While there’s a lot to love about watching the seasons change, a change in temperature inevitably affects the temperature within the household. Luckily, homeowners can equip their homes with radiant barrier insulation to mitigate the effects of extreme temperatures, while saving a bit of money, too.
A radiant barrier is a type of insulation that is typically installed in a home’s attic space. The barrier consists of aluminum foil that’s highly reflective to act as a barrier to extremely high or low temperatures that would otherwise affect the temperature within the home.
Follow along as we explore the many radiant barrier benefits.
#1 Radiant Barriers Are a Safe Addition to Your Home
If you’re worried about potentially adding unwanted elements to your home, adding a radiant barrier is a smart choice. They’re non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. There’s also very little chance of coming in contact with a radiant barrier on a daily basis, as most insulation is installed within the house’s internal framework or within the attic.
However, if you choose to install your own radiant barrier, there are a few safety precautions you must keep in mind:1
- Time installation according to the season – Your best bet is to install radiant barriers during the spring or fall. The mild temperatures create a safe environment for installation without the risk of heat gain or heat loss while spending long periods of time in the attic. However, hiring a professional for insulation installation can be done at any time of year.
- Use the right tools – Be sure to equip yourself with the proper tools. You’ll need a staple gun, a utility knife, and measuring tape. To stay extra safe, guard your eyes against flying objects with safety glasses. A pair of work gloves and a dust mask will also mitigate the risk of any external or internal injuries.
- Ask for help – In most cases, radiant barriers are installed within the high-up scaffolding of a home’s internal framework. As such, it’s best to work with another person to avoid any ladder-related accidents.
Even if you hire a handyman (or two) to install your home’s radiant barrier, stay cautious of your surroundings during the installation to avoid any injuries.
#2 Radiant Barriers Reduce Heat
Most radiant barriers are applied to the home’s internal attic framework and function much like a shiny car windshield sunshade—they reflect the heat flow away from your home.
Typically, heat spreads throughout the home through radiant heat transfer, a highly efficient type of transfer akin to the heat waves of a microwave.
During radiant heat transfer, hot molecules heat up the first surface they come in contact with. Heat then radiates outward from the surface, enveloping the room with increased temperatures that’ll have you racing to turn on the air conditioning unit.
A radiant barrier acts as a shield to the sun’s scorching rays, keeping the home nice and cool, even on the hottest summer days. But how exactly does a radiant barrier achieve such a feat? Through reflectivity and emissivity:
- Reflectivity – A radiant barrier’s reflective aluminum foil lining has a high reflectivity value, meaning that it reflects and diverts a large amount of heat from the home.
- Emissivity – This one is a bit more complicated. Essentially, the darker the object, the more heat it will absorb. Because radiant barriers are lighter in color and more reflective, they do not retain heat.
Despite the fact that radiant barriers are not technically considered a type of insulation, they do have insulation properties that prevent heat from coming or leaving the home.
#3 Radiant Barriers Save Energy (and Money)
We’ve all experienced it: It’s mid-summer, the sun is out, and the family is sweating. One family member heads for the home’s thermometer, hoping to invite a cool breeze into the sweltering residence—only to be stopped by the household’s bill-payer.
Radiant barriers can help reduce the heat in your home and thus, reduce your need for energy-sapping air conditioning. Because radiant barriers prevent the movement and retention of heat within a home, they are huge energy savers. If installed and working properly, a radiant barrier greatly reduces a homeowner’s use of the home’s cooling system. This ultimately cuts down cooling costs. Here’s how.
Essentially, if the heat transfer between the exterior and interior of a home is especially high, the efficiency of the home’s heating and cooling systems greatly decreases. That’s where radiant barriers come in. A radiant barrier stops the heat waves in their tracks. While there are many factors that affect the average temperature of a home, it’s estimated that a radiant barrier can reduce cooling costs by five to 10 percent.2
However, the climate of the residence has a big impact on the effectiveness of a radiant barrier:
- Hot climate – These are the types of climates radiant barriers were made for. When installed on the ceiling of the attic, radiant barriers block and reflect the heat, keeping the attic cool for days to come.
