Insulation Intro

pink itchy stuff

pink itchy stuff

One of the most important parts of your building envelope is your home's insulation.  Insulation is like the blanket that keeps your home warm in the winter, and it is the shell of the cooler that keeps your home cool in the summer.  Most newer homes are built to higher standards of insulation, so older homes will usually realize greater energy savings by upgrading their insulation. But that doesnt mean it should be overlooked in the newer homes either!

There are many different varieties of insulation including:

  • Fiberglass blanket or batt (the pink itchy stuff)
  • Cotton insulation (can be made from old jeans)
  • Rigid foam insulation (foam board)
  • Straw (for the hardcore environmentalist)
  • Loose fill Cellulose (made from recycled newspaper/cardboard)

One of the most important numbers when talking insulation is the R-Value.  The R-Value is the insulation's ability to resist heat flow.  The higher this value, the greater the insulation is at resisting heat flow.  If you remember anything from Thermodynamics (I know, not everyone has to take this in college) you know that heat flows from hot --> cold, never the other way around.

In winter, your home is nice and toasty but outside it is cold.  The heat in your home is trying to escape to the  winter wonderland and it is the insulation's job to prevent this.  On the other hand, in summer your home is nice and cool while it is sweltering outside.  This time, the heat wants to get in, and the insulation's job is to keep the heat out.

How does improved insulation save you money?  Well, as you know, your biggest energy usage is in heating and cooling your home.  If you have poor insulation, that means heat is escaping (winter) or entering (summer) your home, which will require even more energy from your heater/AC to make up that lost ground.  Basically, the better your insulation, the less work your  heating/cooling system has to do and the less energy it will consume!

Later blogs will go more in depth into the R-Value and the different types of insulation.

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What is the best insulation to use on a old building, my house is at least 100 years old? and what about prices?
Just to be clear, insulation is certainly related to the thermal envelope, but strictly speaking the envelope is much more about the actual skin of the building, not the layers underneath that keep it warm. Air sealing from a building science point of view is just as important (some say moreso) than the insulation. R-value, for instance, is blown away (literally and figuratively) if there is no air sealing and the wind can windwash the insulation and render it useless. This idea needs to be mentioned every time someone talks about insulation or they are missing the point of the idea behind a "thermal envelope" altogether.
Aaron, Excellent comment and it is definitely something worth dedicating a blog to. Your company website looks great too and is worth a visit for anyone around the Seattle area!

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