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Loose Fill Insulation
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement
What is loose-fill insulation? Loose-fill insulation, also called
"blown-in" insulation, is usually made from cellulose, fiberglass,
or rock wool. It is generally used in new constructions and in older
existing homes, typically in hard-to-reach areas. If properly
installed, loose-fill insulation can offer more complete cavity
coverage than other forms of insulation, because the fibers can fill
around wires, piping, and other obstacles. Special equipment is used
to fill building cavities with the small fluffy particles in which
loose-fill insulation is broken down into.
• Cellulose Loose-fill Insulation: Made from recycled wood fiber,
primarily newspaper, (newsprint and boxes). The fibers of cellulose
insulation are much finer than fiberglass. Takes on liquid-like
properties that let it flow into cavities and around obstructions.
Unlike fiberglass and rock wool, cellulose completely fills walls
and seals every crack and seam. Requires less energy to produce. It
is inexpensive, nontoxic, safe from fires, environmentally friendly,
effective, and highly energy efficient.
• Fiberglass Loose-fill Insulation: Made using sand and recycled
glass cullet. The glass cullet is usually melted in high-temperature
gas furnaces. This is the most commonly used insulation material.
Also, it outperforms most other materials in R-Values.
• Rock Wool (or slag wool) Loose-fill Insulation: Made from blast
furnace slag that is a byproduct of steel production. By-products
are sometimes recovered from landfills and other materials that
would otherwise be wasted.
Loose-fill insulation is a wonderful way to insulate hard to reach
areas including enclosed cavities such as walls or unenclosed spaces
such as attics. Areas with irregular shapes and obstructions, such
as plumbing stacks, can easily be insulated with loose-fill.
Loose-fill is one of the few insulating materials that can be
installed without disturbing existing fixtures. However, new
constructions tend to use other forms of insulation because special
equipment isn't needed for installment.
Insulation is determined by its R-value. R-value measures thermal
resistance. It is important to know that the thicker the insulation
is, the higher the R-value. However, R-value is also determined by
material and weight. Keep in mind, certain loose-fill insulations
installed will lose some of their installed R-value over time
because of settling.
Before You Install Insulation
Poor insulation and air leakage are the top two reasons for energy
waste. Even the newest of homes can benefit from insulation. Areas
that require major insulation attention include attics, basement
walls and ceilings, unheated floor spaces, exterior walls and crawl
spaces. Before you decide to insulate these areas, certain elements
must be carefully examined.
Insulation will not be as effective until you control all of your
homes air leaks. Many of these leaks exist within the attic.
However, an air leak can exist in any opening between your walls and
floors. A professional insulation contractor can assist you in
locating some of these hard to find air leaks. Ventilation is
another important factor to consider before insulating. Ventilation
is essential because it relates to moisture control and indoor air
pollution. Keep these aspects in mind before you begin to install.
In addition, vapor retarders and air retarders are also recommended
during insulation installments. A vapor retarder is a membrane which
is placed between the insulation and the roof deck to retard water
vapor in the building from entering the insulation and condensing
into liquid water. When adding insulation to a ceiling structure
check to see it you currently have vapor retarders installed. If
not, consult an insulation manufacturer and your building code
official for recommendations on where to place a vapor retarder.
Air retarders reduce energy loss by controlling air flow and
preventing heated or air-conditioned air from escaping through the
building shell. It also blocks drafts of hot or cold outside air.
These drafts are responsible for reducing your home's comfort and
heating or cooling efficiency.
Generally, loose-fill insulation is cheaper than batts or blankets.
The cost also depends on the material selected and the R-value. On
average, loose-fill insulation is about 1.2 cents (installed) per
square foot for cellulose and rock wool, and 1.3 cents (installed)
per square foot for fiberglass.
Insulation, particularly fiberglass, can be harmful if is breathed
in and may irritate skin. For these reasons it is important to use
rubber gloves, wear loose long-sleeved shirts and seal gaps between
shirts and gloves. All skin must be covered! This especially
includes your face and eyes. Make sure to wear a particle mask and
something over your head. Also, if you are working in the attic, be
careful not to fall through dry wall. Placing plywood planks across
the floor will assist you in moving around more smoothly.