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Roof Insulation Materials: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re looking for different methods to lower your energy bill, you need to target the systems that use more electricity than anything else in your home: your HVAC system. Heating and cooling your home accounts for about half of your energy use. During the summer, it’s responsible for as much as 70% of your bill.

Many homeowners blame old windows and doors and spend a lot of money replacing them, but if you are improperly insulating attic roof areas, your house is going to heat up significantly regardless of what kind of windows you have. That’s why it’s critical to keep your roof in good condition and ensure that it’s well insulated.

While the right roofing material can help reflect heat, insulation can keep conditioned air inside your home better, as well as prevent outside air from coming inside your house. Most older homes are built with fiberglass batts because they are cheap and easy to install, but newer roof insulation material types used today are much more effective and last longer. While the roof insulation cost is higher, the amount of money you save on your electric bill over time makes them well worth the investment. So how do you decide the right insulation for your home? 

Have your roof inspected

The best way to determine your insulation needs is to contact a professional roofer. They can inspect your roof and attic and determine whether or not the existing pitched or flat roof insulation needs to be replaced, or if you can add additional insulation to your existing installation. 

In some cases, when you’re dealing with drafts or rooms that aren’t cooling or heating properly, there could be damage or other issues with your roof. A roofer also evaluates the condition of your roof and prevents you from installing insulation under areas with leaks and other issues. They can either make the necessary repairs, or advise you if it’s time to replace your roof. They can also help walk you through different insulation types when it’s time to choose, and help you find the best material to suit your needs and budget. The type of roofing system you have, the size of your home, and the state of the existing insulation will all factor into your choice, and it’s best to have someone who knows what they’re doing on your side. 

Roof insulation foam 

Roof insulation foam has become to be among the most popular insulation options because of how effective it is. Foam roofing is made from a durable plastic that doesn’t attract pests the same way traditional insulation materials do, making them particularly useful for shielding your attic from rodents. It’s able to provide adequate insulation in much smaller spaces because of it’s high R-value.

Spray foam roof insulation, or spray polyurethane foam, can be the most effective air barrier of any insulation because of its ability to seal even the tiniest crevices and cracks in your attic. SPF roofing is in liquid form when applied, enabling it to penetrate small spaces and expand to fill them. 

Polyurethane foam requires experience for proper installation. You will need to wear safety equipment to protect your eyes, skin, and lungs when working with it. SPF roofing has the potential to release toxic fumes, so it’s best to leave it to a professional. In the right hands, though, installation is relatively quick, and the results can last for decades. 

Rigid foam insulation is a variation of polyurethane foam, but unlike SPF foam insulation, rigid insulation is crafted into boards. It is exceptionally durable and can be used directly under attic rafters as well as between them. It’s also generally cheaper than spray foam insulation, but it’s not quite as effective at sealing off air gaps. However, many contractors can install rigid foam insulation with a spray foam barrier to minimize air loss. 

Loose-fill insulation

Blown-in cellulose insulation is typically made from recycled paper and wood products. It is designed to be placed parallel to the joists and installed by blowing it through a thin tube. Over time, this attic insulation will settle in place. Due to the way it’s packed, it will prevent air from moving through it. Blown-in insulation is a popular choice because of its eco-friendly nature and its ability to slow the spread of fire in your roof. The average R-value is higher than fiberglass but lower than foam. Although, it’s also typically cheaper than foam insulation. 

Cellulose insulation is easy to add to existing insulation. Typically, it is treated with borate to prevent the infestation of insects. However, compared to foam, it’s more prone to settling unless you overfill it to compensate, and it is much more prone to mold if it’s exposed to moisture. A professional installer can account for this by ensuring your attic is well ventilated and protected from moisture. 

Alternatively, you can also use mineral wool for loose-fill insulation. It’s made from broken down rock or slag, and while it doesn’t have quite as high an R-value as cellulose, it lasts much longer because it’s made of inorganic material that won’t rot or break down over time. It is more difficult to install because it’s heavier, and it costs more per square foot than cellulose insulation. 

Radiant barrier

Adding a radiant barrier can increase the effectiveness of your insulation. Rather than trapping air flow, they work by reducing the amount of excess heat that enters through the roof. They are typically installed on the roof sheathing and are made of a reflective material that will block heat transfer from outside the home. 

A radiant barrier isn’t very effective in cooler climates, but in areas like San Diego where it stays warm year-round, they can be a cost-effective method for lowering your cooling cost. A professional roofer can help you decide whether or not it’s worth the extra investment after inspecting your home. A metal roof may not benefit as much from a radiant barrier as an asphalt roof, because they already actively reflect heat.

Understanding R-Value

Every kind of insulation is given an R-value per inch, which rates its ability to mitigate heat flux. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal insulation it provides. When you’re choosing your insulation, you’ll need to make sure it meets the minimum recommended R-value for your home based on its climate. San Diego falls in Zone 3, which means you’ll need to install insulation with an R-Value with a minimum value of 38 over existing insulation, or up to 60 for a new installation. 

Different materials offer higher R-value with less insulation, so if space is a consideration, you’ll need to select the one that can fit and still provide adequate protection. In many cases, the insulation you choose can also be used in other areas of your home to maximize the benefits to your energy savings. 

The role ventilation plays

When you’re adding insulation to your attic, you must work with a professional to ensure you’re not interfering with the ventilation design. Of course, not every attic has ventilation, and your roofer can work with you to determine whether or not you need to ventilate your space. 

Unvented attics are more common in complex roof constructions and in colder areas. These attics can prevent heat loss, which can lower heating costs and prevent snow melt from causing issues on your roof. They are also beneficial in areas with high wind and hurricanes and can also prevent the spread of fire. 

Ventilation is essential to regulating the temperature of your home in warmer climates. It can prevent excess moisture caused by condensation from building up and destroying your roof decking and insulation materials. A vented roof combined with a vapor barrier and insulation will provide more benefits to San Diego residents. Using roofing materials designed to be fire-resistant can offset the risk of stray embers getting in through your ventilation system. 

Reach out for a free estimate

Adding insulation to your home can help you save anywhere from 10-50% on your monthly bill, but beyond that, it can make your home much more comfortable throughout the year, so you can sleep soundly at night and relax in your home no matter what the weather is like outside. When you choose the right product and have it installed by a professional, the savings your insulation offers will pay for itself over time. A roofing company can also help you stay on top of roof maintenance needs to get the longest lifespan out of your insulation and roofing materials. 

At Preman Roofing Solar, we’ve worked on thousands of San Diego roofing projects over the past 20 years. We are a full-service roofing company that can address all your residential roofing and commercial roofing needs at a reasonable price. We guarantee the quality of our work and the timetable we lay out once we schedule your service. We offer various no-hassle financing options for all of our services, including new roof installations and solar energy systems. Contact us today to set up your free consultation, and learn more about how we can help with your roofing needs.