Radiant Barrier Insulation Blog - InsulationStop.com

  • Man's Early Insulation

    While a burning fire provided warmth, light and the ability to heat food, insulation in the form of animal hides gave Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, and other early humans the continual protection needed to survive freezing weather. Over 1.5 million years ago, humans lost much of their body when they became fully bipedal and lived on the flat African savannahs. After several million years of prolonged walking and running across the savannah, early humans experienced an evolutionary genetic process called natural selection that eventually replaced their hair with sweat glands necessary to regulate body temperature and prevent hyperthermia.

    Does This Coat Make Me Look Fat?

    Oxford University anthropologists Walter Bodmer and Mark Pagel have suggested that hair loss resulted when early humans developed insights into utilizing animal hides and wearing them to protect the body during freezing weather. Since rudimentary stone tools were needed to produce clothing made of tough animal skin (skinning an animal is not easily performed with bare hands), anthropologists think we may have started insulating ourselves with clothing made from animal skins after developing tools, leaving Africa over one million years ago., and encountering much cooler weather.

    Designer Rack Clothing--Who was the First Tommy Hilfiger?

    Because fibrous clothing deteriorates in tropical, humid weather, the oldest evidence found that substantiates early humans' ability to weave clothing from plant or animal fibers was found in Czech Republic and dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period, around 25,000 BCE. Early insulation for the body included animal hide clothing, shoes and accessories such as bone needles, and dye and bleaching technology that may have provided clothes with hierarchical meanings within a tribe.

    When the first anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) left Africa about 100,000 years ago, Neanderthals already inhabited parts of Europe and had developed both genetic and creative adaptations to survive the brutal cold of Earth's last glacial period. Neanderthals tanned hides, colored them with ochre staining and probably wore shoes made of tougher animal skins. Animals hunted by Neanderthals for their meat and hides include wild boar, mammoth, reindeer, elephants (straight-tusked) and an extinct species of wild cattle called aurochs.

    Otzi, the Well-Dressed Ice Man

    Otzi the Ice Man is a mummified Neolithic corpse possibly 5300 years old who was discovered in 1991 buried on a mountainside in the Italian-Austrian Alps. What's fascinating about Otzi is the type and amount of insulative clothing he wore--a goat and deer-hide jacket, a loincloth, leggings, a cape made from bark and Alpine grass, a bearskin hat and shoes composed of goat and bear skin insulated with hardy grass types.

    Home Sweet Home

    Anthropologists speculate that Homo heidelbergensis may have been the first Homo sapiens to construct a simple shelter from natural objects such as plants, rocks and wood. Evidence about 400,000 years old from the Terra Amata site in France suggests that these early homes were large and elongated enough to house extended families. Previously, shelters had consisted of caves, cliff over hangings or simple hearths perhaps protected by large rocks surrounding one or more fires.

    Energy Efficient Inuit Homes

    Descending from the Thule culture who crossed Siberia and emerged in western Alaska around 1000 BCE, the Inuit relied on driftwood, bones and animal hides to create homes called tupiq that were insulated and tough enough to withstand the bitter Artic cold. Temporary shelters made from snow and ice called iglus offered protection from the elements outside a permanent settlement.

    Animal skins also provided the Inuit with footwear, leggings and parkas sewn with bone needles and sinew. Bearded seal skin or caribou boots kept their feet from suffering frostbite when hunting or fishing in subzero weather.

    Could We Survive an Ice Age Today Using Early Forms of Insulation?

    Maybe. However, most of the animals hunted for clothing and shelter thousands of years ago are extinct. In addition, many creatures with the types of skins required to give us the insulation we would need to survive 5000 years of below normal temperatures, raging blizzards and ice sheets have dwindled in numbers so drastically that there wouldn't be enough of them to provide the billions of people living on Earth with enough insulation to live as successfully in the wild as our predecessors.

