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Reflective Insulation

Comparing Reflective Insulation to Fiberglass, Spray foam, Rigid board and Cellulose

  1. Definition of reflective Insulation
  2. How reflective insulation works
  3. History of reflective insulation
  4. Reflective insulation vs. radiant barrier
  5. Where to install reflective insulation
  6. How to install reflective insulation
  7. Comparing Reflective Insulation to Fiberglass, Spray foam, Rigid board and Cellulose
  8. Comparing Reflective Insulations
  9. Recommended reflective insulation

1. Definition of Reflective Insulation

Thermal insulation composed of one or more low emittance surfaces and one or more enclosed air spaces.

Emitance (or emissivity) refers to the ability of a material to discharge radiant energy. The lower the emissivity, the lower heat that radiates from its source. All materials have emissivity. For example, fiberglass has a high emissivity relative to reflective insulation, which means it radiates a larger amount of heat. 

Reflectance (or reflectivity) refers to the amount of incoming heat (radiant energy) that is reflective from the surface. The reflectivity and emissivity of a surface added together = 1. Example, Prodex Total Insulation has an emissivity of 0.03 and a reflectivity of 0.97. That means it reflect back 97% of the radiant energy that strikes it - not allowing it to radiate into your building or home.

The R-value of a Reflective Insulation and a Mass Insulation is based on the same Fundamental Equation.

2. How Reflective Insulation Works

Reflective insulation uses mass insulation (foam, fiberglass, bubble wrap, wool, newspaper etc.) plus low emittance surfaces (aluminum of foil film) and trapped air spaces to form an efficient insulation system. The total thermal performance of the reflective system varies with the size and number of enclosed reflective spaces in the building cavity. The physics of foil.

Reflective insulation systems are typically located between or below the roof rafters, floor joists and wall studs.

3. History of Reflective Insulation

Reflective insulations are a commercial spinoff of the NASA Apollo Space Program. NASA used a reflective foil covering to create a radiant barrier for both the spacecraft and space suits to reflect the intense heat of the suns away from the astronauts by day and to reflect internal heat back inside the capsule of space suit at night for warmth. NASA estimates that "Using conventional insulation, a space suit would have required a 7-foot-thick protective layer." Prodex Reflective insulation improved on this technology to consumers for all types of building applications.

Today, reflective insulations have become a standard component of a total insulation system. It's designed for both new construction and retrofits. Using Reflective insulation for either your home or metal building will increase the comfort level inside, protect against condensation and save on energy costs.

4. Reflective Insulation vs. Radiant Barrier

pole barn insulation prodex thumbnail

A radiant barrier is a thin layer of reflective low *emissivity film (typically aluminum or foil) installed with an airspace to block radiant heat transfer between a surface that radiates heat (such as a roof) and a surface that will absorb heat (such as fiberglass insulation on an attic floor).

A radiant barrier that has no inner substance, is not insulation per se, and by definition has no R-value.

reflective insulation cross section prodex total

Think of reflective insulation as a radiant barrier with two low emitance surfaces on each side of a core substance. The system retards the convective flow of the heated air the way fiberglass, spray foam, rigid board and cellulose does. The R-value of a Reflective Insulation and a Mass Insulation is based on the same Fundamental Equation.

R-value: Measure of the ability of a material to impede heated air by convection. The higher the R-value the more effective the insulation will be in preventing convective heat transfer. R-value does not measure the insulation's ability to resist radiant heat transfer (The primary source of heat flow.)

5. Where to Install Reflective Insulation

pole barns, metal buildings, roofs, attics, garages, garage doors, ceilings, basements, crawlspaces, radiant floor heating, walls, air ducts, floors, shipping containers, under concrete and more.

6. How to Install Reflective Insulations

pole barns, metal buildings, attics, walls, floors, ceilings, roofs, crawlspaces, garage doors and more.


7. Comparing Reflective Insulation to Mass Insulations (Fiberglass, Spray foam, Rigid board and Cellulose)

Mass insulation heat flow reflective insulation heat flow

In addition to providing thermal protection (R value) to reduce your winter heating costs, reflective insulation also cools your home in the summer; thereby, reducing your summer utility costs. While mass insulation (fiberglass, spray foam, rigid board and cellulose) products are made to resist or impede the flow of warm air, a reflective insulation reflects back radiant heat (primary source of heat- flow) from the sun so it does not penetrate the building. It also reflects back radiant heat inside the house so it doesn't escape. The concept is simple each unit of radiant heat energy that is reflected away from your home in summer and each unit reflected back inside during winter means less money paid in utility cost. Mass insulations (fiberglass, spray foam, rigid board and cellulose) do not prevent radiant heat transfer (the primary source of heat-flow.). If you're using only a mass insulation product, you're losing more than half the battle.

