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Understanding R-Values, Home Insulation, and Spray Polyurethane Foam

February 06, 2016

When we talk about home improvements, most of our focus is on renovating a kitchen, updating an aging bathroom, or adding an in-law suite in the basement. And while each project does add value to the home, they are mainly aesthetic. For some reason, homeowners don't give the same level of relevance to insulating a home - and they should. Home insulation actually brings many more benefits and rewards than practically any other home improvement project. A better understanding of home insulation would be helpful for many a homeowner. And here, a good place to start is with R-Value - this is an insulation rating that gauges the "heat loss" of the insulation material. For the typical residential homeowner, the equation is actually simple: higher R-Value means better insulation. It's not the only variable when insulating a home, but it's a good rule to follow when discussing product and installation choices with a contractor. "Heat loss" or "heat transfer" is more complex than just R-Value, so it's wise to be well informed, at least with the basics. And this is where a good insulation contractor can offer good advice on the various product options and installation techniques. Since every home is unique, the so-called "building envelope" has different challenges and therefore requires a different approach. For the professional installer, the main objective is to achieve peak product performance. In general, the more efficient an insulation product, the less is required to slow down the "heat transfer. It means that choosing the right insulation product is crucial to success. With an expert contractor on hand, the process is made easy: assessing R-Value needs; estimating the amount of product required; and evaluating overall project costs. Indeed, the installation may well involve installing a combination of products to ensure performance and cost effectiveness. Without getting overly technical, "heat transfer" involves a number of dynamics. Typically, indoor heat will flow out of the house in winter, and outdoor heat will flow into the house in summer. With low quality insulation, or a poorly installed space, seasonal "heat transfer" is bad news. And besides the general discomfort inside the home, energy efficiency is compromised, and the utility bills (both winter and summer) tend to be higher-than-average, and quite costly. Gaps and openings in an insulated space contribute dramatically to "heat loss". As it is, unwanted air movement and moisture collection will both compromise R-Value. On the other hand, a well-insulated space will effectively block air movement and prevent moisture accumulation. This will make for much improved energy efficiency throughout the home, better energy consumption in winter and summer, and reduced annual costs for natural gas and electricity. Given the negative impact of air movement and/or moisture collection, many insulation products do not ensure an airtight space where installed. However, Spray Polyurethane Foam is a product that does it all in one application: it seals a space airtight; it restricts airflow; and it effectively inhibits moisture. Indeed, the nature of the foam is to expand and fill every hole, gap and crack in a given space. No other insulation product can achieve this or even come close.

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