Reflective insulation installed in an attic

Reflective insulation technology is finding its way into California homes to help homeowner’s fight rising energy costs and create a more comfortable environment. This technology is truly out of this world, but don’t worry – it’s NASA approved!

History of Reflective Insulation Technology

The technology has actually been around for nearly a century, but it got its big break in the 1950’s when MIT and NASA collaborated to develop a light-weight, flexible reflective insulation that could be used for space suits and satellites to protect against the extreme heat and cold temperatures found in space.

It is this collaboration from which Reflective Radiant Barrier was developed and is now used in homes and commercial properties around the world to increase energy efficiency.  It is a cost effective, long-term product that can have impressive results in cutting back your energy bills.

You have probably seen this technology used in day to day items. It’s the shiny foil layer that is used on the inside of thermos bottles or potato chip bags, silver car visors or Mylar blankets.

Its main purpose is to reflect radiant heat that travels through space. For example, a car visor will help keep a car cooler because it reflects the heat back out the windshield.  The military uses Mylar blankets for soldiers in desert zones to reflect heat away from an individual or in the cold to reflect body heat back to the individual.

What is Radiant Heat?

Radiant heat is the biggest form of energy gain or loss in the home.  In the summer, reflective insulation reflects heat that travels from the sun and into your attic, therefore keeping the attic and home cooler. In the winter as heat tries to escape from the home up through the attic, radiant barrier will reflect the heat back through the insulation and into the home, keeping the home warmer.

Radiant Barrier is most effective in the summertime as 70% of our heat gain in summer is radiant heat.  During the summers in Southern California your attic space can heat up to 140 to 150 degrees as radiant heat from the sun travels through the roof.  Proper application of Radiant Barrier can result in an attic space that is 20 to 30 degrees cooler and the interior of a home being 3-5 degrees cooler in the summer.

Studies have shown that with the right Radiant Barrier application, the AC unit can run 10 to 20 percent less than without the use of radiant barrier.  Since radiant barrier cools the attic space, AC duct work that is in the attic will not have to battle extreme heat in the attic and therefore will result in lower energy bills, in the extended life of the AC unit, and less maintenance.

In the winter, there is a 40 to 50 percent radiant heat loss through the attic. Radiant Barrier insulation will reflect heat back into the home and can help homes stay 3 to 4 degrees warmer during the colder months.

Varieties of Reflective Insulation

There are 3 types of Radiant barrier that are used in both residential and commercial applications:

  • Radiant Barrier Paint: This is a reflective radiant paint that is applied to the ceiling of an attic space or the ceiling of a commercial paint. This has the lowest reflective factor of any reflective barrier.
  • Reflective OSB Board: This is reflective plywood roof decking that is used under shingles. It has more effectiveness than the paint option.
  • Fabric Radiant barrier: This is the most effective radiant barrier application. It has the best reflective quality plus when applied along the attic ceiling rafters it creates a dead airspace that improves the effectiveness.

There are other important features of Fabric Radiant Barrier to be aware of:

Double Sided vs. Single Sided: Fabric Radiant Barrier insulation is available in both single sided and double-sided varieties.  The double sided radiant barrier is the preferred product to take full advantage of reflectiveness against the sun’s rays during the summer and to fight heat loss in the winter. If single sided radiant barrier is used, you will only get the summertime benefit.

Perforated vs. Non-Perforated: Radiant Barrier is also available in perforated and non-perforated options.  In attic applications here in Southern California, the perforated is the recommended solution.  It will allow any moisture to escape and therefore will resist possible mold or mildew.  A solid or non-perforated fabric can create condensation and drip into the attic floor creating the potential for mold or mildew in the home.

Aluminum vs. Mylar:  A true aluminum radiant barrier will not decompose or fail over time and is therefore the superior product for attic insulation purposes.  The Mylar radiant barrier products are Mylar that is sandwiched between a plastic coating that can delaminate and disintegrate over time.

Tinsel or tear strength:  Since this product is stapled or adhered to attic rafters it’s important that a good quality barrier be used to resist tearing from air flow in the attic space.

Reflectivity & Emissivity:  The higher the reflectivity value and lower emissivity value, the better. This is the basically the measure of how much the material reflects heat and how much the material absorbs heat.

Double sided Radiant Barrier fabric comes in long rolls and installed on the underside of the roof decking and stapled on the rafters. This creates a dead air space between the roof decking and the insulation which also serves as an insulator. The radiant heat that enters from the roof during the summer is reflected out of the attic space by the reflective insulation and the heat rising from the house in the winter will be reflected into the home.

Radiant Barrier Installation

Installation of Radiant Barrier can run anywhere from eighty cents to a dollar a square foot and around seventy-five cents for a quality double sided, perforated barrier fabric.

Radiant barrier insulation also

  • Meets Title 24 Building Codes
  • Is recognized by the US Department of Energy
  • Is Energy Star Certified
  • Is recommended by major utility companies: Southern California Edison, So Ca Gas, PG&E

So, when looking solutions to make your home more energy efficient be sure to consider Radiant Barrier to insulate your home.  It’s an outer space technology for your home here on earth. Contact our office to discuss options for your home or office.

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