What is a Radiant Barrier?

Radiant barrier is an innovative insulation technology. Unlike many other building materials that make up a home, radiant barriers also have a place in outer space, as NASA has used radiant barrier technology since the Apollo program.

In your home, it has the same function as it does on NASA spacecraft.

Like other forms of insulation, it’s designed to regulate attic temperature. The specific way it works sets it apart, though—the radiant barrier’s main function is to prevent heat flow from entering or escaping a given space.

Let’s go over what types of radiant barriers there are and what benefits they can provide.

Types of Radiant Barriers

There are two main kinds of radiant barrier insulation. While there is much variety within them, virtually all radiant barriers fall into one of two categories:

  • Sheet barriers
  • Spray on barriers

Each type has its own particular uses and drawbacks, but they both accomplish the same function. Let’s start with the more common of the two:

Sheet Barriers

The original and most basic medium of radiant barrier technology comes in the form of highly reflective, metallic surfaces. Most often, the metal that provides this reflectivity is aluminum foil. Per the US Department of Energy, this foil is applied directly to substrate materials, such as:

  • Plastic films
  • Oriented strand board
  • Cardboard or kraft paper
  • Air infiltration barrier material

While sheet or foil radiant barriers are among the most common, they aren’t the only way to reap the benefits of reflectivity.

Spray On Barriers

In addition to sheets of foil, radiant barriers can also be produced via spray on application.

The spray is a paint-like mixture containing flakes of the same kinds of metal that make up a sheet barrier. A technician can spray this material directly onto the underside of roof sheathing, or other surfaces in the attic space and throughout the house.

Compared to sheet barriers, spray on solutions can offer significantly more flexibility and ease of application. Spraying directly onto surfaces enables even an amateur to install a radiant barrier. However, the trade off is that they don’t offer the same level of reflectivity.

Thus, they’re not as efficient in their ability to block radiant heat.

Benefits of Radiant Barrier Insulation

The main function of any kind of radiant barrier you choose is to regulate the temperature inside your home. Radiant barriers are most commonly installed in attics, but the benefits they impart can be felt all throughout the home—and in your wallet.

Working in conjunction with other elements of your home design, radiant barriers maximize the efficiency and potency of your control over your home environment.

Let’s discuss.

Heat Reduction

How do radiant barriers work? By manipulating the laws of physics to work in your advantage. 

Per the US Department of Energy, radiant barriers take advantage of three properties in particular:

  • Conduction – Heat travels from a hotter location within one material to a colder spot within that same material.
  • Convection – Liquids or gases rise upward as they heat up and become less dense.

As such, radiant barriers are some of the most efficient insulation solutions available.

Energy Efficiency

Radiant barriers reduce the amount of money spent on cooling measures. 

In hot weather conditions, the majority of heat entering your home comes from exposure to sunlight and the hot air outside. A radiant barrier repels that heat, reducing temperatures in your attic (and elsewhere) dramatically.

And, a unique property of radiant barriers is that they work better under more intense circumstances. The hotter it gets, the better the reflective properties work.

Plus, radiant barriers can also help to lower costs spent on heating your home during winter.

By the same mechanisms that keep heat out, radiant barriers can prevent heat flow from escaping. That way, hot air circulates and permeates colder areas of your home, and your heaters won’t work as hard as they have to when too much heat is escaping.

Radiant Barrier Attic Installation Services

If you’d like to reap the benefits of greater attic temperature regulation at a lower energy cost every month, call in a professional to install radiant barrier insulation today.

At Attic Construction, we’re the first and best option for all radiant barrier installation and maintenance in Southern California. We’ve been servicing San Diego and Orange County for the better part of the past decade, so we have an intimate knowledge of all the ins and outs of SoCal homes.

Not sure if it’s right for you? Get in touch for a free inspection, no strings attached!


  1. Alternative Energy. Radiant Barrier Problems – Why Reflective Insulation Is Flawedhttps://powersolarphoenix.com/radiant-barrier-problems/
  2. 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/
  3. Norbord. Radiant Barriers: Myths Busted And Facts Explainedhttps://www.norbord.com/na/blog/radiant-barriers-myths-busted-and-facts-explained/
  4. US Department of Energy. Radiant Barriershttps://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/insulation/radiant-barriers

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