How does insulation contribute to energy efficiency?
It’s commonly understood that insulation, whether it’s traditional fibreglass or modern spray foam insulation, provides thermal insulating value that helps keep building occupants comfortable. But how does energy efficiency fit in? How does insulation contribute to energy efficiency?
Not every insulation material performs the same way. As the American Chemistry Council’s sprayfoam.org website states, as much as 40% of a building’s energy is lost via air infiltration – that is, gaps and holes in under-insulated or non-insulated areas. The Quebec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources notes that heat (air) loss can be broken down as follows:
- 17% through above-ground walls
- 15% through basement walls and the foundation footings
- 11% through the roof
With an estimated 56% of the energy used in a home goes to heating and cooling (U.S. Department of Energy), there are ways to ensure that the insulation used in your designs contributes to improving the energy efficiency of the building.
The EPA notes that by simply adding insulation and sealing possible air leaks, potential savings of 20% on monthly energy costs* could be achieved. There are many areas where spray foam insulation can be used to seal potential air leaks. Some of the more common areas include:
- Behind knee walls
- Attic hatches
- Wiring holes
- Plumbing vents
- Open soffits
- Recessed lighting or ducts
- Basement rim joists, windows and doors
The inclusion of insulation such as spray foam can also mean improved HVAC equipment performance. Spray foam’s air sealing and R-value properties means that the HVAC equipment can perform more optimally without having to compensate for the air loss found in buildings without spray foam insulation.
With energy efficiency of buildings such a hot area of focus nowadays among homeowners, energy efficiency goes beyond just the inclusion of energy efficient lighting and appliances to include the building materials used within the often unseen building envelope.
* Savings vary. Find out why in the seller’s fact sheet on R-values. Higher R-values mean greater insulating power. See 16 CFR 460.19.