By far the most common insulation type in use today is batts, or rolls, of fiberglass. Their popularity is mainly due to the fact that they are suited for the do it yourselfer. Most people are familiar and comfortable with this formulation. They work easily in standard spacing between studs. With simple cutting and fitting, batts are relatively simple to install. However their effectiveness relies on proper installation. More often than not, batt insulation gets wet, crushed or compressed. It is also common to find gaps in the batts. All of these scenarios dramatically reduce the benefit of insulation. When compared with other types of insulation, batts of insulation are usually the most cost effective option.
Rigid Foam or Foam Board
Rigid foam, or foam board, is usually made of Polystyrene, Polyisocyanurate or Polyurethane. It offers a high insulating value for relatively small thickness. It is often faced with an aluminum foil and most commonly used for roofing insulation. It may also be used to create and insulate duct work for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. This type of insulation can be comparatively expensive and is generally only used in specific applications.
Loose Fill or Blown In
Loose fill insulation mostly consists of cellulose, fiberglass or mineral wool. One of the many benefits of loose fill is that these materials are generally created from recycled materials though the percentages vary greatly. This type of insulation is generally blown in place, though some brands are poured in. It is generally a good option for adding additional insulation to an existing structure. Loose fill insulation performs very well around irregularly shaped areas as well as around, under and over obstructions.
It is important to note that loose fill installation will settle over time and lose some of its R value. This may prove particularly difficult in wall insulation of existing buildings.
There is also a continuing debate around the fire retardants and chemicals used in loose fill insulation. When possible, inhalation of any insulation should be avoided. Having your ductwork tested can help prevent dust from the attic and walls from being transported directly in the living space via a leaking duct system.
Spray foam insulation most commonly made of Polyurethane, Phenolic Cementitious or Polyisocyanurate. These materials are also commonly found in pillows and mattresses. This type of insulation generally comes in a kit consisting of a metal canister and a pressure wand or sprayer. This formulation applies quickly and expands to fill cracks. If properly applied, spray foam offers superior performance as a thermal barrier and, unlike most other insulation types, an air barrier. It also offers an additional benefit of resisting water intrusion which causes many other types of insulation to fail.
Spray foam insulation is great for floorboards, walls and attic rafters. It generally costs more than other types of insulation. Yet, when considering the added air barrier benefits, the additional cost may be offset. In addition, this type of insulation can also reduce construction times which could save a bundle.
Structural Insulated Panels
Structural insulated panels, also known as SIPs, provide very tight construction from an air boundary perspective, which makes a building more quiet and comfortable. Proper ventilation and fresh air exchange is a necessary consideration when building with SIPs because natural ventilation of the structure is virtually non-existent. This type of construction/insulation is can be used for walls and roofs. It has an industry reputation of providing a wonderfully tight thermal barrier when compared to more traditional batt insulation.
Insulation Cost Comparison Chart