Saturday, April 30, 2016

Invisible Comfort: Home Insulation

Even though our season has already changed into warmer weather months, it's still important to discuss what is keeping our homes comfortably warm or cool. The invisible cloak of comfort that is insulation. This short guide of insulations from early to end of the 20th century will be helpful when renovating a room, adding an addition onto your home, or if you just want to beef up your current insulation.

So, Just How Does Insulation Work?

The United States Department of Energy’s website can guide us on this perplexing question, “Most common insulation materials work by slowing conductive heat flow and -- to a lesser extent -- convective heat flow. Radiant barriers and reflective insulation systems work by reducing radiant heat gain. To be effective, the reflective surface must face an air space.”

Depending on which materials you choose to insulate your home and how much space there is around the installed insulation, equates your comfort factor. When deciding on which insulation you’ll require, the R-value (R stands for resistance to heat flow) will be the number you’ll need to focus on for the best possible outcome. EnergyStar created a helpful map and table to explain which R-value is best suited for your climate. The majority of California requires an R-value of at least R30-R60 for an uninsulated attic or R25-R38 for adding additional insulation to an attic that’s been previously insulated and for floors, a R-value of R19-R25.

Types of Insulation

Homes that have been built in the 20th century will often contain vermiculite insulation. Vermiculite looks a bit like shiny mica flakes and installation was easy - just pour bags of the material into the spaces of ceiling joints. It can still be obtained in most garden centers, as it is a great way to fluff up garden soil. However, from 1919-1990, about 70% of the material was mined in Libby, Montana where the vermiculite also shared a space with a deposit of asbestos. If you plan to remove this type of insulation, it’s best to leave this job to a certified professional asbestos contractor.  

Mineral wool
Mineral wool was another popular option for homes that were built in the early 1900’s to late 1930’s. Made out of spun molten rock and fibers from molten metals, the fibers are intertwined to resemble cotton candy. It is then formed into blankets, batts, or boards, and can also be found as loose-fill insulation. Avoid having any mineral wool coming into contact with your skin, nose, and throat, as it can cause temporary itching reaction or irritable throat. You should always wear proper protection on your face and hands when handling the insulation to protect against any foreign bodies getting into yours!
Finely spun glass fibers are made into rolled up batting and can also be found in a loose form. Fiberglass is still the most popular option when installing new insulation. Placing large and/or heavy boxes on top of this fluffy stuff will make it lose it’s effectiveness, you can fluff it with your hands while wearing proper protection, since the small fibers can get loose and travel into your respiratory system. Goggles, protective eyewear, dust masks, and loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts are examples of protection. Did you know, in 2001 the World Health Organization removed fiberglass insulation from the list of possible carcinogens.

If you have any questions on this or any other home remodeling topic, please contact us today!

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