  • How Aluminum Foil Insulates

    Many insulating materials come with a layer or multiple layers of aluminum foil. In fact a basic radiant barrier can function properly with a single layer of aluminum foil. Given that metals conduct heat rather well, especially aluminum, it might seem strange to use it as an insulating material. Here's how it works.

    Heat Transfer Basics

    Heat is really a measure of the energy of the atoms in a material. The more energy they have the higher the material's temperature. This energy is transferred in three ways: by conduction, convection, and radiation (and don't forget that heat always flows away from its source, from hot to cold.)

    Conduction happens when thermal energy is transferred through a material. When atoms are tightly packed, as they are in a solid metal, the energy moves easily.

    In a gas the atoms have more space, and the energy moves more slowly. That's why bubble materials are effective like down in a winter coat, which creates similar micro-air pockets - they slow the rate at which heat moves.

    Convection takes place when a liquid or gas expands. This makes it less dense and it rises, letting cooler fluid take it's place. That's why we say that heat rises.

    This leaves us with a puzzle: how does heat from the sun reach us through the vacuum of space?

    The answer is as light, both visible and invisible, or infrared. The sun radiates light, some of which passes through the earth's atmosphere to be absorbed by plants, soil, water, and so on.

    Absorbing Radiant Energy

    Some materials absorb light, and hence energy, better than others. A shiny material like aluminum tends to reflect a lot of heat while wood and concrete absorb a much higher proportion. That means aluminum is slow to warm up when exposed to radiant heat.

    Re-radiating, or emitting

    Everything that absorbs heat tends to give it off again. (Stand near a brick wall that's baked in midday sun and you'll feel the heat being radiated.) And just as some materials reflect better than others, some radiate heat better. This property of being a heat radiator is termed emissivity and it's given a value from 0 to 1.

    (Scientifically speaking, emissivity is the ratio between how much heat a material emits and the amount emitted by a 'perfect' emitter, otherwise known as a black body.)

    Iron and steel are quite good emitters and have emissivity numbers in the region of 0.5. (This is why they glow red hot when heated in a furnace or by a welding torch, they are radiating heat.)

    Aluminum has an emissivity of around 0.04. That means it radiates very little heat away from its surface, which is one reason why radiators aren't made from aluminum!

    Insulating with Foil

    Aluminum foil can be an effective insulating material because it doesn't radiate heat out into the environment. That's what makes it effective directly under a roof: although it will warm up through conduction from the shingles, it won't radiate that heat out into the attic space. In HVAC applications for example, the foil blocks heat from entering or escaping keeping the temperature where it is wanted inside the ducts. This same concept is used in many other residential and commercial applications.

    And that's how foil insulates.

  • Garage Door Insulation - Reflecting the Heat

    Garage Door Insulation TexasIs your garage insulated? If you are a typical homeowner, you've probably thought about insulating your garage to keep it warmer in cold weather (with the assistance of a small heater) but didn't want to spend the money or time on something you really only need a few months out of the year.

    Alternately, homeowners living in southern states have to cope with hot, stuffy garages all the time. Depending on the size of a garage, the cost of insulating the walls and ceiling could reach $1000 or more. Then you have the skin and respiratory irritations caused by fiberglass insulation, as well as the depressing thought of spending an entire weekend cooped up in a sweltering (or freezing) garage.

    Actually, It's the Garage Door's Fault

    Forget about insulating your garage walls and ceiling because it's not their fault your garage is uninhabitable--it's actually the garage door's fault for allowing most of the heat and cold into the garage. But the good news is you can insulate your garage door with an inexpensive, low-profile, easy to install type of insulation that is impervious to moisture and capable of repelling even the most intense UV rays.

