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Understanding Reflective Insulation: Conversing with a Customer

We are always happy to speak with our customers.  In doing so, we gain an insight into what questions they have regarding using our insulation in their applications.

After enough conversations, a specific theme appears.  For many, unfamiliar with heat transfer concepts, they want to understand exactly how this insulation will help them.  Maybe a friend recommended the product or maybe they have found their way into reflective technology on their own.  They know they have an application where insulation will help but they just don’t know exactly how.

This blog post is designed to outline the basic principles behind reflective insulation and how it can help you in your projects.

First and most basic, reflective insulation blocks the transfer of radiant heat.  Radiant heat is a primary source of heat transfer in a home.  There are only three modes of heat transfer.  Most insulation deals with slowing or trapping conductive or convective heat.  Reflective insulation works in blocking the third type radiant heat.  But what does this mean to you?

It means there are inexpensive materials available that can help control the comfort in your home and save you money on your utility bills.  How can reflective foil insulation do this?

Remember, heat always flows from hot to cold.  Here’s an example of how to use a radiant barrier, a class of products primarily used in residential attics.  Your home located in Las Vegas, Nevada gets extremely hot in the spring, summer, and fall months.  Your home is older so there is not a radiant barrier installed.  As the sun heats up the roof deck, this heat is radiated down (hot to cold) into the living space.  The installation of a radiant barrier would reflect this heat back into the roof deck and outside not allowing your attic to heat up as much.  This reduces the heat transfer to your living space.  You in turn will be more comfortable.

More importantly is when you choose to turn on your air conditioning.  Now, you are spending money.  Your air conditioning has to work harder to keep your home cool when your attic temperatures are high.  There is more radiant heat transfer.  Lowering your attic temperatures by installing a radiant barrier will decrease the amount of heat transfer and your air conditioning system will work less and you will save money.

Here is another example from a cooler climate using foil bubble insulation, a different class of reflective products.  Let’s say your home is in Chicago and you have in-floor radiant heat between your floor joists with either a basement or crawlspace underneath.    In the heating seasons, the heat is running almost continually.  The heat emitted from the installed radiant system is transferring heat in all directions.  Again, as heat goes to cold, a large majority of this heat will wind up in the basement or crawlspace.  Installing foil insulation in between or on the bottom of the floor joists will reflect this heat back towards the floor where it is most effective for you.  This causes your heating system to work less, saving you money.

These two examples should help in understanding how our reflective insulation works for you in both comfort and energy savings.  You will notice these examples showed two completely different climates.  Once you understand how the product works you can apply this knowledge to your project which is always governed by your local climate.  You will notice most southern climates use reflective insulation in attics to stop the sun’s heat where northern climates utilize reflective technology in floors, under slabs, crawlspaces, walls, and ductwork to stop the loss of mechanical heat that you pay the heating company for.

Hopefully this post helps you understand how heat is transferred and how you can control this process by utilizing the correct materials in an effort to save on your energy costs and increase your comfort within your home or building.

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