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Insulation is key to maintaining a reliable thermal envelope

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Insulation is key to maintaining a reliable thermal envelope

A draft through the home is no accident, but the result of a breach in the home's complete thermal envelope. The thermal envelope of your house determines how quickly heat enters and exits the structure. The laws of thermodynamics cause heat to naturally travel from high energy environments toward low energy environments. During the winter, this phenomenon manifests as heated air within your home naturally moving outside. Summer months feature the opposite behavior, when hot air from outdoors penetrates through to fill cooled home interiors. Comprehensive insulation decreases the rate of heat transfers through walls to the exterior and visa versa, resulting in a more stable indoor climate year-round.

Unpacking the envelope
Insulation isn't the only component that makes up a home or business's building envelope. DIY Network noted that a foundations, floors and roofs must also be in top shape to achieve a stronger building envelope. Cracks in a home's foundation, damage to a building's floors or insufficient roof ventilation must all be kept in check to ensure that the building envelope is able to mitigate heat loss (or gain) from inside. An equally important factor to consider is the performance of a building's insulation. The R-Value*, or measure of a material's ability to slow heat flow through walls, of a home's insulation should meet minimum requirements set by International Energy Conservation Council. Building managers must meet local building code requirements for insulation regardless, but boosting the R-Value* will ultimately help the company to cut costs.

Selecting the right insulation
Several types of insulation are available, each aimed at different price-points and performance needs.  R-Values* stack, so home and building owners alike can save money by adding to their current insulation instead of replacing it, noted the Center of Climate and Energy Solutions. Those who replace their existing installation may gravitate toward spray foam insulation for its physical properties and overall high performance. This insulation material is sprayed as a liquid prior to expanding and setting within seconds to provide continuous thermal protection. This installation method makes it simple to apply spray foam to spaces that existing insulation may not reach or cannot adequately cover. Speaking with an insulation professional will provide homeowners with extra perspective on selecting the right type of insulation for their home.

Additional envelope strategies
While wall insulation is vital for forming a reliable thermal envelope, building owners can't ignore threats to efficiency from other locations. Moisture such as flooding, for example, can weaken floor materials and cause the building's foundation to deteriorate. This wearing away of housing materials also produces more pathways for air to travel out of your home, compromising the home's thermal envelope. Homeowners should also investigate how spray foam insulation could be used to improve attic insulation. Keep these lessons in mind to cut down on heating costs this winter.

* R means resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. Compare insulation R-values before you buy. There are other factors to consider. The amount of insulation you need depends mainly on the climate you live in. Also, your fuel savings from insulation will depend upon the climate, the type and size of your house, the amount of insulation already in your house, and your fuel use patterns and family size. If you buy too much insulation, it will cost you more than what you'll save on fuel. To get the marked R-value, it is essential that this insulation be installed properly.

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