Which Type of Insulation is the Most Effective?

For people who came to the conclusion their home needs new insulation, the biggest problem is deciding on the type of house insulation they should use. Because there are so many options, and each one of them has its pros and cons. But also, it’s not always about insulating a house, sometimes a person needs insulation for a pole barn, or just garage roof insulation, and not all insulation options are equally good or equally suitable for all those endeavors.

Insulation Basics

When establishing what insulation types are the best for your home you need to take several factors into consideration. First - the location of your property and the local climate, second - whether or not you wanna do the insulation by yourself or you are going to hire professionals, third - what’s the exact installation area, and fourth - what’s your budget.

Local climate

When we are talking about the first insulation aspect - the location of the object that needs to be insulated, we are basically trying to determine what is the recommended R-value for that particular area. The R-value number will tell you what is the insulation’s ability to fight the heat or cold not travel through it. So the recommended R-value will not be the same in the climate where there are more cold months and where winters can be quite freezing, or in mostly sunny areas where temperatures won’t go that low.

DIY or professional insulation

Some types of housing insulation are easy to install and can be done in a DIY manner, but others are more complex and demand the input of professionals who are experienced and in possession of adequate tools. It is very important to understand you as a homeowner cannot do every type of insulation by yourself because you may cause more damage and add more expenses to your already calculated budget. So to avoid doing sloppy work with insulation, always consult with a professional, even if you are planning a DIY project, just to see what aspects you need to pay extra attention to.

Installation area

Defining the exact installation area is important for several reasons. Is it the whole house, or just the attic, is it a garage insulation, do you need to do some prep work like removing a wall or fixing some breakage before adding insulation, it all affects the time you will have to spend on this project and the money you will spend on it. Also, it shows whether or not you need an extra pair of hands. And not to mention garage or pole barn insulation is not the same as residential insulation - you probably won’t use the same insulation materials, or at least you won’t use the same R-value.


And finally, there is the money aspect. You probably saved up to do a proper job on insulating your property and you would like not to go above the budget. That’s understanding. And that’s why we will present what is the average cost of doing insulation with every popular insulating material. And remember - the price doesn’t always dictate the quality of the material. The fact some of the solutions aren’t that expensive doesn’t mean the insulation won’t be effective. Also, you will definitely spend more if you have to hire professional help rather than doing the insulation yourself.

Types of Insulation

There are many insulation types you can use but not all of them are an ideal solution for your home. So we will underline their benefits and potential problems that may come up if using the specific material just so you know what to expect. And when it comes to how much of a specific insulation you need to insulate the whole house or just parts of it, an advanced insulation calculator would help you get the precise information.

Spray foam insulation

Spray foam is one of the most used materials for insulation. It is chemical-based and it comes in a liquid form, but it changes into a firm structure once it's applied. The spray foam can be installed via a special sprayer, and the best thing about it is you can use it to insulate tight and unreachable spaces. The spray foam is usually recommended for colder climates, and the average cost of spray foam insulation per square foot is $1,5 to almost $5. It’s very resistant to mold and insects, and it has quite a good vapor barrier as well as water resistance. If you are wondering what are the disadvantages of spray foam insulation we can say it’s very difficult to insulate with spray foam on your own, and also it is quite an expensive insulation material option.

Fiberglass insulation

Among the best insulation for homes, there is fiberglass insulation, and it can come in different forms - fiberglass rolls, foil fiberglass, fiberglass boards, fiberglass bets, rolls, etc. Its benefits lie in the fact this material is fire-resistant, it has the ability to provide great reduction of heat transfer, and it is way more affordable than spray foam, for instance. The average cost of fiberglass insulation is $0.3 to $1.5 per square foot, and it can, in most cases, be installed in a DIY manner. Fiberglass batts are very easy to apply as a matter of fact. But regarding the cons of this material, fiberglass can be very dangerous if inhaled, and it is not the best option for extremely cold climates.

Mineral wool insulation

Mineral wool is the best insulation for homes in cold climates given it is a very high-density material with a high R-value. Also, it has the capacity of providing noise cancelation, which is the reason many people decide to use it as well. The third great benefit this material can brag about is the fact it is fire resistant, but not only that, mineral wool can slow down the spread of fire. On the downside, it is a very expensive insulation solution, more than fiberglass for sure, and its installation can be quite challenging, which is why it demands the input of professionals. Bear in mind that mineral wool comes in very few sizes, which is another difficulty when installing it.

