Reflective insulation is a material that has a reflective side that faces outward. The materials are most often foil-faced kraft paper, polyethylene bubbles and cardboard, or plastic film. This type of insulation consists of a reflective material similar to aluminum foil. It can be combined with other various materials that work the best with insulation systems.
Some thermal insulation materials similar to fiberglass work by slowing down the process of conductive heat flow, but reflective insulation works slightly differently. This type of insulation is created to lessen a lot of heat. When the sun warms a roof, it is mostly just the sun’s luminous energy that actually makes the roof hot. Much of this heat passes right through your roof and into the attic part of the roof. Since the roof is hot, it radiates heat energy to the cooler parts of the attic. Reflective insulation is installed at the top of the attic. It helps mirror the sun and decrease the strong heat from the bottom part of the roof and the other sides of the attic.
Having this installed helps keep your home cooler and much more comfortable. Reflective insulation and radiant barriers best perform in warmer climates. This insulation is mainly installed in homes that have air ducts in the attic, asphalt roofing (because it absorbs heat from the sun much easier), and little to no shading from trees.
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A quality radiant barrier has a layer of support in the middle (commonly also known as a woven scrim) that helps with making the product stronger and tear-resistant. Reflective insulation is a denser product with an “insulating” middle layer that can be fiberglass, foam, or air bubbles. The material of this product has at least one reflective surface throughout the roll. Radiant barriers do not have that certain insulating material connected, but you can install them over new or existing insulation to make both materials even more efficient. Some studies show that reflective insulation can decrease cooling costs anywhere from 5% to 10% when it is used in a warm, sunny climate. The reduced heat gain may even make it so you just need a smaller air conditioning system. In cooler seasons, however, it’s more cost-effective to install heating insulation than to put up reflective insulation.