In this second addition of “ROI-Driven Products," we take a look at insulation, which is a big part of a building’s envelope. When insulation is installed correctly, it provides the necessary R-value to meet the thermal demands of the region and the comfort demands of the building’s occupants. With energy prices on the rise, building envelopes have come under more and more scrutiny. Homeowners and business owners alike are now seeing the need to improve the building envelope and increase its overall efficiency.
07 21 00 Thermal Insulation
Insulation can save you money. Homeowners heat and cool their houses with various types of energy which fluctuate in price on a regular basis due to a variety of variables that are outside of their control. Lowering your thermostat, installing a programmable thermostat, or enrolling in a monthly budget plan could lower your bills; however, you may have overlooked the one thing that can truly lower your energy expenses, insulation. Investing in insulation can save you money, paying you back over time through reduced monthly energy expenses, as well as providing greater year-round comfort and a quieter indoor environment.
Air leaks, or what are commonly known as drafts, occur at penetrable locations along a ceiling, beneath an attic. Common locations where air has the ability to leak into an attic include gaps between sheets of drywall; holes through which wiring runs; and around an attic hatch cover, a chimney, recessed lighting, or plumbing and mechanical vents. During the colder months, as heat rises through your home, these gaps will allow warm, humid air to circulate into the unconditioned attic. Locating and sealing these leaks will prevent a rise in the ambient temperature of your attic. Energy Star has developed a helpful guide, “A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating with Energy Star,” that provides information about what materials, precautions, and methods are necessary to seal attic air leaks.
Urea-Formaldehyde (UF) foam was used in homes during the 1970s and early 1980s. However, after many health-related court cases due to improper installation practices, UF foam is no longer available for residential use and has been discredited for its formaldehyde emissions and shrinkage. It is now used primarily for masonry walls in commercial/industrial buildings.
Loose-fill insulation consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. These small particles form an insulation material that can conform to any space without disturbing any structures or finishes. This ability to conform makes loose-fill insulation well suited for retrofits and for places where it's difficult to install some other types of insulation.
Vermiculite and perlite insulation materials are commonly found as attic insulation in homes built before 1950. Vermiculite insulation materials aren't widely used anymore because they sometimes contain asbestos. However, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is not intrinsic to vermiculite. Only a few sources of vermiculite have been found to contain more than tiny trace amounts. Still, if you have vermiculite insulation in your attic, do not disturb it. If you want to add insulation to your attic, use an insulation contractor who is trained and certified in handling asbestos.
Insulated concrete blocks can accommodate many walls in a home. Their cores are filled with insulation (except for those cells requiring structural steel reinforcing and concrete infill), which raises the average wall R-value. The better concrete masonry units reduce the area of connecting webs as much as possible.
Facings are fastened to insulation materials during the manufacturing process. A facing protects an insulation's surface, holds the insulation together, and facilitates fastening. Some types of facing can also act as an air barrier, radiant barrier, and/or vapor barrier. Some even provide flame resistance.
When insulating your home, you can choose from many types of insulation. To choose the best type of insulation, you should first determine the following:
Your state and local building codes probably include minimum insulation requirements, but to build an energy-efficient home, you may need or want to exceed them. For maximum energy efficiency, you should also consider the interaction between the insulation and other building components. This is called the whole-house systems design approach.
This topic includes information related to thermal insulation installed during construction. Thermal insulation materials are installed in ceiling, attics, crawl spaces, exterior walls, under concrete slabs and around foundation walls, to reduce the rate of heat transfer. Thermal insulation materials are manufactured products that take the form of board, blanket, foam, loose-fill, blown or sprayed materials.