Once fiberglass or cellulose gets damp (and it will in most applications), it will stay damp. Not only will you have trapped moisture in the blanket causing rot, rust, oxidation, mold etc., the damp cellulose or blanket will provide less and less R value as the moisture builds. Couple this with the fact that fiberglass, spray foam, rigid board and cellulose do not prevent radiant heat transfer (primary source of heat flow) and you can see why fiberglass insulation is not the recommended in roofs, basements, pole barns or metal buildings

Standard Fiberglass vs. Prodex Reflective Insulation in a basement:

crawlspace without reflective insulation Prodex reflective Insulation in crawlspace

Reflective Insulation Compared to Mass Insulation Chart

8. Comparing Reflective Insulations

Take a look at the photos below. Even if you didn't know anything about Reflective Insulation, which one would you choose? The obvious choice is Prodex Total. It has a high quality core that keeps its shape when exposed to forces. Prodex Total has a nominal thickness of 5mm (13/64 inch) closed cell polyethylene foam covered on both sides with .0012 (00.03mm) aluminum foil facing. Under pressure, the Prodex micro-cells and do not collapse -- With a pressure of 6 PSI Prodex compresses just 6%. When the load is relieved it takes back its initial shape. The density of the foam is between 1.25 lb/ft (sq) - 1.87 lb/ft (sq). This gives the material real body. More about comparing reflective bubble insulation to Prodex Total.

Chart comparing Reflective Insulations

Click to enlarge

Foil Only               Single Bubble               Double bubble          Prodex Total

Foil Only Radiant Barriersingle bubble - radiant bubble foilDouble bubble insulationProdex Total Insulation cross sections

9. Recommended Reflective Insulation - Prodex Total

Benefits of using Prodex Total Reflective Insulation:

  • Light weight, very strong and easy to install
  • Moisture-proof. Will not allow moisture to pass through in either direction
  • Eliminates condensation within the ceilings, walls and floors.
  • Unlike mass insulation products, it's R-value is unaffected by humidity. No mildew, mold or fungus growth.
  • No significant mass to absorb and retain heat
  • Very low emittance value - E-value = 0.03 (compared to 0.90 for most insulations) which significantly reduces heat transfer by radiation.
  • No change in thermal performance over time due to compaction, disintegration or moisture absorption (common concern with mass insulation)
  • Easier to install than fiberglass - It can be stapled, nailed, glued or sewn.
  • Safer for workers to install than fiberglass - There are not fibers to breath or cause skin irritation, or eye irritation.
  • Nontoxic and non-carcinogenic - Does not irritate the skin, eyes or throat. Contains no substances which will out-gas.
  • Carries a Class A/Class 1 Fire Rating
  • Radon retarder - It will limit radon penetration through the floor
  • Not a nesting material for rodents, birds or insects
  • Attractive in areas where insulation is exposed such as a metal building.
  • Reduces the "black globe effect" in animal confinement buildings

Certifications: Prodex Total Reflective Insulation is ICC-ES recognized and Energy Star Qualified.

ICC-ES is a nonprofit organization that does technical evaluations of building products, components, methods and materials. ICC-ES evaluation reports provide evidence that products and systems meet code requirements. Their reports on code compliance are available free of charge to code officials, contractors, architects, engineer and anyone else with an interest in the building and construction. 

Energy Star is a joint program for the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. It's designed to help people save money and protect the environment through rating energy efficient product and practices. 

Prodex Difference: Energy Star Qualified : ICC-ES Recognized : R 16 unaffected by humidity : Prevents condensation : Prevents 97% of radiant heat transfer : Vapor barrier : Core sealed on both 175' side with flange : Elastic : 19dba contact noise reduction : 90 degree celsius (194 fahrenheit) contact temperature rating : UV resistance : Does not promote mold or mildew : Does not provide for nesting of rodents, bugs or birds : Seals around nails (no leak) : Reflective aluminum foil on each side of 5mm (13/64) closed-cell polyethylene foam center : Keeps its shape over time (doesn't collapse) : Rippled surface increases airflow :  Member of US Green Building Council - Made with 100% recyclable virgin raw materials : Over 2 billion square feet sold worldwide

Prodex Total 48 Inch, Fast Action, Perforated, 72 Inch, 24 Inch, 16 Inch

List of All our Reflective insulations

Prodex Total 48 Inch Insulation 4 ft x 175 ft (700 sq. ft. total): 

reflective insulation picture of roll, foam and aluminum

Reasons To Believe In Prodex Total Insulation

  1. Real-time Prodex Insulation Reviews on every product page 
  2. Energy Star Qualified
  3. ICC-ES Recognized
  4. BBB report (bottom right of every page)
  5. Over 3 billion square feet sold worldwide 

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August 30, 2014

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