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New Dimensions in Insulation: Proper Insulation for Your Home

Pick the right type to improve your home's energy efficiency.

| November/December 2009

  • GreenFiber cellulose insulation is made with 85 percent recycled paper fiber.
    Photo Courtesy GreenFiber
  • Icynene's 100 percent water-blown foam insulation increases energy efficiency.
    Photo Courtesy Icynene

Proper insulation is key to energy-efficient and cost-effective homes. It makes buildings resistant to drafts and reduces the size of the mechanical systems needed for heating and cooling. By reducing moisture infiltration (which can create condensation within the walls), insulation also preserves building materials. Today’s diverse marketplace offers many outstanding insulation products. Prefabricated, insulated wall sections are another option.

Batts and rolls

For decades, the most common insulation has been fiberglass, made from partially recycled glass, sand and manmade binders. Typically available in uncut rolls and batts (precut strips), it’s widely available, requires little skill to install, has a very low upfront cost and is often the most practical choice for small remodeling and DIY projects.

Fiberglass is energy-intensive to produce, and it’s easy to inadvertently leave gaps when installing it. It can also be a skin and respiratory irritant, although the International Agency for Research on Cancer recently cleared fiberglass of its status as a possible human carcinogen.

Knauf Insulation recently introduced petroleum-free EcoBatt fiberglass that contains no phenols, formaldehyde, acrylics or artificial colors. Johns Manville makes a complete line of fiberglass insulation products with a formaldehyde-free binder.

Building codes may require a vapor barrier over fiberglass insulation. However, when outside temperatures are warm and humid and conditioned indoor air is cool, moisture can become trapped inside exterior walls on the surface of impenetrable vapor barriers. An alternative is "unfaced" fiberglass insulation (without a vapor barrier) or products that use facing such as coated kraft paper or foil. CertainTeed’s MemBrain vapor barrier changes its permeability depending on the ambient humidity, so moisture can dissipate easily.

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Making sure you're not losing that heat from your home is crucial to make sure you keep warm when the snow is falling outside. I am a huge fan of blown-in insulation and think it is the best solution on the market to insulate your walls and roofing areas. I recently installed an in my home but was losing warmth still due to poor insulation. Since using a professional insulation company to install in my home, I've benefited from the full effects and my house is warm with minimal effort for days on end!

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