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Understanding home insulation, from fiberglass to foam

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During the next two days I’ll be getting estimates from three different insulation contractors as well as a crash course on air infiltration and R-values. Those are two key elements to understand when looking at insulating a home.

Air infiltration refers essentially to how drafty a house is – how much air seeps in and out of its cracks and corners. The R-value refers to how much thermal resistance a particular type of insulation provides.

My goal is to find the best way to button up Sheep Dog Hollow – very clearly a drafty, old house – in a green but also economic manner. From what I’ve learned so far, it may not be that much of a challenge.

The world of insulation has gone far beyond that pink fiberglass batting that made you itch when you were playing in the attic while growing up. There’s now spray foam, blown fiberglass, cellulose – even recycled denim insulation -- along with an array of hybrid ways to keep the cold out and the warm in.

I was fortunate in that my introduction to insulation came unexpectedly when the local building inspector, Keith Darin, came by to look at the house when the renovation had just started.

He was in the process of preparing to give a presentation to other local building officials on the cutting edge of home insulation: spray foams.

As we walked through Sheep Dog, looking at the quality of the beams, he give a preview of what he’d later share with those officials:

First is the need to understand the different types of insulation now available.

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