The Pros and Cons of Today's Most Popular Insulation

Not all homes are created equal, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to home insulation. There are many factors to consider when selecting insulation, including climate, installation, cost, and product performance. When selecting the right insulation for your home, it's also important to pay attention to a product's thermal performance rating, known as the R-value. Many insulation options are appropriate for do-it-yourselfers, but be sure to educate yourself on proper installation methods and safety concerns before diving in; when in doubt, call a pro. Click through our gallery to learn more about the advantages and drawbacks of different types of insulation.

  1. Fiberglass

    Fiberglass Insulation

    The most common DIY solution, fiberglass batt and blanket insulation comes in rolls and is handy for fitting between standard joists and studs. Its widespread availability and price point make fiberglass a popular choice, but it's itchy to install yourself, and inhaling the fibers could be linked to cancer, so be sure to wear a mask and protective clothing.

  2. Mineral Wool

    Mineral Wool Insulation

    Rock or slag wool batt and blanket is a DIY insulation type that holds its shape and is more fire-resistant than similar fiberglass products. The insulation is also more environmentally friendly, with a recycled content up to 90 percent. This material can, however, foster mold if it gets wet, and inhaling its fibers can also be dangerous.

  3. Loose Fill

    Blown In Insulation

    If your attic has a lot of nooks and crannies, your best bet may be to use loose-fill insulation made of fiberglass or cellulose. Blown in place using a special machine, this insulation effectively fills gaps, but it can compress over time, losing effectiveness. Cellulose can perform better than fiberglass at very cool temperatures but is too heavy for some attics.

  4. Spray Foam

    Spray Foam Insulation

    Liquid sprayed-in foam offers a high R-value and can fit in supertight spaces when it dries hard, providing a perfect air barrier to keep your home cozy. This option can be more expensive than other insulation types and requires the help of a pro, but it can also cut down on other home weatherizing tasks, such as caulking.

    Wikimedia Commons

  5. Rigid Foam

    Rigid Foam Insulation

    Rigid foam panels help to slow heat transfer through structural elements like studs. Commonly made of polystyrene, polyisocyanurate, or polyurethane, these panels can be easily cut to size and wedged between beams or glued to surfaces so they won’t shift out of place. Rigid foam is, however, more expensive than batt and blanket insulation and more difficult to fit around obstacles or awkward corners.

  6. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

    Structural Insulated Panels

    These prefab panels can be installed in walls, ceilings, and floors. They're airtight structural elements, so they also help with noise reduction and can provide energy savings up to 14 percent. But they are also pretty pricey and are used mostly for new construction, with limited options for existing homeowners.

  7. Radiant Barriers and Reflective Systems

    Radiant barriers and reflective systems

    While most insulation systems work by reducing heat conductivity, radiant barrier insulation systems reflect heat away from the house. Traditionally used in warm climates, these highly reflective materials, such as aluminum foil, are installed on the underside of a roof and reduce radiant heat transfer from the sun, thus reducing cooling costs.

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