A Complete Guide To Radiant Barriers
According to Bernie Sanders, one of the most popular US senators, “Every day we are paying more for energy than we should due to poor insulation, inefficient lights, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment — money we could save by investing in energy efficiency.”
This statement remains a fact as Americans spend at least $114.44 every month to pay their electric bills. Paying this amount every month can be a burden to most homeowners, which is why many of them are always on the lookout for strategies that can help them conserve energy.
If you’re one of the many who wants to save money from spending too much on electricity bills, our radiant barriers might be the solution you’re looking for. By installing this technology in your attic, you can reduce the amount of heat that enters your home, allowing you to save money on your energy bills in the long run.
Are you interested in learning more about radiant barriers? Continue reading this guide!
What Are Radiant Barriers?
Radiant barriers consist of highly reflective materials, such as aluminum foil, that reflect heat rather than absorb it (1). Radiant barriers are often installed in attics and work by reducing summer heat gain and reducing your home’s cooling costs.
Do Radiant Barriers Really Work?
Contrary to popular belief, radiant barriers don’t only work during the summer months, but the technology also improves the temperature inside your home during the cold weather.
As mentioned by the Oak Ridge National Library, during summer, a radiant barrier works by preventing the sun’s heat from entering your home (2). This feature can be very beneficial during the summer months as the temperature in your attic can rise to dangerous levels. Aside from the inconvenience, excessive heat indoors can cause your home’s HVAC system to work harder, resulting in higher energy bills.
Radiant barriers also help reduce ice building during the winter season. This happens because radiant barriers can help prevent the accumulation of ice dams in your roof. Moreover, radiant barriers trap heat indoors, saving you tons of money on paying heating bills during the cold season.
What Are the Different Types of Radiant Barriers?
If you’re interested in installing a radiant barrier in your attic, knowing the types first is essential. Yes, all radiant barriers work the same, but the materials vary per type. As mentioned by the Department of Energy, radiant barriers can be made from different reflective materials and then applied to one or both sides of substrate materials (3).
Radiant Barriers are made using NASA-inspired technology combined with traditional insulation that reduces the amount of heat entering a property.
This section will discuss the different types of radiant barriers, so you can quickly determine which type best fits your home and needs.
- Double-sided foil: This type of radiant barrier is reinforced with two layers of foil and then strengthened using cardboard, draft paper, or fiber webbing.
- Foil-faced insulation: Foil-faced radiant barriers are made from polyethylene packing or other materials that naturally deter heat conduction.
- Foil-faced roof sheathing material: As the name suggests, this type of radiant barrier is made with foil-faced roof sheathing materials and then plastered to one side of the sheathing.
- Single-sided foil: This type of radiant barrier is made with foil on one side and with another backing material, such as kraft paper or polypropylene on the other. To further strengthen the product, fiber webbing is often sandwiched in between the backing and the foil. The strong backing material is crucial in producing this type of radiant barrier as foils naturally tear easily.
- Multi-layered foil systems: Multi-layered foil systems are the most innovative type of radiant barrier available today. This product works by insulating air spaces so the foil layers don’t touch. This type of barrier is designed to hold down condensation challenges common in single foil and bubble foil insulation products.
With the number of radiant barriers sold today, choosing one can be a struggle. Should you install one that is affordable? Or should you invest in the most state-of-the-art radiant barrier?
Ideally, your choice of radiant barriers should depend on the amount of moisture and heat exposure to your attic.
How Are Radiant Barriers Installed?
One of the reasons why radiant barriers are becoming increasingly popular is because these are effective yet easy-to-install products. In fact, there are many ways to install radiant barriers in your attic (4).
- Below Bottom Chord of Rafters
For existing homes, stapling radiant barriers under the roof rafters is the preferred installation method. To ensure that the radiant barriers work properly, a heavy-duty barrier should be installed to keep the staples in place and hold them for long periods.
- The efficiency of the radiant barrier increases since this installation method covers both the attic walls and roof rafters.
- The reflective side of the radiant barrier is also installed faced down, so you don’t have to worry about any debris accumulating on its surface.
- This method is feasible for existing homes without the need to repair or replace the roof.
- Cathedral and vaulted ceilings may be inaccessible.
- Installing a radiant barrier on roofs with low soffits areas can become a challenge.
- Contractors should be extra careful since the installation will require working around obstacles, such as trusses and ducts.
2. Over Ceiling Installation
Installing a radiant barrier over the attic floor insulation is very popular among existing homes located in cool climates. When installed properly, this method can do wonders in blocking the heat from escaping during the winter and preventing heat from reaching the house’s living spaces.
For this installation method to work, a perforated and lightweight radiant barrier works best. This material prevents moisture in the insulation from escaping and ensures that the radiant barrier doesn’t weigh down the insulation.
- This installation method works well in homes with little or no attic ducts.
- Applicable to vaulted ceilings and low-pitched attics.
- This is one of the easiest installation methods as it doesn’t require any special tools.
- Dust can settle on the radiant barrier, which can negatively impact its performance long-term.
- You can’t use the top of the radiant barrier as storage.
3. Topside of the Truss, Under the Sheathing
If you plan to invest in radiant barriers before your home is entirely constructed, you can install the product under the decking, across the roof rafter. As long as the weather permits, this method makes it easier for roofers to install the radiant barriers in a shorter period of time.
- Because contractors will spend less time installing radiant barriers, you will pay less for their labor.
- Since the reflective side of the radiant barrier is installed facing down, dust, dirt, and other debris cannot settle on the product.
- This method can significantly decrease the temperature of the ductwork and air-conditioning equipment installed in your attic.
- This installation method is only feasible when your roof is being replaced; you can’t use this method if your home already exists.
- Unlike other installation methods, installing radiant barriers on the top side of the truss under sheathing is slightly less efficient when it comes to emitting heat.
Is a Radiant Barrier Worth the Money?
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted a study to provide how radiant barriers can help conserve energy and reduce energy bills (5), but this product also offers other benefits, namely:
- Doesn’t encourage mold growth: Unlike cellulose insulation, radiant barriers in attics don’t promote mold growth. The materials used in radiant barriers don’t allow the fungus to form, thrive, and multiply.
- Durable: Radiant barriers aren’t prone to degradation regardless of if you use the product every day. Radiant barriers are durable and aren’t susceptible to humidity and pests, resulting in a longer lifespan.
Still Curious About Radiant Barriers?
Radiant barriers can be a godsend for homeowners who want to save money on energy bills. Sure, installing this product will require money from your pocket, but the benefits you’ll experience long-term surely outweigh the costs.
If you still have any questions about radiant barriers, please contact us at (404) 882-9403 or shoot us an email through [email protected]. Our team is on standby to help you with any of your concerns regarding radiant barriers!
- Radiant barriers. Energy.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/insulation/radiant-barriers.
- Radiant Barrier. Radiant. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://web.ornl.gov/sci/buildings/tools/radiant/.
- Types of radiant barriers. Energy.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/insulation/radiant-barriers#:~:text=Types%20of%20Radiant%20Barriers,and%20air%20infiltration%20barrier%20material.
- Installation procedures. Radiant Barrier Installation Procedures. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://web.ornl.gov/sci/buildings/tools/radiant/rb4/.
- Radiant Barrier. Effect of Radiant Barrier on Heating and Cooling Bills. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://web.ornl.gov/sci/buildings/tools/radiant/rb2/.