One frequent question people ask is whether to get a radiant barrier or to add extra fiberglass insulation to their attic. Just like with most things, there is no surefire answer that will solve your problems – it all depends on your preferences, lifestyle, and, of course, the attic itself.
Defining the Two
Before we jump into the reasons for choosing one or the other, let’s first make sure you have a full understanding of what each one does.
Insulation is there to simply slow down the loss or gain of heat in your house. In other words, it works to keep the temperature of your house the same. With insulation, a higher R-value means more effective insulation. The insulation we are talking about is made of fiberglass and is commonly found in most homes.
A radiant barrier, on the other hand, actually blocks and reflects heat back to where it came from, rather than just slowing down the process. If you have a radiant barrier with a really low level of emissivity, then you have a very effective radiant barrier. Radiant barriers are less widely known or used than insulation.
It’s Not One or the Other
Surprisingly, you don’t necessarily have to choose just one or the other. Because they are not actually built to accomplish the exact same thing, they will complement each other very nicely. Radiant barriers stop radiant heat gain – like moving your entire house into the shade while insulation is like adding another blanket to a bed.
If you really must decide between the two, a radiant barrier will give you more bang for your buck. This is because it could save you four times more in energy bills over adding insulation. While it is true that you will spend more money installing it, the energy savings from having it installed could well make it worth it. Plus, if you consider the fact that your energy savings could be twice as high when you choose a radiant barrier, it is clearly the most economical choice.
Comfort You Can Feel
A radiant barrier will also help you with personal comfort at home. Many people are even more worried about their comfort level at home rather than their energy bill or carbon footprint savings. This reason alone may make a radiant barrier the ideal choice. We have found this to be true especially in the San Antonio area of Texas, where it can be difficult to keep a house cool in the summer.
Radiant barriers are especially helpful in the summertime when you don’t want any heat from the sun or the outside air to get into your home. While insulation absorbs this heat, a radiant barrier would reflect almost all of it. That is because a radiant barrier takes care of radiant heat trying to get in – and radiant heat is the number one type of heat that might cause your home to become unpleasantly warm during the summertime. When properly installed, your San Antonio, Texas home could feel cool and pleasant, without constantly running the AC.
All in all, installing both insulation and a radiant barrier will have the strongest and most effective result for your house. But if you must decide between the two, there is likely a clear winner: the radiant barrier. It is more effective, will give you more energy savings, and will provide you with more reliable in-home comfort. If your attic already has insulation, you could simply leave that as-is and install an additional radiant barrier to have the most effective temperature control possible.