Installing home insulation? Here’s what you need to know
Does your family huddle around the heater as soon as the temperature drops? Or is your home like an oven in summer and you can’t cool down? You may need to take a look at the current insulation of your home and have your home insulation replaced, especially if you’re constantly using a heater or air conditioning unit with no real improvements.
Not only is home insulation a great way to keep you and your family in year-round comfort, by installing insulation correctly in your home you can save up to 45% on your energy bills for heating and cooling. That makes it an important first step in improving your energy efficiency, helping you to create a sustainable home.
But there’s a bit more to it than you might think. So, it’s important to understand a little about home insulation because there are a few things you should consider when having insulation installed. To help you get started and make your choices with confidence, let’s run you through what you need to know.
Types of insulation
Insulation isn’t one size (or type) fits all. There are several kinds of insulation, with the most common types including fibreglass, cellulose, and spray foam. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to consider which one is best for your needs.
There are three main categories of insulation, bulk and reflective.
Bulk insulation: Bulk insulation uses air pockets within a thick material to slow the flow of heat, bulk insulation is given a single R-Value rated on thickness.
Commonly used materials include:
- Fiberglass insulation: is, as the name suggests, made from fine strands of glass. It’s typically used in walls, attics, and crawl spaces to help keep a home or building warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Cellulose insulation: is made from recycled paper products, such as newsprint or cardboard. It is often treated with chemicals to make it resistant to fire, pests, and mold. Cellulose insulation is often used in attics and walls, and can be blown in or installed in sheets.
- Spray foam insulation: is a type of insulation that is sprayed onto a surface as a liquid and then expands and hardens into a foam. It can be used on walls, ceilings, and floors, and is effective at sealing gaps and cracks to help prevent drafts and improve energy efficiency. There are two main types of spray foam insulation: closed-cell foam and open-cell foam. Closed-cell foam is denser and provides a higher level of insulation, while open-cell foam is more porous and less dense.
Reflective insulation: As the name suggests, reflective insulation reflects the heat back to where it came from, this type of insulation works due to the presence of an air layer, which is required to be at least 25mm next to the shiny surface. Products that are used are known as reflective foil laminates, which are;
- Sarking: Aliminum foil laminated onto paper or plastic or
- Concertina-type batts and multi-cell batts
Composite insulation: This is a combination of bulk and reflective techniques.
The R-value of insulation (and what you need for where you live)
You might not have heard of the term R-value before, but it’s really important to know as it helps you understand what insulation is right for your home. The R-value of insulation refers to its ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values mean better insulation performance (because they better resist heat flow). Fibreglass insulation typically has lower R-values while closed-cell spray foam insulation has higher R-values.
To give you an idea of what to expect from the various products available, here are some examples of R-values for different types of insulation:
- Fiberglass insulation: R-2.2 to R-4 per inch
- Cellulose insulation: R-3.2 to R-3.8 per inch
- Spray foam insulation (closed-cell): R-6 to R-6.5 per inch
- Spray foam insulation (open-cell): R-3.5 to R-3.7 per inch
Not everywhere needs the same level of insulation, as resisting heat flow well might be much more important in certain climates than others. A sprawling family home in sunny Byron would probably need different insulation from a cosy mountain home in chilly Hobart. So, be sure to choose insulation with an appropriate R-value for your climate and location in the home. Check out The National Construction Code (NCC) to see what insulation level homes need for each climate zone in Australia.
It's also worth keeping in mind that the actual R-value of insulation can be affected by factors such as how well it is installed, the presence of air gaps or voids, and the temperature of the surrounding air. So, getting insulation above minimum levels can help further improve your home’s performance.
Insulation can be a significant investment, so be sure to consider the cost of different options and how they fit into your budget. If you’re thinking about finance, a Brighte loan can help you spread the cost over time while enjoying the rewards of a more energy-efficient home now. It’s also a good idea to check out Energy.gov.au to see what rebates and assistance are being offered. Here’s a snapshot of what different states are offering homeowners, tenants and business owners, as of February 2023:
Program: Energy Saver Loan Scheme
Incentive: Access no-interest loans to ease the up-front cost of making energy-efficient investments in your home.
Program: Retailer Energy Productivity Scheme
Incentive: Receive financial assistance for installing ceiling insulation, efficient lighting and more.
Program: Victorian Energy Upgrades
Incentive: Subsidise the cost of energy-efficient products including double-glazed windows, heating and cooling and more.
Where you can insulate
You can insulate your windows by double glazing, and your walls and ceilings both in new builds and old.
Which installer to use
Insulating your home is best carried out by a professional who can analyse your home’s insulation requirements and the climate you live in to make sure you get the right insulation for you, check out our guide to finding the right insulation installer for you.