A Radiant barrier is one of the best and most innovative ways to take control of the temperature in your home. Taking advantage of conduction, convection, and radiation, radiant barriers enable you to significantly reduce the transfer of heat both coming into and out of your house.
It’s such a powerful and useful technology, even NASA uses it on its spacecraft.
However, there are certain issues and complications that can arise with a radiant barrier. There are vulnerabilities inherent to the technology that can lead to issues over time. There are also certain problems that can arise from the environment or manner in which it’s installed.
Let’s take a look at what these problems are, along with solutions and preventative methods.
Problems Inherent to Radiant Barriers
Radiant barriers are on the cutting edge of insulation technology. However, there are still some potential fault lines inherent to them. As with any technology, there are important vulnerabilities that you need to be aware of.
Knowing the ways that radiant barriers can potentially go wrong is the best way to prevent any avoidable mishaps. It’s also the best way to treat and reverse corruption, when possible.
For any issues you’re experiencing, professional help is always the best answer. Nevertheless, it never hurts to know what issues to look for.
Dust Problems with Radiant Barriers
Simply put, the biggest possible problem with any kind of radiant barrier is dust.
To understand why dust creates issues for all kinds of radiant barriers, it’s important to understand how they work:
- Radiation transfers heat directly outward from an energy source
- That heat absorbs into any materials that it can penetrate
- Reflective surfaces are impenetrable, so the heat bounces off
- Contaminants like dust, however, remove this property of reflection
- A surface coated in dust will absorb rather than repel heat
The effectiveness of radiant barriers depends entirely upon the reflective properties of the metals used. Anything that compromises reflectivity will ultimately compromise the overall utility of the barrier. So, dust accumulation will always negatively impact reflectivity.
To ensure that your radiant barrier is protected from its nemesis—dust—you need to have proper ventilation. Make sure that vents are unobstructed and air isn’t still.
Also, be sure to inspect your radiant barriers from time to time and spot-clean if necessary.
Radiant Barrier Moisture Problems
The other main issue that can impact the performance of any radiant barrier is moisture.
In colder weather, radiant barriers can sometimes develop condensation. This issue is most prevalent in climates where the temperature regularly falls below zero degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s a potential issue anywhere that freezing temperatures are a possibility.
When radiant barriers develop moisture problems, they can impact the efficiency of heat repellency. In addition, unchecked moisture can drop down onto other surfaces in the attic, causing water damage and mold.
In order to prevent moisture issues, it’s imperative to use perforated radiant barriers. Also, regular inspection can help you identify and patch up moisture risks, like leaks from the ceiling.
Problems with Radiant Barrier Setup
Not every problem is related to the radiant barrier itself.
In addition to problems inherent to radiant barriers, there are also common issues that involve the environment and manner in which they’re installed. These issues can be the underlying causes for faulty radiant barriers, or they can be compounding effects that these barriers can have on your home. Whether cause or effect, they can be quite serious.
And, in either case, as with inherent vulnerabilities, it’s important to understand these potential issues to know what to do to prevent them or treat them as they arise.
#1 Attic Ventilation Problems
Radiant barriers only work properly in an attic that’s ventilated properly.
Proper attic ventilation ensures that:
- Reflected heat circulates
- Dust can’t build up over time
- Dangerous contaminants don’t develop
Without proper ventilation, a thermos effect will be created, and the radiant barrier can produce the opposite of its intended effect, increasing the temperature in your attic space.
In order for the reflected heat to dissipate, there needs to be air circulation that carries hot air around instead of letting it sit still. That still air is also a main factor in dust buildup. Proper attic insulation, ventilation, and radiant barrier installation can all be more effective together.
Note: As aforementioned, dust is the absolute biggest threat to your radiant barrier.
#2 Problems with Roof Temperature
Radiant barriers work by reflecting heat that would otherwise permeate into your home. In some cases, that heat can reflect back into your roof’s surface, increasing its temperature.
In many homes, radiant barrier application is done directly to the underside of a roof for an efficient and clean installation. However, it can lead to radiant barriers increasing the temperature of the roof. While roof temperature is not necessarily important, excessive heat can deteriorate the roof surface, decreasing its lifespan and creating other potential problems, like leaks.
Ventilation can resolve this issue.
Benefits of Proper Radiant Barrier Installation
Problems aside, a properly functioning radiant barrier offers incredible value. They’re a low-cost solution that complements the benefits of other home and attic insulation throughout your home.
By installing, you ensure two primary attic radiant barrier benefits:
- Control over the temperature in your home
- Savings in energy consumption
Radiant barriers are prone to certain issues, but no technology is immune to deterioration over time, user error, or environmental stresses. The benefits of radiant barriers far outweigh the potential costs that these issues can cause.
