Does Fiberglass Still Make Sense?
Maybe, but other types of insulation offer installation advantages that make them more reliable.
Synopsis: This article takes a close look at the various insulation choices (batts, blow-in, and spray) and discusses their pros, cons and costs. There is significant talk about air infiltration, the hazard it poses, and the best ways to insulate to avoid it.
Jim Remick gave up on those familiar rolls of fiberglass insulation years ago. The Portsmouth, N.H., insulation contractor has built three specialized trucks at $100,000 a pop to apply sprayed-in foam insulation, and he dabbles with blownin fiberglass and cellulose. In Remick’s opinion, batts are probably the least efficient thermal insulation a homeowner can choose. “We stay away from them,” he says. “We just don’t believe in the product.”
Representing roughly three-quarters of all residential insulation, fiberglass batts are easy to install, are good thermal insulators, don’t burn (although their facings do), and are widely available. They’re also relatively cheap, and nagging health questions are being put to rest.
So what’s the problem? In a nutshell, airflow. Scientists who study how heat, air, and moisture behave inside buildings say insulation plays a major role in keeping a building dry and its occupants healthy. Batt insulation doesn’t do its job when installed wrong. And batt insulation is easy to install wrong. Many insulation contractors make a tidy living from retrofits, fixing houses not properly insulated in the first place.
With as much as 70% of residential energy consumption spent on heating and cooling, insulation choice can have huge financial implications. It’s not merely a question of cost for installation, but how much money insulation can save through lower energy bills.
Insulation can be divided into four families: batts, blown-in varieties, sprayed-in foam, and rigid panels. Installed costs range from less than 50¢ to more than $2.50 per sq. ft. R-values, the standard…