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What Types of Materials Make Good Insulators?

The best thing about achieving energy efficiency is that you are also addressing two other things at once. Other than taking climate change head-on, energy efficiency also means saving energy costs and money.

But energy efficiency in itself is already a huge topic that involves complex methods. We cannot expect to achieve it all in one go.

But the good thing is, every homeowner in the United States and even globally can start with the basics like home insulation.

Although energy efficiency is more than just insulation, it still contributes and plays a very vital role. Materials for insulation are readily available in the market through various retailers.

But let’s say you are just discovering energy efficiency through insulation recently, where do you start? What are the best insulation materials you can choose from?

Fret not because we made this list just for you.

Types of Insulations

There are many types of materials for insulation available in the market for different purposes. For this list, we are focusing on and including those that are most relevant to energy efficiency and saving costs.

1. Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass can be considered the most common type of insulation not just in the United States but throughout the world.

Because of its properties, this material is not just used for insulation but also in many things such as roofing and aircraft.

In its most basic form, fiberglass is made out of a variety of minerals and chemicals. These include silica sand, clay, limestone, dolomite, and more.

Sometimes called glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), fiberglass is woven into fine strands of glass that make it a great material for insulation specifically in minimizing heat transfer.

When talking about fiberglass for insulation, R-value is always talked about. R-value is a measure or standard by which a material is rated with its resistance to the conductive flow of heat.

Fiberglass

This means how a material can minimize heat transfer or loss of energy. The higher the R-value of a material is, the greater is its insulation properties. Nowadays, manufacturers and retailers are making and selling fiberglass insulation with higher R-values.

There are medium to high-grade fiberglass insulating products you can buy in your area depending on the degree of insulation your house or building needs.

High-density or high-grade fiberglass insulation batts can clock in a high R-value of R-15 for a 2 by 4-inch standard thickness.

On the other hand, medium-density or medium-grade fiberglass insulation can have an R-12 or R-13 value. In most cases, the thicker and denser a fiberglass material is, the higher is its R-value, and the more effective it is for insulation.

A reason why fiberglass is popular in the United States other than its relatively cheaper price compared to other materials is its known benefits.

Fiberglass is known to be fire-resistant and moisture-resistant thereby eliminating or at least minimizing risks of natural or man-made hazards.

Likewise, it can also be installed easily. However, fiberglass should be installed with much caution as it can be dangerous when ingested or inflicted on sensitive body parts.

2. Mineral Wool Insulation

Like fiberglass, mineral wool is also one of the best and most common insulation materials you can get from your local hardware or depot.

This versatile insulation product is made from a mix of inorganic and non-metallic materials that are spun or molten to be formed.

Approximately a third of a mineral wool’s components are recycled from post-industrial products or contents. This makes it one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly insulation materials available out there.

In reality, mineral wool is a loose term that is used for two types of insulation material: rock wool and slag wool.

Mineral wool

Rock wool, like what its name suggests, is a stone-based insulation material made of mostly basalt and diabase.

Meanwhile, slag wool which is also man-made like rock wool is composed of materials from blast furnace slag or waste matter from steel mills.

Mineral wool is considered a great insulation material for corporate and private buildings because it is naturally moisture-resistant and can even improve the acoustic performance of walls.

And like fiberglass, it is also fire-resistant. So overall, it makes a great material for thermal insulation.

3. Cellulose Fiber Insulation Material

Cellulose insulation material is one of the earliest materials that was discovered and used for insulation because of its cheap and readily available components.

At least 75% of cellulose is made of recycled paper and cardboard in loose form.

One might wonder how exactly paper can be a great insulation material. Isn’t it a fire hazard? Technically if we are only talking about paper, you are right.

However, as previously mentioned, at least only a third of cellulose is made from paper. Other components of this insulation include ammonium sulfate, boric acid, and borax.

Papers and cardboards, mostly newsprints, are made into small pieces before they are fiberized.

Then these are heavily treated with boric acid and ammonium sulfate to strengthen its structure and make it fire and insect-resistant.

In the R-value scale, cellulose has R-3.2 to 3.8 per inch of thickness. With this already great insulation grade, cellulose makes a great material to prevent or block air leakage.

This makes it a great insulation material for attics and building cavities.

But the best thing about this material is how it is very sustainable and eco-friendly. It might even be more eco-friendly than mineral wool.

So if you are conscious of protecting the environment, you might consider choosing this one. However, a known downside of cellulose is its easy absorption of moisture but dries very slowly.

Other than paper, cellulose can also be made from cotton, sawdust, hemp, and straw.

4. Polystyrene Insulation Material

Polystyrene Insulation

Polystyrene is a base material known for its versatile properties. When made into its form as hard plastic, it can be used for food packaging. But most importantly, it can be used as an insulation material.

Polystyrene as an insulation material comes in two types, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS). The latter is also more popularly known as Styrofoam.

These two types of Polystyrene differ in price and R-value. XPS has a higher R-value than ranges in the R-5 value. Meanwhile, EPS ranges in the R-4 value.

5. Polyurethane Foam Insulation Material

Although fairly newer compared to some insulation materials, Polyurethane Foam is becoming very popular in the construction industry.

Not only does it give great service to energy efficiency, but it also gives interior comfort to buildings and structures.

PUR insulation is made available in several forms for convenience. The typical Polyurethane Foam is available through very rigid foam boards which you can install right away.

On the other hand, a more convenient and flexible way or form is the sprayed version.

This spray foam of Polyurethane uses non-CFC gas as a blowing agent, therefore, reducing concerns over damage to the environment particularly the ozone.

Most of the time, this sprayed foam is cheaper than the installation of laminated and rigid foam boards.

It has also been described as overall more advantageous because it can be sprayed to all the surfaces of a wall or house, even cavities. The initial R-value of a sprayed Polyurethane foam ranges from R-3.5 to a high R-6.7 per inch.

The rising popularity of the PUR is thanks to its known advantages. In the United States, especially in states with colder seasons, PUR insulation is very useful in the sense that it keeps the heat inside the house or building in the most efficient way.

In the simplest sense, you are saving energy operating costs. Likewise, it has been also found out through studies that this insulation also enhances the structural integrity of a building.

However, there are also known downsides to this material. The most apparent is its higher cost compared to most installation materials.

Likewise, it is pretty tough to install it on your own so you need to tap the services of a contractor or an expert.

But thankfully there are reputable companies that can help you be at ease in this area. If you live in New Orleans, Eco Star Foam Insulation is a trusted leading company in home maintenance and spray foam insulation.

Are These Insulation Materials Really Important for Energy Efficiency?

As more and more people get conscious of climate change, energy efficiency has become more important and relevant than ever.

After all, energy efficiency is seen as one of the impactful ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As an individual, a homeowner, or maybe a businessman, you are the main stakeholder in this conversation.

So as you plan to build or renovate your home, don’t forget to take into consideration how important insulation is. Not only for the environment but also in saving energy costs.

More From EcoStar Foam

Different Types Of Attic Insulation And How To Insulate Your Own Attic

Can You Spray Foam Insulation In An Existing Home?


Star Spray Foam insulation is proud to provide affordable, efficient insulation services to the community of New Orleans. We have built a reputation in the NOLA area for efficient, high-quality insulation at an affordable cost.

We use quality materials to maximize the amount of heat retained inside your home – and we install them for you hassle-free. Contact us today!


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