Radiant Barrier Keeps Your Home Cooler in the Summer and Warmer In Winter!
It further reduces the load on your AC unit, reducing your electric costs. Several things to keep in mind about Radiant Barrier. How does radiant barrier work? The types of radiant barrier on the market. How is radiant barrier installed as proper installation is critical to gain the most benefits?
The original concept for radiant barrier came from NASA. During the inception of the space program, NASA needed to develop a space suit that would protect astronauts from the extremes in the vacuum of space. An astronaut, on a space walk, would be exposed to extremely high temperatures on the side of his body facing the sun, and extremely cold temperatures on the other side of his body. Insulation would help but not protect him from the radiant heat from the sun.
There are three different types of heat transfer- Conduction, Convection, and Radiation.
Conduction is the movement of heat with direct contact. If you pick up a hot pot, you feel the heat from the handle of that hot pot. The heat moved from the handle to your hand. Solids conduct heat better than liquids or gasses.
Convection is the movement of heat between a surface and a liquid or gas. The air above a hot stove is hot because heat is transferring from the hot stove to the air above it. Your hand feels the warmth of the heated air.
Radiation is the transfer of heat through an empty space. No medium necessary for radiant heat transfer. That is why the astronaut will be hot when facing the sun. Radiant heat from the sun is transferred to his body through the vacuum of space.
NASA found that a thin sheet of aluminum foil would perform the same as 7 feet of insulation. Obviously seven feet of insulation could not be wrapped around the astronauts, thus, the development of Radiant Barrier. Radiant barrier reflects radiant heat back in the direction from which it came. If held up to a radiant heat source, such as the sun, it will reflect the heat back toward the source, keeping the astronaut cooler.
The same situation can be achieved in your home. When radiant barrier is installed in your home’s attic, radiant heat is reflected back in the direction from which it came. In summer months, the sun heats up the roof, which radiates into the attic. With radiant barrier installed on the roof rafters, that radiant heat is reflected back out of the attic, keeping it cooler.
There are several types of radiant barrier on the market. Some are simple foil products, foil on some type of insulation such as bubble wrap, and multi-layer, perforated barriers that profess to be fire rated and mold and mildew resistant. So, which do you choose? That decision is almost taken out of your hands by recent developments and building codes.
Attics need to breath. A solid foil product installed on the roof rafters limits the ability of the attic to breath. Similarly if a solid barrier is installed over existing insulation, moisture is trapped in the insulation creating a perfect environment for mold and mildew growth. Perforated, multi-layer barriers thus, would eliminate those deficiencies. Perforated barriers allow the space on both sides of the barrier to breath, moisture to escape and still performs the original goal – reflect radiant heat. Fire rated barriers add further benefit, by slowing down the movement of fire, should one develop.
Proper installation is critical for the barrier to work. In warmer climates, where air conditioning is most prevalent, radiant barrier is installed on the underside of the roof rafters. That installation method keeps the entire attic cooler. Since most air conditioning ducts run through the attic, a cooler attic keeps utility costs down. In many instances, those ducts can be wrapped with radiant barrier, too.
In colder climates, practice dictates installing the barrier above the insulation in the attic floor. This is thought to reflect the heat energy back into the home, thus keeping it warmer in winter.
There are many companies promoting radiant barrier as the new green technology. Buyer beware! I’ve seen costs vary from $1.50 per square foot installed to $4.00 per square foot installed for the same home. Do your homework. Check out the company. Make sure the company and installers are licensed. Check with the Better Business Bureau for open as well as resolved complaints against the company and/or the installers. And don’t take the first price offer as gospel. Every in-home sales company has a huge haggle range. Get the price down under $2.00 per square foot installed and get the guarantee in writing Before you buy.
There are trade-offs depending on the type of home, insulation in the attic, climate zone, and intended goal. Many reports suggest radiant barriers will reflect 95% of radiant heat energy. That could lower cooling costs by as much as 20% or more. The verdict is still out regarding the reduction of heating costs.
In summary, radiant barrier installed in your home’s attic will cut cooling and heating costs. Know your home and attic configuration so you are on top of the installation process. Make sure you get a fire rated, perforated, multilayer barrier. And, get the installed price down.
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