- Cold climate – Radiant barriers work well in cold climates, too. They don’t just keep heat out, they can help keep it in. If installed on the floor of an attic, the radiant barrier will help retain the home’s heat, significantly reducing energy costs and warming your freezing fingers and toes.
- Mild climate – Because mild climates do not require massive amounts of energy to heat or cool a home, a radiant barrier will be less effective. Nevertheless, a radiant barrier still provides comfortable homeostasis within the home.
No matter the climate, a radiant barrier is a wise investment for those looking to cut down on energy consumption and reduce their energy bill in the process.
#4 They Work With Other Insulation
Radiant barriers make your current insulation more effective. Traditional insulation functions to trap air within its fiber, therefore reducing convection heat transfer through air movement. Some insulation fibers also block radiation heat transfer.3
Both types of lining work together to regulate the attic’s temperature and reduce the home’s energy costs. As traditional insulation slows the movement of conductive heat, radiant barriers reflect the heat outward.
It’s the best of both worlds.
#5 Radiant Barriers A Permanent Home Fixture
Radiant barriers are permanent home fixtures. They’re made from strong and durable materials that’ll last a lifetime. It requires little to no maintenance, as well. Once installed, a homeowner is good to go.
Bonus? They’re pest-proof, too. Homeowners don’t have to worry about rats, mice, or insects burrowing into the fiber of the radiant barriers. Most radiant barriers are comprised of inorganic materials as well, meaning rodents and birds won’t chew through the aluminum.
Traditional insulation, on the other hand, is not quite as rodent resistant. While some homeowners invest in rodent proofing services, it’s not guaranteed to hinder truly tenacious rodents.
Radiant Barrier Tips and Tricks
Once a homeowner installs a radiant barrier, there’s not much else to do besides enjoy the comfortable temperatures and low energy bills. However, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when a radiant barrier lives in your attic:
- Don’t fuss with dust – Attics can be dusty. If they’re too dusty, soot and grime may accumulate on the surface of the radiant barrier, decreasing its reflectivity and its ability to deflect heat. To prevent any barrier malfunctions, keep your attic and barriers clean.
- Buy wisely – When looking to buy radiant barriers, know that not all radiant barriers are made the same. There are generally three types of barrier: paint, foil-backed sheathing, and foil. Each type of barrier differs in emittance, reflectivity, strength, and thickness. It’s generally recommended to buy a double-sided barrier for year-round coverage.
- Consider your climate – As previously touched on, radiant barriers are effective in colder climates to retain a home’s heat. However, it is recommended to further pad your home with additional layers of thermal insulation. Think of it as layering up your home’s cozy blanket.
- Beware of scams – Some radiant barrier providers boast far-fetched insulation options such as paint-on radiant protection. Avoid exhausting your money by consulting with your state or regional planning department to gauge which type of insulation is the best investment for your home.
If invested wisely, radiant barriers will top all home insulation—literally.
Attic Construction Keeps Your Home Comfortable
The attic radiant barrier benefits are certainly a game-changer when it comes to keeping your home comfortable. So if you’re looking for a way to keep your home cool or warm, a radiant barrier may be the best option for you. However, the effectiveness of radiant insulation relies greatly upon its installation.
Those who choose to install radiant barriers themselves must always be sure to follow all safety precautions and check building codes and regulations before opting for a radiant remodel.
If you’re looking to avoid a few grueling hours surrounded by staple guns and safety goggles, enlist Attic Construction in your attic renovation. We offer radiant barrier installation services within the San Diego area. Request a free attic inspection today—one of our trained technicians will visit your home, no strings attached.
- Energy Attic. Consumer Report. https://energyattic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/radiant-barrier-answers.pdf
- Department of Energy. Radiant Barriers. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/insulation/radiant-barriers
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Radiant Barrier. https://web.ornl.gov/sci/buildings/tools/radiant/