    Reflective Insulation Will Make You Fall In Love With Your Garage Again

    In addition to allowing you to reclaim your garage, reflective insulation also provides these benefits:

    • Reduces energy bills in the home by keeping the garage temperature moderated (attached garages share a wall with the home)
    • Maximizes the efficiency of temperature-sensitive appliances in the garage (washers, dryers, refrigerators)
    • Makes the garage a more pleasant work environment (for vehicle repairs, big projects)
    • Reduces the level of outside noise
    • Contributes to a warmer garage in the winter and a cooler garage in the summer
    • Reflective insulation is quick to install and much easier on your wallet than fiberglass or "blown" insulation

    For homeowners living in steamy, southern climates, reflective insulation on garage doors not only keeps garages nice and cool but can help minimize infestations of insects or rodents seeking overly warm, dank conditions to raise more pests.

    Installing garage door insulation is the key to maintaining a comfortable temperature in your garage, regardless of the climate. Because reflective insulation has an aluminum layer on both sides, it works to prevent radiant heat from penetrating solid objects by powerfully reflecting it away from whatever it is insulating--specifically your garage door and garage.


  • Customer Project: Insulating Exhaust Line for Portable AC Unit

    Sometime in early March a customer called in looking to see if InfraStop® would work for his DIY project. P.J. in Boca Raton, Florida wanted to insulate the exhaust line on his interior air conditioning unit. The exhaust line was very warm and he was concerned that although he was cooling his bedroom, the exhaust line was making it harder for the air conditioning unit to do its job.

    We explained to him this is why InfraStop® is so effective for duct wrap insulation and in related HVAC applications. Even though his project was small, the principle was the same. He needed to control the radiant heat escaping the AC unit's exhaust line and keep it from entering his conditioned space, in this case his bedroom.

    P.J. was a little skeptical that our insulation would work as well as we explained so we decided to send him a roll at no charge in agreement that he would send pictures of his project and let us know how our material worked whether good or bad.

    We did our part and P.J. did his and now has a much cooler exhaust line on his interior AC unit. Take a look at the pictures and project narration he sent back to us. We love to see the difference in the thermometer. Thanks P.J!

  • Insulation for Portable Shipping and Cargo Containers

    Shipping and Storage ContainersIntermodal containers are more commonly known as shipping or cargo containers. These rugged and long lasting portable containers are waterproof and can be locked, making them perfect structures for short or long term storage.

    Because of their durability and flexibility, portable containers are used in many different applications other than their original purpose to transport material across waterways on container ships.

    Now, they are being used for jobsite or residential storage. Moving and storage companies like Pods® and others rent and sell them. Common uses in the agricultural sector include greenhouses, feed storage, and raising honey bees to name a few. The modular flexibility allows shipping containers to be used in permanent housing which appears to be a growing trend. Another trend is doomsday preppers who are purchasing containers at a rapid rate and burying their accumulated belongings in them.

    Regardless of what the shipping containers are used for the overall concern is the same, to protect the possessions and belongings inside. As good and versatile as metal storage containers can be, they function like metal buildings and therefore have two potential drawbacks. The first is heat gain and the second is condensation.

    Heat gain is straight forward. Metal is an excellent conductor and if the container is exposed to the sun, the metal will get much hotter than the air temperature and this radiant heat will be absorbed and passed right into the interior space potentially making conditions unbearable for occupancy. Excessive heat can also have a negative effect on goods and materials designed for storage.

    Condensation can also be a concern in many locations and climates, just like it is in metal buildings and barns. Condensation is harder to diagnose in most cases as buildings that do condensate or sweat only do so in certain seasons when the conditions are right. These conditions are typically either: warm, heated, moisture rich interior air contacting a cold metal roof in winter months or cool, moisture rich interior air contacting a hot roof in the summer months. If moisture has accumulated once, it will accumulate again potentially damaging possessions inside.

    Thankfully, the same InfraStop® foil insulation used in metal buildings and barns can be used in portable shipping containers to prevent both radiant heat transfer and condensation. Insulating with InfraStop® allows you to keep your container cooler in the summer months and warmer in the winter months if you are heating the inside. A more consistent temperature is much better on goods and materials than large temperature fluctuations.

