Sometimes reducing your heating and cooling costs is as simple as the installation of a thin sheet. And let's face it, with energy prices likely to continue rising, this is a big part of your basic cost of living. There are many simple steps you can take to fend off those high energy costs, but few are as important as a good insulation system.
Radiant barrier insulation is a thin sheet of material installed to reduce summer heat gain and winter heat loss (and, therefore, heating and cooling energy usage). Aluminum, or sometimes some other similarly highly reflective material, is applied to various substrate materialscardboard, plywood, plastic film, kraft paper, or air infiltration barrier material, depending mostly on the ease of installation. The key here is the reflective material. Radiant barrier insulation reduces heat transfer because the reflective surface is does not allow heat transfer (also called decreasing emissivity). This keeps outside air from corrupting your air-conditioned or heated interior.
Radiant Barrier Insulation in Your Residential Attic
The most common application in a residence is in the attic. The attic is where you loose most heat in the winter, and often the most economical way to add insulation better to use a crawl space than tear down walls. The easiest way to install this insulation is to simply fasten it directly on top of your existing attic insulation (with the reflective side up.) The trick here is to allow water vapor to pass through so you don't end up with wet walls. The insulation then should either be a type that has holes or perforation, or it should not be tacked, glued, nailed and stomped wall to wall into place. The other way to install radiant barrier insulation is to drape it along the inside of the roof rather than on the floor. Because the reflective side will face out, this allows you the choice of material it is attached to, which will then sit on the interior of your attic wall.
New Home Construction
You will find that any good insulation plan has radiant barrier insulation built into the plan. But if you see those walls and roof going up and the insulation doesn't blind you, you might consider asking your contractor why this simple layer of added cost efficiency was not included. Or, better yet, ask beforehand. This type of insulation should be in your exterior walls and then either your roof or your attic floor. Radiant barrier insulation is simple, inexpensive, and can save you from those ever rising energy prices.