Reflective Insulation: A Versatile Technology

Foil insulation, bubble foil insulation, and reflective foil all work the same way. By being reflective, they block radiant heat using radiant barrier technology. Conventional insulation does not work the same way.

Remember, there are only three modes of heat transfer; conductive, convective, and radiant. When you want to keep things hot or cold, there are two base classifications of products. The first group slows conductive and convective heat. Products in this class are fiberglass, mineral wool, and foam insulation.

Products that insulate for these two modes of heat transfers are noticeably thicker, because more product is better. Years of material advancements continue to change these products. For example to stop air movement, houses built around the turn of the century (1900) often incorporated paper and other materials in the walls to stop air movement. Today, it appears that spray foam insulation will be dominant heading into the future. These are advancements in material design.

The other group of products is comprised of various types of reflective insulation. This insulation uses radiant barrier technology to block radiant heat. All products on the market today should block 95% to 97% of radiant heat energy. Because reflecting radiant heat is a technology, thicker is not better. Foil insulation typically used in house wraps and attics has only a thickness of about two sheets of paper. Bubble foil which is primarily used in the other areas such as for wall insulation, crawlspace insulation, metal buildings, and barn insulation can be anywhere from 3/16" to 5/16" thick or more if used for duct wrap insulation.

This radiant heat blocking insulation is used heavily in other industries such as food packaging, aerospace, and automotive.  As new and better substrates are introduced to the market the product itself may change but the technology will not. The use of reflective insulation has continued to grow in the building materials sector and will continue as other industries realize how to use this versatile technology.

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