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Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket: The Truth About R-Values

R-value is not the end all be all when it comes to determining what insulation is best for you. Educate yourself and know your options, as the insulation in your home helps regulate your comfort level and how much money you will be spending on heating and cooling.
Understanding r-value

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket: The Truth About R-Values

If you have researched home insulation, you most likely have run across the term “r-value.” R-value is the standard measurement used to determine the effectiveness of insulation. Understandably, there needs to be a measurement to ensure that homes are adequately insulated. However, just like most standardized tests, there are flaws. There are many things that the r-value test is unable to measure. It is important to understand the shortcomings of the r-value to make sure that you choose the correct insulation for your home. 

WHAT IS AN R-VALUE & HOW IS IT DETERMINED?

If we are talking about r-value, it is vital for you to understand what it is. The r-value measurement determines the effectiveness of a material to prevent the conduction of heat.

An insulation’s R-value is determined by a test performed in an artificial lab setting. The problem with this is that the lab test environment cannot replicate conditions that would be prevalent in a real-world setting. Two of these conditions are wind and moisture.

THE 3 WAYS HEAT TRAVELS

Heat moves in 3 different ways. It travels by:

  • Conduction: when heat moves through an object by physical contact
  • Convection: when heat is transferred through air or liquid
  • Radiation: when heat travels in a straight line and heats objects in its path

Can you see the problem with R-values here? Air will always move from hottest to coldest. The whole purpose of insulation is to stop the movement of heat. However, the only heat transfer method measured to determine r-value is conduction. It doesn’t consider convection or radiation, which are both actively affecting your home. Convection happens when denser cold air sinks and less dense hot air rises. Blowing wind creates convection. The sun gives off constant radiation. If you are basing your insulation choices off of r-value alone, you are not taking into consideration these two types of heat transfer.

TRADITIONAL INSULATION AND R-VALUE

When tested in a lab environment, traditional insulation such as fiberglass or cellulose tests well and has a high R-value rating. But when stacked against the reality of real-life circumstances, traditional insulation can’t rest on its high r-value alone. It is important to consider the following when choosing a type of insulation.

  • Traditional insulation can significantly reduce r-value if it is not installed correctly. If it is not “fluffed” up enough and not fitted around wires and pipes in your house, the insulation will not deliver the r-value advertised on the packaging.
  • If your insulation comes into contact with moisture, and it will, the r-value will not hold up. Water vapor in a home comes from moisture in the air but can also be produced by everyday activities such as cooking and bathing. A vapor barrier is needed to protect your insulation from this unwanted moisture.
  • Thermal drift is the ability of insulation to hold up over time. As time goes on, traditional insulation starts to sag. Did you know that traditional fiberglass batts need replacing every 15 – 20 years? As traditional insulation increases in age, it decreases in r-value.
  • Houses leak air. Air can move through cracks around windows & doors, and it can also move through walls, floors, and ceilings. Traditional insulations, although they may boast of high R-values, do not create an air seal. If your house doesn’t have a proper air seal, it will be leaking air. Your home will also be subject to the stack effect. As air rises and goes out of your roof, a vacuum is created, and the air gets sucked into your home from the outside.

WHERE DOES RETROFOAM OF THE CAROLINAS COME IN?

RetroFoam of the Carolinas installs spray and injection foams. Our foam acts as a vapor barrier and also creates an airtight seal. It will also never sag and should last the lifetime of your home.

Hopefully, your takeaway from this article is that r-value is not the end all be all when it comes to determining what insulation is best for you. There are many factors to consider. It is important to educate yourself and know your options, as the insulation in your home helps regulate your comfort level and how much money you will be spending on heating and cooling. Contact one of our professionals today if you want to know more about RetroFoam and how it can help increase your comfort and decrease your spending.

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