    Regarding condensation and moisture, InfraStop® bubble insulation is a vapor barrier when correctly installed which includes taping the seams. This prevents moisture rich interior air from contacting the metal. The reflective layers of the insulation reflect any absorbed radiant heat which a typical non-reflective vapor barrier cannot do. The result is a conditioned space and a buffer zone of trapped air, an ideal insulator in itself.

    Traditional insulations such as blow in-in cellulose or spray foam can be used as well. These types will do well in insulating but will not be as effective in blocking radiant heat or preventing condensation. Traditional insulation types are also much more costly to use and are be difficult to remove and are not reusable. Typically, they only make sense if the shipping container is to be used for permanent habitation by people.

    InfraStop® insulation is a natural choice in this environment as reflective insulation is the insulation used in the shipping and packaging industries. The difference here is where it is installed. Instead of covering the material inside the shipping container as it would if a container ship was out to sea, InfraStop® can easily be installed on the walls and ceilings effectively doing the same job to protect the interior. Another benefit of InfraStop® is that it can be removed and reused very easily if needed.

  • Updated Handbook: Understanding and Using Reflective Insulation, Radiant Barrier, and IRCC's

    How does a radiant barrier work? Will reflective insulation work in my barn? What is an interior radiation control coating?

    All of these questions and more can be answered by reading RIMA's handbook, Understanding and Using Reflective Insulation, Radiant Barrier, and Interior Radiation Control Coatings. RIMA or the Reflective Insulation Manufacturer's Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to the research, knowledge and use of reflective insulation, radiant barriers, and IRCC's.

    Reflective Insulation Basements - Rima 2014This is the third update to this handbook since its introduction in 1999. The handbook is designed to provide users with a working knowledge for using reflective materials. Readers can understand the concepts and terminology of reflective insulation and discover the physics of reflective technology as well as learn about the different materials, applications, and installation procedures between the different technologies.

    Whether you are looking to add a radiant barrier to your attic, insulate your basement wall, or work with radiant barrier paint (IRCC), this handbook is an important read for anyone who wants to better understand reflective insulation.

  • The Benefits of Using Reflective Bubble Insulation for HVAC Insulation

    HVAC Duct Wrap InsulationToday's HVAC systems are engineered for optimal energy efficiency. At the same time, the ductwork that transports conditioned air hasn't been updated for many years. Ductwork provides no insulation value for warm or cool air between the HVAC unit and the room that the air is transferred to.

    As the conditioned air travels through the ductwork, up to 30 percent of it can escape through inadequately sealed joints and holes. In addition, the conditioned air loses its temperature. The end result is lower energy efficiency, increased utility expenses and reduced indoor air comfort.

    Insulating buildings or homes with reflective bubble insulation is the ideal solution for this waste of energy. This duct wrap insulation provides up to an R-8 value by reflecting convective heat and radiant heat. Using this type of HVAC insulation around ducts helps prevent air leaks and increases the efficiency of the ductwork. There are also other advantages of reflective bubble insulation. When compared to other types of duct wrap insulation like fiberglass, this HVAC insulation is easy to install with its flexible and lightweight characteristics.

    It can be easily cut and glued, nailed or stapled into place. It's safe to handle and requires no special breathing equipment or clothing. Use it for both hot and cold extreme temperatures. This HVAC insulation also functions as a vapor barrier and its performance is not affected by moisture.

  • InfraStop® Window Insulation - Keeping Things Cool

    This post may very well be one of our favorites. A customer contacted us about using InfraStop® as window insulation. CK was using shipping boxes from FedEx® to keep his home office cool in Vancouver, Canada. The details of his project are as follows. CK's home office is a small den measuring approximately 200 square feet with a west facing 8' x 10' window wall. His comments are below in italics.

