From: Chris Miller , Sierra Club Green Home, More from this Affiliate
Published March 18, 2014 07:31 AM

An insulation trifecta

A savvy do-it-yourselfer can come up with a dozen unconventional uses for insulation (spray foam as packing material, anyone?), which makes it tricky to find basic information online when you're just dipping your toes in to the DIY pool. Here is an introduction to the three basic types of insulation and their most common uses: blown-in, spray foam and batt/blanket insulation.

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1. Blown-in insulation

Blown-in insulation, also called cellulose or natural fiber insulation, is often made from recycled newspaper that has been treated with fire-retardant chemicals. This type of insulation is loose and fluffy, and is blown into spaces using a wide hose.

This kind of insulation is most often used when updating old homes. It's usually blown in to holes drilled in the tops of walls or blown across the attic floor — as long as the attic is vacant, not used as a living space. Blown-in insulation is great for adding extra insulation after a home has been built, because it will fit around pipes and wiring within the walls.

Blown-in insulation will eventually settle in the space, but is still very good for preventing heat loss or gain within a home, providing heat retention better than or equal to fiberglass batting.

2. Spray foam insulation

Spray foam insulation is made from polyurethane, which is also the basis of other foams found in furniture, car seats, and footwear. It is piped into a space, where it expands as it dries.

Spray foam insulation comes in two types: open cell and closed cell. Open cell insulation is less dense because the cells of polyurethane are still open. It's often used in interior walls because it provides an air barrier, but not a water vapor barrier. Closed cell insulation is much denser than open cell, and acts as a barrier against water vapor in addition to air.

Spray foam insulation is most often used to seal gaps in walls during the building process, because it provides an airtight seal. It can also be used to seal around window and door frames, but can get a bit messy if you’re not careful.

Spray foam is the most efficient form of insulation, but also the most expensive, so use it wisely. Look for soy foam insulation for the healthiest, non-toxic, and eco-friendly option.

3. Batt or blanket insulation

Batt and blanket insulation is made of spun fiberglass packed together in a mat, much like the cotton batting inside a quilt. The fiberglass is flame-resistant, though the insulation may have a facing made of paper.

Read more at SCGH.

Insulation image via Shutterstock.

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