How to Compare Home Insulation Options and Energy Savings

Icynene-Insulation-In-Exterior-Walls-resized-600.JPGKey considerations when building your home are types of insulation and energy efficiency. Though there are many options to consider,geographic location, your budget and compliance with federal regulations for energy efficiency will be the primary factors involved in selecting the right insulation for your housing needs.

Following are the main types of materials used for home insulation:

1) FIBERGLASS – Made famous with the help of the Pink Panther, Owens Corning is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Fiberglass (or fiberglass) (also called glass-reinforced plasticGRPglass-fiber reinforced plastic, or GFRP), is a fiber reinforced polymer made of a plastic matrix. The plastic matrix is reinforced by fine fibers of glass. Fiberglass is also known as GFK.

Fiberglass material is lightweight, durable and robust. Although strength properties are somewhat lower than carbon fiber and fiberglass is less stiff, the material is usually less brittle, and the raw materials are more cost-effective.

The bulk strength and weight properties of fiberglass are also favored when compared to metals, and it can be easily formed using molding processes. The plastic matrix may be epoxy, a thermosetting plastic (most often polyester or vinylester) or thermoplastic.

Glass reinforced plastics are used for roofing laminate, door surrounds, over-door canopies, window canopies and dormers, chimneys, coping systems, heads with keystones and sills.

The use of fiberglass for these applications provides faster installation. Lighter weight also helps reduce issues with manual handling. The advent of high volume manufacturing processes has also made it possible to constructfiberglass brick effect panels, which can be used in the construction of composite housing. Fiberglass panels also reduce heat loss.

Installing fiberglass also involves piping. GRP and GRE pipe systems can be used for a variety of applications, above and under the ground:

  • Firewater systems
  • Cooling water systems
  • Drinking water systems
  • Waste water systems/Sewage systems
  • Gas systems

2) BLOWN-IN – Generally used in attics, older versions of blown-in fiberglass were itchy and often would make estimators cough during attic inspections. Today, blown-in material has evolved considerably.  Some blown fiberglass insulation products feel more like a cotton fiber than a glass fiber.

A potential problem with some blown fiberglass is that it can be “fluffed,” or whipped up with air, which compromises density and thus R-value.

3) SPRAY FOAM – Spray foam insulation is an alternative to traditional building insulation such as fiberglass. A two-component mixture composed of Isocyanate and resin comes together at the tip of a gun, and forms an expanding foam. This foam is sprayed onto roof tiles,concrete slabs, into wall cavities, or through holes drilled in into a cavity of a finished wall.

Spray foam insulation can be categorized into two different types: open cell and closed cell.

Open Cell Foam Insulation Open cell is a type of foam where the tiny cells are not completely closed. Open cell is less expensive because it uses less chemicals. An excellent air barrier, but does not provide any type of water vapor barrier. Open cell foam insulation is sponge-like in appearance. It is often used for interior walls because it provides an optimum sound barrier. It is not recommended for outdoor applications.

Closed Cell Foam Insulation Closed cell foam insulation is much more dense than open cell. It has a smaller, more compact cell structure. It is also an excellent air barrier, and can act as a water vapor barrier. Typically used in roofing projects or other outdoor applications, closed cell foam is versatile, and can be used anywhere in the home.

Spray foam insulation saves on energy costs and lowers utility bills. Studies by the US Department of Energy show that 40% of a home’s energy is lost as the result of air infiltration through walls, windows and doorways.

Buildings treated with spray foam insulation typically insulate as much as 50% better than traditional insulation products.

Insulation that is sprayed in buildings protects against moisture, which provides the benefit of reducing the chance of harmful mold and mildew. Eliminating mold growth reduces the likelihood of rotting wood in a home, and allergic reactions to mold spores.

In addition to temperature and moisture control, spray foam insulation is often used to reduce noise. Foam insulation serves as a barrier to airborne sounds, and reduces airborne sound transfer through a building’s roof, floor and walls.

Furthermore, homes in the United States treated with spray foam insulation often qualify for state and federal tax deductions.


  • Energy Efficiency is a prime consideration for cost-effective insulation
  • Type of Wall 2×4 walls are standard; higher-end custom homes are often built with 2×6. 2×6 dimensions are designed to be more energy efficient and hold higher level/quality insulation per square footage (R38 versus R19)
  • Polystrand materials achieve better sound barrier and heat insulation. If built near a body of water, such as Lake Erie, higher winds are a factor. These materials are optimal for keeping energy costs down