Reflective Insulation: Everything You Need To Know
You may have noticed a recent shift in focus over the past few years on energy efficiency and going green. When it comes to living and working spaces, the recipe for the two can be summed in two words: adequate insulation.
Standing out among dozens of diversified insulation options, reflective insulation is one of the best choices to ensure lower bills, increase your return on investment and protect the people, animals, goods and equipment that may be inside your structure.
Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about reflective insulation, including where and how to use it, pros and cons to keep in mind, and our ultimate choice for the best type of insulation.
What Is Reflective Insulation?
Reflective insulation, also known as foil insulation, is a material with reflective facing. In most cases, this is aluminum foil or aluminized polyester.
This type of insulation reflects heat by up to 95% and prevents it from transferring to the other side of its panel. In cases of extreme temperatures, this can help prevent the hot summer heat from entering your building and also help preserve the heat within your building in the winter.
Think of a coffee thermos. It keeps your morning Joe nice and warm, but it also prevents you from burning your hands. It keeps the inside temperature and outside temperature separate, so it works both ways, right?
Where To Use Foil Insulation
Thanks to its ability to reflect heat, reflective or foil insulation is most efficient when it is installed close to the source of the heat.
For example, this may include the space under a metal roof where reflective attic insulation meets the scorching sun rays or in an area behind a stove or HVAC equipment where temperatures can become very high.
Typically, reflective insulation is used for industrial, agricultural and commercial buildings. However, it can also be used for special heat-protection applications, including:
- Pole barns that house animals
- Workshops and garages
- Storage units
- Equipment sheds
- Recreational vehicles like motorhomes or campervans
- Transportation trucks
- Cargo liners
- Inside roof trusses or rafters
- Survival blankets
- Packaging items that need to be kept at a specific temperature range while transported
- Home appliances like stoves, freezers, radiators, air-conditioning and refrigeration coils in HVACR machinery or equipment
How To Use Reflective Insulation
Foil insulation can be applied in both new and retrofit constructions.
On the outside, you can wrap the insulation around the building as an envelope and seal it tightly to block air transfer and draughts.
On the inside, it works well on unventilated cavity walls and floors, and on pitched and angled roofs and ceilings.
When it comes to applying reflective insulation, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
During installment, it’s important to leave a ¾ inch layer of air, often referred to as "dead airspace,” on at least one side of the insulation.
This allows the insulation to fulfil its characteristics because the still air provides an extra layer. If it is squeezed in between two materials, it will not be effective.
Again, think about the coffee thermos — the internal airspace is what works all the magic.
In colder climates, you need to combine this type of insulation it with other insulation options to help ensure it keeps the heat inside the building and does not prevent cold from entering. You can combine foil insulation with traditional fiberglass or foam to ensure extra protection and benefit from the combined advantages of each type.
Reflective Insulation vs. Radiant Barriers
Sometimes the two terms — reflective insulation and radiant barriers — are used interchangeably which is inaccurate, and here we will explain why.
Let’s look at the features these types have in common:
- They reflect and are used to beat heat gain and prevent heat loss with the help of an air space barrier.
- They increase energy efficiency of the building and optimize its HERS rating. HERS (Home Energy Rating System) stands for the industry standard to measure the energy efficiency of a building. It provides essential information on expected bills as well as sale and resale building price. The lower the score, the better energy efficiency.
- Installment requires leaving air-space to increase the R-value and provide the best results.
- Their metal surface must be kept clean and free of dust to optimize the results from the reflective insulation use.
Now let's consider the differences:
The radiant barrier is made of a single thin layer of aluminum or metalized film reinforced in the middle (known as woven scrim) to ensure its resistance to wear and tear.
It is typically less than ¼ inch thick and although known to reduce heat loss and heat gain, it is not an insulation material per se and technically has no inherent R-value.
R-value shows the ability to resist heat value through itself. Radiant barriers block the heat but do not absorb it transferring from itself across an air space, which is why they have no R-value.
Reflective insulation is thicker and consists of two or more layers of foil forming a blanket. The middle part is made of bubbles, fiberglass or foam and is reflected in the insulation name, such as reflective bubble insulation, reflective foam insulation and more.
The structure of the bubbles and foam does not allow the two layers of aluminium to touch. Instead, it traps the air within, thus increasing the R-value.
Unlike radiant barriers, reflective insulation stops moisture and blocks condensation, especially in metal and steel buildings.
Foil Insulation: Advantages And Disadvantages
If you’re considering this type of insulation for your project, you’ll want to take into account the advantages it offers, along with potential disadvantages.
Foil insulation is assigned an E-value, an index that represents the ability to emit infrared energy.
The general range of E-value is between 0 and 1, where 0 shows no radiation and 1 is the highest number for emittance and radiation. The lower E-value is, the higher the reflection of heat.
- Low E-value (0.03) in comparison to other insulation options like fiberglass (0.8)
- Stable and durable; does not disintegrate over time
- Does not absorb or retain heat
- Lightweight and not bulky; easy to install
- Acts as an air and vapor barrier
- Resistant to moisture
- Able to keep the interior cool in hot climates
- Improves energy efficiency
- Non-toxic and non-carcinogenic
- The installment process does not require special safety equipment
- Safe for the environment
- Needs to combine with other insulation options in colder climates to beat heat loss due to convection
- Should be kept clean of dust which may pose some problems, for example, when installed under the roof
Prodex: The Ultimate Reflective Insulation
Prodex is a modern type of reflective insulation which serves as an all-in-one solution to various problems in houses, pole barns, warehouses and metal buildings.
In addition to lowering cooling costs, Prodex boasts the following insulation characteristics:
Prodex prevents heat gain and heat loss, which eliminates the risk of condensation that appears due to differences between outside and inside temperatures.
Prevents Heat Transfer In And Out
In the summer, Prodex insulation helps prevent hot temperatures from making their way inside the building. In the winter, it keeps heat from escaping.
Stops Air Transfer
Prodex serves as an air barrier to dangerous gases and toxic smoke, which may appear in case of fire or another incident. This protects you, your loved ones or employees and adds to safety conditions.
Deadens Sound Of Rain And Hail
Prodex insulation is able to absorb the sound of strong winds, the rattling of heavy rain and the booming and whistling of hailstorms.
Doesn’t Support Rodents, Bugs And Birds
Rodents, bugs and birds can cause damage once they make their way inside a building to nest. Prodex is resistant to all of these critters.
Prodex’s flexibility, lightweight and ease of installment can save time, human resources and heavy load transportation expenses.
Functions As A Vapor Barrier
Prodex belongs to class 1 vapor barrier category. It protects the building from wetness which can come inside through the walls and roof, minimizing the risk for possible damages due to damp surroundings.
Does Not Allow Mold And Mildew
Mold and mildew can develop almost in the blink of an eye can be a serious challenge to every household, working space or storage facility. Prodex is mold and mildew resistant.
Wondering if foil insulation will work for you? sample!