widths and lengths. Installation is pretty straightforward. It’s crucial to ensure proper ventilation when using foil sheets so that radiant heat transfers outside.

Chips

For smaller and difficult-to-access attics, small chips made of radiant barrier material are used to form a layer over the attic floor’s insulation. These chips often contain metals such as silver that help keep radiant heat at bay.

reflective foil sheeting for radiant barrier
radiant barrier sheathing

Sheathing

Foil sheets laminated on one or both sides of sheets of plywood are known as radiant barrier sheathing. These thin sheets are mostly installed during the construction phase of a building and protect against radiant heat.

What types of radiant barrier insulation most suited for your home?

The type of radiant barrier insulation most suited for your home depends on a few factors. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best radiant barrier for your home:

1. Ventilation in and Around Your Home

For homes with poor airflow, radiant barrier insulation can be an economical and long-term solution against radiant heat and heat leaks.

Installing radiant barrier insulation can help you save on your utility bills and help keep your home more comfortable year-round.

radiant barrier insulation can prevent global warming
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2. Solar exposure

The amount of direct sunlight your home receives will impact the effectiveness of radiant barrier insulation. The more sun-exposure, the more drastic results you can expect.

3. Climate

Always consult a local expert to help you select the type of radiant barrier insulation for your area. Your investment won’t be useful if you don’t select the material according to the local climate. 

Maintaining Your Radiant Barrier Insulation

So you’ve invested and now want to maintain your home’s radiant barrier insulation to ensure top performance. Here are some easy things to make the most of your investment and keep the radiant barrier in optimal working condition:

1. Ensure Ventilation

Radiant barriers are prone to condensation during the colder months. The accumulated moisture reduces the efficiency of the radiant barrier insulation and allows more heat transfer.

Trapped moisture is also an issue. Condensation can trickle down and cause problems such as mold, triggering allergies and musky smells. Over the long run, it can even result in water damage in your living spaces. By using a perforated radiant barrier and ventilating your attic, you can avoid moisture-related problems.

Ensure Ventilation - Whole house fan installation Service
Keep Dust at Bay - Radiant barrier

2. Keep Dust at Bay

Dust reduces the efficiency of radiant barrier insulation by absorbing heat instead of deterring it. Over time, dust accumulation reduces the reflectiveness of the radiant barrier insulation material. This problem can be easily remedied by simply wiping away dust once or twice a year to keep your radiant barrier in its best working condition.

3. Get Regular Inspections

Attic insulation, radiant barrier, and ventilation all work together to save energy and maintain your home’s temperature. For example, if there’s an issue with your attic ventilation, it’ll impact the radiant barrier and insulation performance.

One of the best practices that ensure your radiant barrier’s longevity and top performance is scheduling regular inspections from a competent name in the industry. Yearly home checks make it easier to stay on top of maintenance and prevent minor issues from becoming a large (and expensive!) nuisance.

Attic insulation, radiant barrier, and ventilation all work together

Insulation Radiant Barrier FAQs

1
Can radiant barrier insulation only be installed during the construction phase?

A radiant barrier can be installed during or after your home’s construction.

2
Can I lay the radiant barrier down on my ceiling or attic floor?

No, the radiant barrier must be attached to the roof decking with a minimum gap of half an inch for it to be effective.

3
Will the radiant barrier insulation affect my WIFI and cell phone signals?

No, your WIFI and phone signals won’t be affected if you install a radiant barrier.

4
Can a radiant barrier be laid on top of insulation?

Layering your radiant barrier and insulation without an air gap can cause mold growth by trapping moisture between the two layers.

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