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What is Insulation

Insulation is a term used to describe the materials used within your home or business that protect it from heat loss or gain. It provides resistance to the varying degrees of the temperature outside of your home and lowers the cost of your energy bill while providing you comfort in your space. It is most commonly found in the walls and ceilings of your home.

To understand how insulation works you must first understand the principles of heat flow. The way heat flows are in three ways conduction, convection, and radiation. The flow of heat always travels from warmer spaces to cooler ones.

Conduction is how heat transfers from one substance/solid to another. For example, have you ever left a metal spoon in a pot on the stove? If you have and reached for it with unprotected hands you will quickly notice that it has gained heat and can burn you. This was the result of the process of conduction.

Convection is how heat moves through liquids or gases. The best way to explain convection is to think of how water boils and heat moves through it as it gains temperature.  Another example would be the heat blowing through the vents of your home and air carries that thermal energy with it.

The final form of heat flow is through radiation. Radiation is thermal energy transmitted through particles or waves. Our biggest source of radiant heat comes from the sun. The heat from the sun travels through space to our much cooler earth. Take for example the difference in temperature when a cloud moves in front of the sun blocking it from emitting its heat.

With thermal energy constantly around us and traveling in various ways, we need to control it to maintain our levels of comfort in our work and home spaces. Insulation allows us to do that by utilizing the millions of trapped air pockets within the types of materials used. These air pockets absorb the heat or cool air to give the outside temperatures a place to transfer its thermal energy too.

There are four common types of insulation, fiberglass, rock/slag wool and cellulose (aka blow in), and spray foam. Each type of insulation material has different types of uses and are rated using R-values.

R-values are the ratings used for the types of insulation that determine the material thermal resistance. Many factors go into determining the R-value of a material such as thickness, density, temperature, aging, and moisture accumulation. The type of R-value you will need for your home or business will depend on the type of HVAC system you have as well as the climate in which your property is located.

Having a properly insulated space will provide the comfort and temperature control that you need. No matter what type of insulation is used heat flow will continue to move from warmer to cooler areas, but insulation will provide resistance to this flow. For example, have you ever noticed that attics or second story rooms tend to be warmer?  Where we heat our homes is on the lower levels and the heat will flow to where the air is cooler. Insulation in the attic slows down this flow and makes those spaces warmer.

Understanding heat flow is just one aspect of determining insulation for your space. That is why we always suggest you have a professional energy consultant visit your home or office to help you determine what types of insulation you will need for optimal resistance to the flow of heat. Here at EnergySmith Home Performance, we have trained insulation consultants who will asses your property for how much energy is used in your home and advise you on ways to make your home more energy efficient. Call us today for your free in-home energy assessment!