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Insulation & Energy Conservation

When you pack ice cream in a cooler or soup in a thermos, the goal is the same: slow heat flow so your food stays at the appropriate temperature for as long as possible. Insulating your home has the same effect, helping to keep cooled or heated air inside where you want it. But how does this work? How does insulation help conserve energy? Let’s break it down.

Insulation Slows Conduction

Conduction is when heat flows through an object. Some materials are more conductive than others, which is why a metal spoon placed in a cup of hot chocolate will heat up more than a plastic one.

Insulation is most effective at blocking this form of heat transfer. The extent to which it blocks conduction is called its thermal resistance value, or R-value. Usually, thicker and denser insulation has a higher R-value and is therefore better at insulating your home.

Insulation Slows Convection

Convection is the reason warm air rises while cool air sinks. In the winter, air heated by your furnace rises to the ceiling. Without insulation in the attic to block it, this heat would rise up and out of your home, increasing your energy bills. Insulation most effectively helps prevent convection when it densely fills building cavities, such as wall studs and floor joists.

Insulation materials that help slow conduction and convection are:

Radiant Barriers Block Radiation

Radiant heat flows in a straight line, warming anything solid in its path. A non-thermal form of insulation called a radiant barrier works to block this type of heat flow. Radiant barriers are reflective-coated films often installed on the underside of the roof or as the top layer of insulation on the attic floor.

The radiant barrier under the roof helps reduce the amount of radiant heat in the attic, and the barrier on the attic floor reflects heat away from the living space, thus helping to keep it cooler.

In the end, insulation is all about maintaining a temperature difference between the inside and outside without needing to blast the furnace in the winter or overwork your air conditioner in the summer. Now that you know how insulation helps conserve energy, you may want to add an extra layer to your home! Contact IBP Portland today for help deciding what type of insulation will work best for your new home or retrofit project.

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