Fiberglass vs. Spray Foam Insulation

Insulation may be hidden behind the walls, but it plays a big role in keeping you comfortable all year long. 

The job of insulation is to keep the house warm during the winter and cool during summer. With heating and cooling accounting for about half of the energy used in the home, proper insulation can cut back on energy usage and save homeowners money. 

Keep reading for a comparison between two types of insulation: fiberglass and spray foam. 

Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is the more traditional form of insulation. This type of insulation comes in pre-cut rolls or blown-in loose fill. It works to regulate air temperature by trapping air inside tiny glass fibers, slowing the transfer of heat. 

Pros of Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is inexpensive to install when compared to other types of insulation. It comes in pre-made R-Values, and it maintains performance levels for an extended period of time. Fiberglass is also easy to install.

Cons of Fiberglass

Though commonly used and easy to install, fiberglass is not as effective as spray foam at maintaining comfortable temperatures. Fiberglass cannot fit into every crevice, which can allow for air leaks. This is especially true in colder regions.

Spray Foam

Spray foam insulation is newer than fiberglass and is becoming more popular in homes. Spray foam is installed by spraying a polyurethane foam into walls and ceilings. The foam expands to create an airtight seal. Spray foam can be used as the primary method of insulation or as a supplement to existing insulation.

Pros of Spray Foam

Since spray foam creates an airtight seal, it protects against pests, rodents, and mold, in addition to its insulating properties. It is more energy-efficient than fiberglass, sealing off any crevices so air cannot leak in. It also has a longer lifespan, because it does not break down or sag over time.

Cons of Spray Foam

Spray foam is more expensive than fiberglass. In addition, spray foam should be applied by a professional, which increases the cost even more. The installation process can be messy, so make sure you work with a professional who has experience with spray foam.

If you are ready for new insulation, speak with your contractor to determine what type is the best option for your home. 

 

What type of insulation do I need?

Insulation is needed in homes for many reasons: cost and energy savings, comfort, and even noise reduction. Depending on the climate where you live, the amount or type of insulation you need varies.

Insulation materials slow the flow of heat. In winter, it will slow the flow of heat from inside the home moving out, and in summer it slows the flow of heat from the outside in. The better insulation you have, the slower that flow will be, saving you on heating and cooling costs.

Insulation R-values refers to how much insulating power you need or have in your home. The higher the R-value, the more heat the material resists. The R-value is determined by the type of material used, the density, and the thickness.

The map and table below, from Insulation Institute, shows the insulation R-value needed based on location in the United States.

Zone Attic Wall Cavity Floor
1 R30 to R49 R13 to R15 R13
2 R30 to R60 R13 to R15 R13 to R25
3 R30 to R60 R13 to R15 R25
4 R38 to R60 R13 to R15 R25 to R30
5 R38 to R60 R13 to R21 R25 to R30
6 R49 to R60 R13 to R21 R25 to R30
7 R49 to R60 R13 to R21 R25 to R30
8 R49 to R60 R13 to R21 R25 to R30

 

“This map shows thermal recommended levels of insulation for various climate zones, based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The IECC is the model building code for the United States.” (insulationinstitute.org)

When building or renovating, consult with your contractor to determine what type of insulation is best for your home and location.

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