If you’ve ever left your house on a cold day without a few layers on, then you can fully appreciate just how vital insulation is. A t-shirt, light sweater, thick jacket, and scarf help to insulate your body so that you can be protected in the weather.

A building is no different. Insulation is the number one cause of energy use (and loss) in both commercial and residential buildings. Having thin layers of protection, or sometimes no protection at all will cause a structure to bleed the conditioned air on the inside forcing your HVAC units into overdrive.

Insulation 101

Let’s start with a little education. To “Insulate” literally means: to place in a detached situation : isolate; especially: to separate from conducting bodies by means of nonconductors so as to prevent transfer of electricity, heat, or sound.

In simpler terms, it means to separate or prevent the transfer of electricity, heat, or sound. In the world of construction, this means that insulation is put in place to prevent conditioned air from escaping the structure while also keeping the external climate outside.

Insulation is typically installed on the underside of roofs, in the attic, behind the walls, and below the floors of a given structure. This insulation acts as an air-barrier between the air that is on the inside of a structure and the air that is on the outside. Having proper insulation is the critical component for any home or business owner interested in saving money on energy consumption. Before we look at the different types of insulation that can be used, it is also necessary to understand what an R-value is.

R-values

The R-value classifies a measurement of how resistance to the flow of heat insulation is. The higher the R-value is, the more effective it is. Various factors contribute to the R-value such as thickness, density, aging, and more. We aren’t going to spend any more time on R-values, but if you’d like more details, you should check out the energy.gov site.

Now that we have a basic understanding of insulation and why R-value is essential, let’s jump into the heart of the discussion. At Shield, we specialize in Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation. To understand why we believe it is the absolute best, let’s look at the competition.

The 4 Primary Types of Insulation

Loose-Fill Insulation
Loose-fill insulation is a collection of fibers which typically consist of either fiberglass or cellulose. Fiberglass loose-fill is very popular due to the low cost, however, it shows excellent degradation and is a skin and lung irritant. Cellulose loose-fill is widely considered the best loose-fill option. It is made of recycled or reclaimed material and is environmentally friendly.

The loose-fill insulation is blown into an area and allowed to settle into the nooks and crannies of the structure. The loose-fill insulation has an estimated R-value of 3.5 per inch of thickness. It is not considered an air-barrier. Loose-fill also contains boric acid which makes the insulation both fire and mold resistant.

Pros:

  • Eco-Friendly
  • Fire Retardant

Cons:

  • Doesn’t Form an Air Barrier
  • Messy Installation
Batt and Blanket Insulation
The most common batt and blanket insulation types are made out of fiberglass. Others might use cotton or wool. The material is sold in rolls. When the insulation is rolled out and cut it is considered a “batt.” When it is sold as a full roll, it is considered a “blanket.” Batt and blanket insulation is unrolled and cut to fit within the studs of a structure.

Batts and blanket insulation is the most common and widely available insulation today. The insulation is air-permeable which means it allows air to flow through it and has an R-value of 3.2 to 3.8 per inch. Batts and blankets are very versatile and can be used anywhere in the structure except the basement.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Fire Resistant

Cons:

  • Degrading R-values
  • Difficult to Retrofit
Rigid Board Insulation
Rigid board insulation is solid sheets of expanded polystyrene, extruded polystyrene, or polyisocyanurate. The type of board you use will affect the insulation’s R-value, water resistance, facing, strength, and cost. Rigid board is customarily installed directly to the framing of the walls or roof of a structure.

Rigid board can range in R-value from 3.6 per inch with expanded polystyrene up to 6.0 per inch with polyisocyanurate. Once again, depending on the type of rigid board you choose, some are water resistant.

Pros:

  • Good R-value at the Upper End
  • Creates Air-Barrier

Cons:

  • Must be Fit Perfect to Form Air-Barrier
  • Susceptible to Sunlight
Spray Foam Insulation

Spray Polyurethane Foam, or SPF, insulation starts as two separate liquids. After the two liquids come together in the spray gun and are sprayed in the designated area, it will immediately begin to expand. Once set, spray foam insulation forms an almost impenetrable air-barrier for the structure.

There are two types of SPF insulation, Open Cell, and Closed Cell. (You can learn more about the differences here.) Open cell is less dense and more affordable with an R-value around 3.5 per inch. Closed cell is much denser with an R-value around 6.5 per inch. Closed cell spray foam insulation, specifically, forms an unprecedented air barrier, is a vapor retarder and adds an amazing amount of structural strength for a building as well as offers the best R-value of any insulation on the market today.

Pros:

  • Very Noticeable Energy Savings on Average
  • Very Long Life-Span

Cons:

  • More Expensive Than Alternatives
  • 24-72 Hour Waiting Period to Re-Occupy

Making the Right Choice

A commercial or residential building is more than cement and wood. It’s an investment in your future. It’s important to make educated and wise decisions when it comes to how you are going to protect that investment. A building’s insulation affects everything from the money you will pay in utilities to the degradation of the structure.

It is in your best interest to choose an option that is going to both protect your building while also reducing energy consumption and utility costs. For decades the founder at Shield has been constructing buildings in Texas. We realize how vital insulation is. Spray Foam Insulation is the only option that forms a barrier which keeps the extreme temperatures out, the conditioned temperatures in, and can resist moisture. In our minds, it is not only the best option, it is the only option.

For additional information or any questions regarding spray foam insulation, please visit our website.