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By: Mark Munns
Insulation keeps our homes warm when we want them to stay warm and cool when we need them to remain cool. We often don't appreciate insulation until we don't have it or the insulation we do have isn't working well.

The typical home uses the fiberglass and cellulose insulation. Most are built this way because it is cheap for the builder and it increases their profits. While it is cheap for them it can be costly to you when it comes to your energy bills.

To understand insulation and the types offered, you must first understand what R-value is. R-value is a ranking for insulation's insulating qualities; the bigger the number, the better the insulation's quality - typically. The problem with examining just the R-value of insulation is that it doesn't take into consideration airflow into your house. And anybody who has lived in a windy climate knows how air leaks can change the temperature in your home in a real hurry.

For this reason, this is why the standard types of insulation aren't as efficient as spray foam insulation.

What type of insulation do you have in your home? For educational purposes, let's look at the different types of insulation and define them.

Blanket (Batt and Roll) Insulation

This is the most common and widely available type of insulation. Blanket insulation is the stuff you probably are most familiar with. It often consists of flexible fibers, most commonly fiberglass. Batts and rolls can be made from mineral (rock and slag) wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers, such as cotton and sheep's wool.

Batts and rolls are available in widths suited to standard spacing of wall studs, and attic or floor joists. Continuous rolls can be hand-cut and trimmed to fit. They are available with or without facings. Manufacturers often attach a facing (such as kraft paper, foil-kraft paper, or vinyl) to act as a vapor barrier and/or air barrier. Batts with a special flame-resistant facing are available in various widths for basement walls where the insulation will be left exposed. A facing also helps facilitate fastening during installation.

Standard fiberglass blankets and batts have a thermal resistance or R-values between R-2.9 and R-3.8 per inch of thickness.

Foam Board Insulation

Foam boards are rigid panels of insulation that are often used almost anywhere in the home. There are different types of foam board. The most common types of materials used in making foam board include polystyrene, polyisocyanurate or polyiso, and polyurethane.
With foam board, you want to avoid moisture problems if possible. During cold weather months the warm inside air, which contains water vapor can seep into the wall finish and insulation, condensing inside the colder wall cavity. During warmer months or in humid climates, the same thing can happen, just in the reverse direction. The humid outdoor air in the summer can condense inside cool, air-conditioned wall cavities. If enough of this happens and the water cannot escape, wood rot, mold, and other moisture-related problems can occur.

With foam board, you also have to be aware of potential insect problems. Although insects don't eat foam board, they can easily tunnel through it. Insect burrows reduce the R-value and structural integrity of the insulation. For these reasons, some manufacturers treat their foam products with an insecticide, usually a borate compound. Many building jurisdictions also mandate treating the earth around the building with insecticides. These jurisdictions may also want an inspection area several inches wide and all around the foundation of a house kept bare of insulation board. If you have allergies, insecticides may not be something you are in favor of.

The last issue with foam board is making sure it is protected from fires. While the foam board is hard to ignite, when it does, it burns readily and emits a dense smoke containing many toxic gases. The combustion characteristics of foam insulation products vary with the combustion temperatures, chemical formulation, and available air.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray polyurethane foam, commonly referred to as SPF is a spray-applied insulating foam plastic that is installed as a liquid and then expands many times its original size. Spray polyurethane foam can be adjusted and have many different physical properties depending on the use desired. Specialized equipment is used to apply the spray polyurethane foam.

A polyurethane spray foam insulation is used in many types of industries, not just in home construction. Spray foam is becoming more and more popular due to its high R-value, the fact it has no nutritional value so pests don't want to eat it and because it is closed cell, the foam cannot hold moisture, which makes it mold resistant.

For those with allergies, spray foam contains no CFC's, Penta-BDE's, VOC's or Urea Formaldehyde, this is why it is considered 'green' and why more and more people are turning to using it. This, in addition to the fact that it saves energy has made it a recognized product by the US Green Building Council and is Energy Star recommended.

So there you have it, the different types of insulations and what they can or can't provide for you and your family. What type do you have?About Author:Spray Foam Direct.com features quick and easy do-it-yourself foam insulation which will save you money and energy. Guardian Energy Technologies Inc. offers the added benefits of reducing our carbon footprint by offering foam it green solutions and balancing their impact through carbon reproduction projects. Visit online today.
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