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Which Insulation Material Has the Highest R-Value?

It’s easy to overlook the insulation hidden behind your walls, above your ceilings and below your feet, but this feature of your home or business is the key to interior comfort and energy efficiency. If you’re thinking of adding more insulation to your home, be aware that you have many materials to choose from today.

Some are more efficient than others, which is reflected in the material’s thermal resistance rating, or R-value. If you want to maximize insulating ability in the least amount of space possible, it’s important to choose the insulation material with the highest R-value.

What Is R-Value?

R-value is the measurement of a material’s ability to resist the transfer of heat. The higher the R-value, the greater the performance of the insulation. Just how much you need for your residential or commercial building depends on a number of factors, such as your heating system and location. An insulation R-value chart or table can assist you with the calculation to ensure your attic or wall R-values are adequate for your particular zone.

Call (513) 341-8918 or contact us online today for expert insulation services in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. 

Does Higher R-Value Mean Better Insulation?

As previously mentioned, the greater the R-value, the better the insulation’s performance. That means that the higher the R-value, the better insulated your home will be. Especially if you live in a particularly cold environment or are planning to insulate a less-protected area of the home (i.e., basement or attic), it’s a good idea to select insulation materials with the highest R-value possible. This will help reduce the rate of thermal transfer and increase energy efficiency in your home.

What Is the Thinnest Insulation with the Highest R-Value?

While more expensive than many other insulation materials, Aspen Aerogels products are specifically engineered to offer the thinnest insulation at the highest R-value. The company’s unique insulation materials are so strong that a person lighting a blowtorch on one side won’t be able to light a match on the opposite side. Aerogel insulation is an excellent solution for construction, refineries, pipelines, and thin-gap thermal barriers.

R-Values for Each Type of Insulation

ENERGY STAR recommends different insulation levels based on where you live. Cincinnati, Ohio is located in Zone 4, a fact that could affect the type of insulation you choose. Here are the most common insulation materials listed in order of lowest to highest R-value:

  • Cellulose: Loose-fill cellulose is rated between R-3.2 and R-3.9 per inch, making it one of the least efficient insulation materials available. However, cellulose is inexpensive, environmentally friendly and easy to install behind finished walls. You only need four inches of R-3.5 cellulose in a wall cavity to exceed the recommended insulation level of R-13 for walls located in Zone 4.
  • Fiberglass: Available in batts, blankets, rolls and loose-fill, fiberglass is the most ubiquitous insulation material in use today. However, it offers relatively low R-values spanning R-3.1 to R-4.3 per inch. Fiberglass is usually installed between studs, joists and rafters in unfinished walls, floors and ceilings. A 12-inch-thick fiberglass blanket rated at R-4 is enough to reach the recommended insulation level of R-48 for attics located in Zone 4.
  • Spray foam: Two primary types of spray foam exist: open cell and closed cell. Open-cell spray foam is rated at about R-3.5 per inch while closed-cell spray foam is much more efficient at R-6.0 to R-6.5 per inch. Consider spray foam anywhere you need an air barrier as well as insulation. Opt for the closed-cell variety if you need an air barrier, vapor barrier and efficient insulation in the least amount of space possible.
  • Rigid foam board: Rigid foam insulation comes in various materials, including polystyrene (R-3.8 to R-5.0), polyurethane (R-5.5 to R-6.5) and polyisocyanurate (R-5.6 to R-8.0). Unfinished foundation and basement walls are typical applications for these boards, which only require two to three inches to achieve the recommended R-11 for basement walls located in Zone 4.

What R-Value Should You Choose?

The exact R-value you need to insulate your home largely depends on where you live and what part of the home you’re planning to insulate. In general, customers can adhere to the following rules according to where they live in the United States:

  • North/Northeast: Attic R49 – R60 | 2×4 Walls R13 – R15 | 2×6 Walls R19 – R21 | Floors & Crawl Spaces R25 – R30
  • Midwest/Southeast: Attic R38 – R60 | 2×4 Walls R13 – R15 | 2×6 Walls R19 – R21 | Floors & Crawl Spaces R25 – R30
  • South/Southeast: Attic R30 – R60 | 2×4 Walls R13 – R15 | 2×6 Walls R19 – R21 | Floors R25 | Crawl Spaces R19 – R25

Attics, floors, and crawl spaces typically demand more robust insulation materials while walls are fine to use mid-range insulation. Those living in the most extreme environments — whether extremely hot or cold — will also require stronger insulation in their homes. However, these needs will change depending on where in the home the insulation will be installed.

For example, homeowners in Texas can get away with insulating their crawl spaces with insulation materials at an R19 value. But Vermont homeowners require at least R25 material to insulate the same area in their home. Homeowners in both areas, however, can use insulation materials at R49 values to insulate their attics comfortably. Consult with an insulation expert to get the best recommendation for your home’s needs.

Insulation Installation for Maximum Efficiency

Just because the insulation packaging lists a particular R-value doesn’t guarantee it will perform at this level in the real world. To maximize thermal performance, the insulation must be installed correctly.

For instance, if loose-fill cellulose is compressed, it loses many of its air pockets and consequently the ability to insulate efficiently. Or if fiberglass batts have gaps between them, they won’t perform up to their potential R-value.

For these reasons, we recommend hiring a professional to install your insulation. Investing in a job well done ensures the energy-saving, comfort-boosting results you expect in the long run.

Insulation Installers in the Cincinnati, OH Area

Whether you know the type of insulation you want to install or you’re looking for tips based on your situation, Mooney & Moses Insulation can help. We’ll recommend the most cost-effective insulation proven to deliver the best return on investment. Our team also has experience providing quality installations to help you make the most of your purchase. With over 65 years of experience, you know you’re in good hands with Mooney & Moses!

Call us today at 513-341-8918 or contact us online to learn more about our insulation services.

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