Building insulation can have a lot of applications, from sound- and vibration-proofing to fire insulation, but by far the most common use is for temperature control, particularly in homes. If you’ve ever been inside a historic home, you may have noticed how cold it gets at night, or how it traps heat and humidity in the summer, and that is because of a lack of modern insulation.
Today, there are several materials builders can use to insulate homes and they are often chosen by considering both cost and regional climate concerns. It protects your home from temperature fluctuations and increases energy efficiency in homes, but there are other benefits of insulation, too.
What Is Insulation?
At its most basic, insulation can be any material that is applied to a house’s walls to reduce the transfer of heat in or out of the home. It works the same way as a blanket, which traps your body heat inside so that you stay warm and the cold outside air doesn’t reach you as quickly.
Humans have been using forms of building insulation since prehistoric times — basically as long as they have been building dwellings. Materials that were historically used for insulation include:
- Animal pelts
- Wood or plant fiber
Some old houses even had newspapers lining the inside of the walls, though this is not particularly effective compared to other materials.
Modern insulations also include synthetic foams, glass wool, and denim, among other things.
What Is Important for Insulation?
The key consideration of what is important for insulation material is whether or not it will slow the transfer of heat significantly enough to maintain the temperature within your home. The R-value of an insulation material refers to its resistance to heat flow. This means the higher the number the more effective it will be at keeping warm air from escaping when it’s cold out, or getting in when the weather is warm.
How Does Insulation Work?
Heat naturally moves from warm areas to colder areas. In the case of your home in winter, this means heat from inside — that you are paying for!— will naturally try to seep out to the outdoors. This transfer can happen through the doors, ceilings, walls, floors, and windows, and it will keep your house temperature low. As a result, you will need to crank up the heating system, wasting your money. This process works in reverse, too, when summer’s heat tries to seep into the home you pay to keep cool.
Insulation works as a barrier that slows the transfer of heat. Like an animal’s furry coat, thermal insulation traps warmer air and stops it from leaving. To better understand how does insulation work, imagine picking up a hot beverage in a regular glass. You might burn your hand because the heat transfers quickly through the glass and to your hand. Now imagine picking up a hot beverage in a thermal travel mug. You’ll likely feel only the slightest warmth because the travel mug is designed to slow the transfer of heat, keeping the beverage warm inside and your hands safe on the outside.
Gas conducts heat more slowly than solids, so many of the materials used in modern-day insulation, like foams, retain air on a molecular level between the molecules of the material. The gas cavities formed here are what trap heat and reduce its transfer.
Why Is Insulation Important?
There are so many benefits of building insulation, but the main purpose of insulation is that it forms a protective barrier between you and the weather outside. Without insulation, cold nights could be dangerously cold and hot days would be unbearable. When heat seeps out of the floors, ceilings, and walls, it reduces the temperature inside, which puts undue strain on your HVAC system as you continually adjust the thermostat to try to warm up. With the proper thermal insulation, you can reduce this heat loss, or the summer’s heat gain, keeping everyone more comfortable while also increasing the energy efficiency in your home.
Even if you are still wondering why is insulation important, you should know that any new building has to have it, so it is a key part of the construction process. All modern buildings in the United States are required to have insulation, and the newer the construction, the higher the standard of insulating material that is required. There are also architectural designs and techniques that can help slow the transfer of heat, and sometimes these are referred to as insulation as well. This can include design concepts that make use of the sun’s natural warmth to heat a room, hanging thick curtains in winter months, or designing buildings with strong cross-ventilation for keeping a space cool in warmer weather.
When installing thermal insulation or designing homes for climate regulation, regional climates and weather patterns have to be considered. The insulation on a building in southern California does not have to stand up to the same frigid cold as the insulation in a house in northern Maine.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Insulation?
Insulation keeps your home’s climate under control. It helps you stay warm in the cold, and cool through a heatwave. By lessening the amount of heat seeping in or out, it reduces the strain on HVAC systems and will increase energy efficiency in homes. Energy efficiency is good for the environment: less energy being used means less fuel used to generate it and fewer pollutants released into the air. It’s also good for your wallet. The US Department of Energy estimates that 50-70% of a home’s yearly energy usage goes to heating and cooling, and proper insulation can help keep those costs from climbing.
But What Are Some of the Other Benefits of Insulation?
Insulation can also help regulate moisture in your home. By keeping your home’s temperature higher than the dew point, it decreases the likelihood that your building materials will trap condensation. Condensation and moisture can eventually lead to mold and mildew, which means costly home repairs in your future.
Insulation can help with reducing sound traveling, too. Sound travels in waves through the air, so the more material in its path, the more the sound is dampened on its way. Good insulation can keep conversations, footsteps, and TV sounds from permeating your entire home.
Good insulation can also increase the resale value of your home. If you’re looking to sell, especially within the next five years, having high-performing insulation can make a big difference. Because insulation helps increase energy efficiency, it also increases home value. Homes increase an average of $20 in value for every $1 saved in energy bills annually, so even as your high-performance home insulation saves you money on your energy bills, it will also increase your home value and earn you money when it’s time to sell.
When building or renovating a home, be sure to work with builders who use the highest quality insulation materials and who are experts in your regional climate. They can help you decide on appropriate insulation materials and climate-friendly designs to help maximize your comfort and energy efficiency in your home.
If you are in need of insulation in your home, contact us at Mornington Estates and get a hold of us today to speak with one of our employees to make sure your home has all the perfect amenities that meets all of your needs.