Know Your R-Value: How To Choose The Best Insulation For Your Home

Know Your R-Value: How To Choose The Best Insulation For Your Home

R-value is one of the most important specifications to know when choosing insulation for your home. Yet, many homeowners have no idea what it is, why it’s important, or how to use the R-value when selecting the best insulation for their homes.

In basic terms, R-value is a construction industry measurement of thermal resistance, or how much a solid material like insulation can resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation should be at keeping a home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.The best insulation for a home, as measured by R-value, will vary depending on the age and location of the home. Older homes often need more insulation than newer homes. In addition, a house in New Jersey will need insulation with a higher R-value than a house in Los Angeles. The Department of Energy has aninsulation calculator based on zip code, which homeowners can use determine the best insulation R-value for their properties.

The best insulation for a home, as measured by R-value, will vary depending on the age and location of the home. Older homes often need more insulation than newer homes. In addition, a house in New Jersey will need insulation with a higher R-value than a house in Los Angeles. The Department of Energy has aninsulation calculator based on zip code, which homeowners can use determine the best insulation R-value for their properties.

Manufacturers often print R-values on bags, labels, or directly on the product so that the number can easily be identified. The R-value will vary based on the materials used in the manufacturing of the insulation. Some common types of insulation are:

  • Roll and batt insulation is commonly made from fiberglass or rock wool. This is flexible insulation designed to fit the standard spacing between floor joists and wall studs. Standard rolls and batts have R-values between R-2.9 and R-3.8 per inch of thickness. High-performance rolls and batts typically have R-values between R-3.7 and R-4.3 per inch of thickness.
  • Loose-fill insulation is often comprised of fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose. Its loose fibers are blown into spaces using special equipment, helping it conform to odd-size spaces or areas around wires, ducts, and pipes. The R-value of loose-fill insulation can range from R-2.2 to R-3.8 per inch of thickness, depending on the materials it contains.
  • Rigid foam insulation is a good choice for insulating exterior walls or basement walls. It is more expensive than rolls and batts, but its R-values range from R-4 to R-6.5 per inch of thickness, making it almost twice as good as most other insulation of comparable thickness.
  • Foam-in-place insulation can also be blown into location, similar to loose-fill insulation. It comes in pressurized cans, and the material expands as it’s sprayed into place. This allows it to fill in around holes and cracks to reduce air leakage. Foam in place insulation comes in two varieties: closed cell and open cell. While both are made with polyurethane, closed-cell foam has a much higher density than open-cell foam. Therefore, closed-cell foam has the higher R-value, about R-6.2 per inch of thickness. The R-value of open-cell foam is approximately R-3.7 per inch of thickness.

Understanding R-value and what your home requires based on its age and location will help you select the best insulation to meet your needs and budget. If your home has the correct insulation, it should be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, which also helps reduce energy bills for heating and cooling.

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