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There are four basic types of insulation: loose fill, batts and blankets, rigid board and spray foam. The most appropriate type of insulation to use will vary based on the type of construction, the extent of the rehabilitation planned and applicable code requirements.
Loose-fill insulation includes loose fibers or fiber pellets that are blown into building cavities or attics using special equipment. It generally costs more than batt insulation. However, it usually fills nooks and crannies easier, reduces air leakage better, and provides better sound insulation than natt-type insulation.
Cellulose fiber, made from recycled newspapers, is chemically treated for fire and moisture resistance. (Check that the bags are clearly labeled to indicate that the material meets federal specifications for fire resistance). It can be installed in walls, floors or attics using a dry-pack process or a moist-spray technique.
Fiberglass and rock wool loose-fill insulation provide full coverage with a "Blow-in Blanket" System (BIBS) that involves blowing insulation into open stud cavities behind a net.
Loose-fill insulation typically has a value of approximately R-3 to R-4 per inch. Cellulose fiber has approximately 30% more insulating value than loose-fill rock wool for the same number of inches installed.
Batt and Blanket Insulation
Batt and blanket insulation is made of mineral fiber - either processed fiberglass or rock wool - and is used to insulate below floors, above ceilings, and within walls. Generally, batt insulation is the least expensive wall insulation material but requires careful installation for effective performance.
This type of insulation is best suited to a standard joist, rafter, or stud spacing of 16 or 24 inches. Batts and blankets come in widths to fit securely between the wood-framing members. Some come with a radiant barrier backing. Batts generally come in lengths of 4 or 8 feet. Blankets come in long rolls that are cut to the desired length for installation. Both batts and blankets typically have an R-value of approximately R-3 per inch of thickness.
Rigid Board Insulation
Rigid board insulation is commonly made from fiberglass, polystyrene, or polyurethane and comes in a variety of thicknesses with a high insulating value (approximately R-4 to R-8 per inch). This type of insulation is used for reproofing work on flat roofs, on basement walls and as perimeter insulation at concrete slab edges, and in cathedral ceilings.
For interior applications it must be covered with 1/2-inch gypsum board or other building-code approved material for fire safety. For exterior applications it must be covered with weather-proof facing. Check the applicable codes to determine local requirements for covering rigid board insulation to achieve fire resistance.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is a two-part liquid containing a polymer (such as polyurethane or modified urethane) and a foaming agent. The liquid is sprayed through a nozzle into wall, ceiling, and floor cavities. As it is applied it expands into a solid cellular plastic with millions of tiny air-filled cells that fill every nook and cranny. Spray foam insulation should be applied by a professional using special equipment to meter, mix, and spray into place. Spray foam insulation is commonly used for retrofits; it is good for irregularly shaped areas and around obstructions.
Spray foam materials cost more than traditional batt insulation. However, since spray foam forms both an insulation and an air barrier, it can be cost competitive with batt insulation because it eliminates the steps for air-tightness detailing (such as caulking, applying housewrap and vapor barrier, and taping joints).
Green Matters Workshop Helps Households: (Download PDF of NBC News Item)
From the NBC 29 News, November 16, 2010
Finding cheap solutions starts with an energy audit that tests things like air flow and gas leaks.
Charlottesville is setting the national example for green home inspections. The federal government has picked the city for a pilot energy efficiency program, and, if all goes well it will serve as the model for the entire country.
The CharlottesvilleAlbemarle Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) will be responsible for reporting back to the Department of Energy (DOE) on how well their scoring system works. They hope these new numbers will help more homeowners save energy and money.
Finding cheap solutions starts with an energy audit that tests things like air flow and gas leaks. Charlottesvillewill soon pilot a new energy efficiency scoring system for the DOE.
Key Green Energy Solution Home Energy Auditor Laura Fiori said, "Anything that we can do to quantify the situation in a home helps homeowners make a decision about what they want to do to improve their energy efficiency."
LEAP is heading up this national test run. LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Adams said, "I think that the DOE looked at that and said ‘well, you know if we want a strong partner with strong partnerships, LEAP is probably a good program to go with."'
The real estate industry is still figuring out how much boosting the energy efficiency of a home can boost its value. However, eco-brokers say buyers are more likely to take a closer look at environmentally-friendly houses.
Eco-broker certified Realtor Rosa Nicolosi said, "We're in a position as realtors to make some change to be more environmentally responsible and also be there for my clients in a very practical way."
And a new score will offer more information and more options to homeowners. Adamssaid, "What this home energy score is doing is simpler, quicker and therefore less expensive for the homeowner."
Fixes can be thousands of dollars, and testing for DOE scores won't start for another month.
Reported by Dannika Lewis
Download a PDF of this article here.
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