Insulation plays an important role in your home. It’s responsible for helping keep the perfect temperature air inside and the uncontrollable weather outside. Proper insulation also helps lower the energy bills as well as how hard your HVAC unit has to run. Properly insulating your attic reduces heating and cooling costs by about $600 a year. It’s certainly not the most glamorous of home investments to make, nor are the choices anything that’ll really set your soul on fire with excitement. But it’s necessary to improving the function of your house and saving you money in the long run. Attic insulation can be paid back in as little as three years. We’re here today to help you navigate the waters of some of the various types of insulation.
There are several options in this arena – some of the natural kind, and others of the engineered sort. Fiberglass and cellulose are the most common types of insulation used in an attic. Sheep’s wool and hemp are two top-notch, natural materials. We’ll compare these four materials against durability and cost to see which rules out.
Perhaps the most important of requirements, is it going to last? When you make this investment will you also reap the rewards of a long, effective life? This factor compared with the cost weighs heavily in the decision.
Fiberglass insulation is that pink stuff you’ve probably been thinking about this whole time. Fiberglass is flame resistant, not prone to mold, and is available in many styles including batt or roll form. It has a high R-value, but that can be dampened over time with extreme cold and compression. The arch nemesis of fiberglass insulation is that it doesn’t handle moisture well and it presents potential health risks to those who come into contact with it. It’s quoted to last up to 100 years, but you’re more likely to get 20-30 years out of it.
Cellulose is an eco-friendly option that’s made in part of recycled newspaper print. It’s perfect for filling cavities as it is of the loose-fill variety. It won’t degrade or lose its R-value over time. It can, however succumb to mold under the right conditions and could get caught up in a fire. You’re looking at an average of 15-20 years out of this option.
Sheep Wool is perhaps the most natural of all the materials. This wonderful wool will last as long as the building it’s in. It doesn’t catch fire (fun fact about natural clothing materials, too) and handles moisture quite well. You need 10% less of it than you do the traditional fiberglass. It’s safe to handle and will biodegrade once it’s discarded.
Hemp is a powerhouse plant that insulates as well as sheep’s wool. Again, you can expect to install and then never have to replace it thereafter. It has an R-value better than fiberglass and sheep wool. It won’t attract pests and has no harmful chemicals in it. Perfect for controlling moisture, it won’t mold and helps maintain a strong structure. The environmental benefits of this plant exploding in the farm world are also vast and incredible.
Let’s keep things simple, shall we? Each option is relatively affordable. It does depend on the area you have to cover and if there’s any variation in type. But generally speaking, fiberglass is the most affordable coming in around $0.50/square foot at a starting price; cellulose is slightly more expensive than that with an average starting price around $0.55/square foot; sheep wool insulation takes things up a notch to $0.67/square foot starting price; hemp really amps it up costing anywhere between $1.50 and $3 for the varying thicknesses available.
When it comes to comparing the two major factors of cost vs. durability, you may be saving money with the cheaper options, but the durability (and eco-friendliness) does justify the higher cost of the natural materials.