    "Just wanted to say thanks very much. This product works very well in keeping the heat out. From the photos you will note that earlier I had used FedEx® boxes on windows to keep the heat off and the temperature at the windows (this is May in Vancouver, Canada) and is reading almost 40°C (104°F). But in the peak of summer last year the temperature would touch 47°C to 50°C (116°F to 122°F) at the windows and inside of the room was unbearable. This is a small office since I work from home and with 33°C to 35°C (91.4°F to 95°F) in the room it would be simply unbearable to work between 3pm to 8pm and even after the sun went down the temperature of the room would still be 29°C (84.2°F) when the outside temperature would be 22°C (71.6°F).

    "I placed the InfraStop® last week and waited for the full force of the sun on the windows. Surprisingly and for the first time since last year I was able to work comfortably in my office with room temperature now between 24-25°C (75.2-77°F)."

    "I have also placed this on bedroom window which had similar issue and now it's cool as ever! Thanks again."

    Click on the link to read another post about the benefits of using InfraStop® foil insulation for window insulation.

  • Garage Door Insulation - Indoor Gym - Metal Roll Up Door

    What do you do when you love basketball and have competed at a higher level? Why you build an indoor basketball court and home gym of course as one of our customers recently did. "KJ" called us from Washington state inquiring about insulation for his metal roll up garage door in his indoor gym.

    When he told us that he built an indoor basketball court for himself, our curiosity being Indiana natives was aroused. Check out these images to see the building, basketball court, and roll up door insulated with InfraStop® double bubble white insulation.

  • Determining Roof Pitch and Pitch Factor for Ordering Reflective Insulation

    Diagram of Various Roof Pitches in BuildingsUnlike traditional insulation that is installed in attic floors to keep heat inside buildings, many times radiant barriers and reflective insulation are installed at the roof line for the first line of defense to keep overhead heat out.

    In residential construction, a radiant barrier traditionally is installed under the roof joists from inside the attic. For commercial or barn insulation, reflective insulation can be installed from the outside both over and under purlins or from the inside between the trusses below the purlins.

    Simply taking the square footage (building width x length) is not enough to give an accurate material measurement. It is important in all roofline applications to understand the roof pitch and its corresponding pitch factor. Using these calculations will ensure you have enough material.

    To determine roof pitch or slope we are back to mathematics and linear equations. Do you remember y = mx + b? Thankfully roof pitch can be derived another way. Regardless of what method you use some basic measurements are required. Remembering that slope or y = mx + b is equal to rise over run we must find two solid measuring points.

    For true slop this would be best determined on an unfinished roof deck or atop the trusses. Shingles and metal roofing materials can change the measurements but for ordering insulation this degree of accuracy is not required.

    To quickly determine rise, record the dimension from the top of the ridge down to bottom of the truss in a barn or commercial building. In a residential attic, record the measurement from the top of the ridge to the top of the floor joist or attic floor. To determine run, take the building width and divide by 2.Roof Pitch Factor - Measuring How Much Insulation

    We now have the rise and the run but there is one more step to determine pitch. In construction, the roof run is always measured by a unit of 12 so whatever the two measurements are the run needs to be expressed by 12.

    Let's run through an example to demonstrate. We have a barn that we want to insulate and the measurement from the roof peak to the bottom of the truss is 12' and the building width is 36' wide. Following the dimensions above, we know the rise is 12 feet. To determine run, divide the building width by 2 which gives a dimension of 18'. We have determined the rise to be 12 and the run is 18. This is represented in a fraction.

    12/18 can be expressed as 24/36 which can be expressed as 8/12. This building's roof has an 8/12 pitch. Notice the fraction is converted to express the run in a unit of 12.

    Once the pitch is determined we use the chart to find the pitch factor. The pitch factor is the amount the square footage (width x length) needs to be multiplied by to take into account for the roof pitch. Let's use the same example from above and say the building is 60' long.

    To get total square feet, multiply the width (36) x the length (60) = 2160. Looking at the pitch factor chart we see the factor for an 8/12 roof is 1.2. 2160 x 1.2 = 2,592.

    2,592 square feet of insulation would be required to cover our example 36' x 60' barn with an 8/12 roof.

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