radiant barrier

Radiant Barrier: Is it Right for Your Home?

You live in a warm climate and your cooling costs are outrageous.

Did you know that the sun is the primary source of heat in your attic space?

Did you know that a radiant barrier can keep your attic cooler and reduce your cost to cool the whole house?

Not sure what a radiant barrier is? No problem. Keep reading to learn if a radiant barrier is the right choice for your home.

What is Radiant Barrier Insulation?

A radiant barrier is a type of insulation specifically designed for attics in warm to hot climates. The barrier is made from a highly reflective material.

Types of Radiant Barriers

Radiant barriers come in a few different options. It is always a reflective material, usually aluminum foil, adhered to a backing material for support. This stiffer material may be cardboard, plastic, OSB, or sometimes kraft paper.

You can find reinforced radiant barriers for increased durability. Fiber-reinforced backing is easier to handle during installation.  

Radiant barriers may be installed as part of your attic’s insulation system. 

Perforated vs Non-Perforated Barriers

You can find both perforated and non-perforated radiant barriers.

A non-perforated barrier does not allow water vapor to pass through it. It is a solid piece of reflective material.

Depending on your HVAC system and house ventilation, this may not be good. It can cause dampness in the attic. If moisture from the house cannot find another way out, it can condense in the attic space and damage your home.

A perforated barrier has tiny holes that allow for better airflow. This reduces the risk of condensation forming. 

How Does a Radiant Barrier Work?

Radiant barriers physically reflect the sun’s heat, called radiant heat. By doing this, they don’t allow the attic infrastructure to absorb the heat.  This is the reflectivity of the barrier. 

It keeps the joists and ductwork from getting hotter. Think of it as moving your home from the direct sun into the shade.

They also keep the air in the attic space from heating up. This is the emissivity of the barrier. Essentially, the hot air from the outside is not able to emit heat to the cooler air on the inside.

What are the Benefits of Radiant Barriers?

In a nutshell, radiant barriers reduce heat gain from the sun and reduce cooling costs.

By reducing the amount of heat your home absorbs, you can significantly cut down on cooling costs. If you aren’t running your HVAC system at its max, you will likely also save money in the long-run. You will reduce maintenance and repair costs for the system.

The hotter it gets, the better your radiant barrier will work. This means that in the worst part of the hot months, you will reduce your cooling costs the most. 

A radiant barrier allows your attic space to be converted into a living space. You can keep the attic a comfortable temperature all year long. 

You can finally convert that unused space into your dream home office or guest room!

Radiant barriers may also help you qualify for Energy Star certifications for your home. This helps with resale value. 

How is Radiant Barrier Installed?

A professional should install the radiant barrier.  

It is generally installed during construction of a new home. However, if you are re-roofing your home, or you have an unfinished attic with open rafters, you can retrofit the attic with radiant barrier.

The foil is draped between roof rafters. This can be accomplished before the roof goes on, or by stapling the material to the bottom of the rafters after-the-fact. 

It’s important to allow the material to droop between the rafters. There should be about 1″ of air space between the radiant barrier and the bottom of the roof. 

Things to Watch Out For During Installation

A radiant barrier’s effectiveness depends on proper installation. Using a certified installer is your best bet because there are some precautions to be taken during installation. 

Aluminum foil conducts electricity. The installer needs to make sure that the foil does not contact bare wiring or other sources of electricity. 

The barrier should not be installed on top of the attic floor insulation. Foil on the floor will accumulate dust. It may also trap moisture in the thermal insulation. Both reduce the effectiveness of the radiant barrier and can cause other expensive damage to your home. 

The radiant barrier requires the right spacing to function properly. If the foil is pulled tight between rafters, or is sandwiched between pieces of insulation, the foil will become a conductor of heat. 

The air space is what makes the foil work as a radiant barrier. No air space means that the barrier will actually be working against your insulation system. It will reduce your thermal insulation’s effectiveness. 

Is a Radiant Barrier Worth the Cost?

The value of a radiant barrier in your home depends on your climate and current insulation system. You benefit the most when:

Your Attic is Poorly Insulated

If your attic is already very well insulated, you won’t notice the difference of the radiant barrier.

The older your home, or the worse the condition of your current insulation, the more difference you will see. It may be more cost effective to upgrade your insulation with radiant barrier than remove and replace all of your insulation. 

Your Roof Gets Direct Sunlight

A radiant barrier reduces the heat gained from the sun. If your home is in the shade consistently, the radiant barrier won’t be as effective. 

A south-facing roof will see the most benefit from the installation of a radiant barrier. 

Outbuildings with metal roofs would also see a huge difference in radiant heat absorption. If you have a garage, barn, shed, or other outdoor workspaces, you can cut the summer swelter by adding a radiant barrier. 

There is Ductwork in Your Attic

Most older homes have ductwork that runs through the attic. A poorly insulated attic means that the hot ducts warm the air as it passes through the attic into your living spaces.

This makes your air conditioning system less effective. 

Adding a radiant barrier to your attic will reduce the heat absorbed by the ductwork. It reduces the load on your HVAC and A/C systems. 

Installing a radiant barrier is cheaper and easier than insulating the entire ductwork system. 

Get Ready to Cut Your Cooling Costs

Living in a warm climate should not mean you have to break the bank to keep your home cool. 

A radiant barrier may be the perfect solution to keeping your home and wallet more comfortable in the heat. 

Think that a radiant barrier is the right move for your home? Contact us today for a free estimate.