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What is Reflective Insulation?

By L. Hepfer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Reflective insulation, usually composed of aluminum, is also known as a radiant barrier. It resembles metallic foil and has a reflective surface. It is very versatile and easy to install.

The main objective for this type of insulation is to block radiant heat from transferring across open spaces. Reflective insulation lowers energy bills in the summer, especially in the hotter climates. It can also be used in some cases to lower heating bills.

Each type of insulation on the market comes with an R-value. The R-value is rated according to a piece of insulation's thickness and density. The R-value of this type of insulation is measured by how the heat flows in the home.

Radiant barriers are similar to all other types of insulation because they lower the amount of heat that enters or exits a home. Other types of insulation trap air inside the insulation, not allowing it to escape. The insulation works to decrease the flow of heat throughout an open airspace.

Reflective insulation does not absorb moisture. When used in conjunction with other insulation, it tends to keep the insulation drier and has a better overall performance. It can be used in residences, commercial buildings or recreational buildings.

There are several benefits to using reflective insulation. The cost of installation is fairly low and it is more easily installed than most insulation. It contains no itchy fibers and can be installed using simple tools like scissors or a razor knife, foil tape, a tape measure and a staple gun.

The reflective surface of this type of insulation makes it unattractive to birds, however, it is not harmful to people or animals. It does not require breathing gear or gloves when installing because it is clean and non-toxic and is lightweight. It helps control condensation and aids in avoiding mold and mildew.

Various places where insulation can be used are under rafters, on stud walls and on the sidewalls of metal buildings. It can be effective under crawl spaces, inside pipes and duct work and under concrete slabs. Everyday items such as food storage and coolers, air conditioner covers and vehicle applications all benefit from the use of reflective insulation.

Often times we see this type of insulation without realizing it. Paramedics use emergency blankets that are essentially reflective insulation. Firefighters protect themselves from forest fires with this type of insulation. NASA not only uses reflective insulation on their shuttles, but they protect astronauts with it as well.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Dec 22, 2011

I moved into an old house with pink insulation a few years ago, and most of the time, it doesn't bother me. However, when some workers came in here to do some remodeling, the pink stuff was exposed, and it irritated my airways.

I think that reflective insulation would be wonderful for me. I am always so sensitive to most material, and this sounds like it wouldn't cause any problems for my sinuses or lungs.

Also, I have puppies that live in the house. I would hate for them to chew on anything that could do them harm. There is much remodeling left to do, and it would be great if I didn't have to worry about them eating the insulation.

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