Foam panel insulation

There are types of insulation materials that are suitable for both interior and exterior walls. One of them are foam panels many homeowners choose for the purpose of increasing their home insulation. They are made from polystyrene, polyurethane, or polyisocyanurate, and they will significantly reduce heat loss at wall studs and wood elements. This is not the ideal solution for metal building insulation, but it will do the work for regular homes, insulating every aspect of the structure, including the roof and floors.

Cellulose insulation

In case you are looking for the most eco-friendly insulation material, cellulose insulation is the answer given it is usually made from recycled denim and newspaper. It is very much affordable, in comparison to many other insulation materials available, it’s very easy to install, especially a loose-fill cellulose, and it can cover all the horizontal structural spaces and attic space so no air pockets are made. And even though it will put a stop to insects and vermin infestation, it runs a high risk of developing mold and mildew, more than any other insulation we know. Bear in mind this material is usually applied by professionals, but it can be done as a DIY project if we are talking about smaller surfaces.

Best Insulation Materials

Depending on what is in your main focus when thinking about insulation, and what is insulation used for, you can say for several insulation materials they are the best.

For instance, if you are all about safety then mineral wool is the best option for insulating your house. Usually, people who have children think about this aspect of insulation, and they are ready to pay more just so they can have a safe, besides well-insulated home.

If you have a tight budget, then fiberglass might be the best option. Not only do you have more than one option when it comes to the form this insulation comes in, but you can install it on your own and save some more on avoiding paying for professional installers. Also, fiberglass has a quite good R-value.

But in case a long-term investment is what is in your main focus, and you want to know how much you will save each year on electricity bills, spray foam is by far the insulation material you should choose. People who are all about the environment and its protection usually choose cellulose, while those living in noisy areas decide to invest in mineral wool given it can reduce the noise significantly, etc.

But it’s not always about insulting a home, people are adding insulation on their garages, pole barns, and other types of objects. So for instance, reflective bubble white foil is one of the ideal insulation solutions for non-livable structures like the ones we mentioned, because it has a clean white finish and it doesn’t need to be covered. Plus, it has a great vapor barrier and a high R-value, and it is 100% waterproof.

House insulation: The most effective insulation

When thinking about house insulation there are several segments you need to cover - energy savings, home comfort, and R-value. At least, those are the three most important aspects. So having in mind that spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose are the three mostly used insulation materials we made a comparison, and here are the results:

  • Spray foam has by far the highest R-value, which is crucial for homes in extremely cold climates. The other two options are pretty much the same when it comes to this aspect.
  • In the matter of home comfort and energy saving spray foam is again the best solution given it creates the best air seal and there won’t be much of a heat loss.
  • However, fiberglass and cellulose can be installed in a DIY manner while spray foam cannot, and these two are much more affordable, especially fiberglass.

Also, not every material is ideal for wall insulation, attic insulation, or floor insulation. You can use foam panels, fiberglass batts, or reflective bubble tube for walls, spray foam for attic and ceiling, and for floors specially designed under concrete insulation that will reduce heat loss by more than 50% and eliminate dampness and condensation in concrete.

Garage insulation: The most effective insulation

If you are in doubt about what is the best insulation for garage , know that people mostly use the same materials as they would in their homes. But in the case of a garage budgets are usually more limited, and some less expensive options become the best ones. Fiberglass is by far the most used material for garages, but reflective bubble white poly is also a great choice regarding all the parameters.

Besides that, it’s important to understand that garage doors represent a great insulation weakness because of their size, so we recommend you to insulate the door as well. The garage door insulation kit can be quite helpful - it adds to temperature control, it's easy to install, and it's an affordable solution.

Pole barn insulation: The most effective insulation

In the case of pole barns things are pretty much the same actually. Fiberglass is inexpensive and lightweight, but it is suitable only for indoor insulation. Spray foam is more durable and denser, but it is usually way more costly for insulating pole barns. And there is cellulose most people choose for this type of object because of its R-value. You can also go with a pole barn insulation blanket as an optimal solution given it has the capacity to reduce the load needed for cooling and heating the space.

Metal building insulation: The most effective insulation

The best insulation for a metal building can be spray foam because of its energy efficiency, but also because of its moisture barrier given spray foam will completely seal the object and prevent water from entering. Additional plus lies in the fact metal buildings are usually large open spaces so applying spray foam won’t be complicated and won’t take much time.

Another great option is using foil fiberglass - it’s the ideal material for metal buildings because of the way it is applied, because it gives a nice white facing that opens up a space and doesn’t need to be covered, and because its reinforced material with radiant barrier and class A fire rating.

But if you decide to install foam board insulation in metal building you won’t be wrong. It is a great option for both walls and roof of a metal construction given it provides continuous insulation, given it reduces thermal bridging, and since it meets most building codes.

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