#1 Comfort Year – Round
Radiant barriers are designed to help you control the temperature in your home.
Their primary function is keeping heat from penetrating into your home and raising temperatures in your attic space. Without protection like radiant barriers, direct sunlight can heat up a space extremely quickly rather than using the reflective insulation to bounce off of.
Sunlight enters your home directly through transparent openings like windows. But it also enters your home indirectly through seemingly impermeable surfaces, like your roof and walls.
Heat is transferred in three main ways:
- Conduction – Heat will travel from a hotter portion of a given material to a colder portion of it. When sunlight strikes the rooftop surface, it transfers inward.
- Convection – As a gas or liquid substance heats up, it loses density and begins to rise. Thus, hot air in the home will rise upward toward the attic.
- Radiation – As noted above, heat radiates directly outward from a heat source. It travels in a straight line, heating up substances that absorb its energy along the way.
By controlling for the third type of transfer, radiant barriers block heat from entering and regulate the heat flow in the home. Other kinds of insulation work differently, aiming to slow down the first two methods of heat transfer. In practice, this means that radiant barriers work in a drastically different way from other insulation.
In fact, radiant barriers work better the hotter it is!
They also complement and improve the efficiency of all other insulation.
Finally, radiant barriers don’t just keep heat out; they also keep it in. In a cold climate, radiant barriers stop the heat from escaping, instead redirecting it to other portions of the house. This ensures uniform comfort throughout the house.
It’s also extremely efficient.
#2 Cost Efficiency
If your attic is cooler, your entire home will be cooler.
By reducing the temperature in your attic and anywhere else it’s installed, radiant barriers help you cut down on expensive cooling measures, like air conditioning. Using less air conditioning is a fast track to energy savings.
But not only do radiant barriers enable you to use less air conditioning—maximizing energy savings in the short term—they also help with long-term maintenance costs.
High temperatures cause wear and tear on cooling systems by making them work harder and longer. But they also tax these systems by forcing additional cool air through your ductwork. This extra cool air in turn leads to the accumulation of debris, which shortens the lifespan of your air ducts.
Plus, as noted above, radiant barriers also optimize your heating in a cold climate. This means that you don’t just reap the benefit of greater control all year round; your energy bills will also be lower throughout the year.
So, while it lowers attic temperatures, regulate the heat flow in the home, and increases energy efficiency, taking care of your radiant barrier is important to carry out this job. That is, as long as your radiant barriers are functioning properly, you can continue reaping the benefits.
Solutions for all Radiant Barrier Insulation Problems
If you’re experiencing any of the problems detailed above, we can solve them for you.
Here at Attic Construction, we’re your dedicated radiant barrier experts in Southern California.
Our suite of radiant barrier services includes:
- Professional installation
- Repair and maintenance
- Removal and replacement
Plus, we don’t just service radiant barriers. We’re a one-stop-shop for all your attic construction needs, including insulation removal and installation. Whether it’s your air ducts or insulation that’s giving you problems, we’re here to help. Not sure what the issue might be? Get in touch for a free inspection, no strings attached.
Don’t let issues in your attic bubble up and impact the rest of your home. Get the professional help you need!
- Alternative Energy. Radiant Barrier Problems – Why Reflective Insulation Is Flawed. https://powersolarphoenix.com/radiant-barrier-problems/
- Innovative Insulation. What is the difference between Radiant Barrier Foil vs. Spray? http://www.radiantbarrier.com/resources-articles-what-is-the-difference-between-radiant-barrier-foil-vs-spray/
- Norbord. Radiant Barriers: Myths Busted And Facts Explained. https://www.norbord.com/na/blog/radiant-barriers-myths-busted-and-facts-explained/
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Written By Joseph Sheiner
Joseph Sheiner is a construction industry professional with over 15 years of experience. He began his career in the insulation industry in 2012, and co-founded Attic Construction Inc in 2013. As CEO of the company, Joe oversees all operations and is in charge of training and product knowledge.
Under Joe’s leadership, Attic Construction has become the largest leading Attic Restoration Company in San Diego, Orange County and Phoenix. He has personally performed and supervised insulation work in over 7000 homes. He is certified by Owens Corning as a CEE (Certified Energy Expert) and is a licensed contractor by the CSLB.
Most recently, Joe has helped expand Attic Construction to two additional locations – Orange County and Phoenix. He is currently working on expanding to additional locations in the near future.
Great work! Our attic went from totally disgusting to pristine. They are courteous and professional and clean up after themselves.
-Karen L. Santee, CA
Andrew was very informative and helpful during the whole process. Excellent communication and his team did a great job. He came on Sunday and the work was done and completed by Tuesday. Highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a fair prices and great service.
– Joey E. San Diego, CA