Out of all the decisions that homeowners have to make, insulation is one that is often overlooked. But it is also one that affects the homeowners in the long run. Spray Foam and Fiberglass are the two types of insulation that are used most often.
Fiberglass insulation slows the transfer of heat by trapping the air inside glass fibers. On the other hand, spray foam is a combination of two chemicals, a polymer, and a foaming agent. The advantage of spray foam is that it expands to about 100 times its volume and then hardens. Therefore, it can contract and expand with the building and can fill in air gaps. There are primarily two types of spray foam – open and closed cell. The open cell foam acts only as a barrier for air whereas the closed cell foam acts as moisture, vapor, and air barrier. Both spray foam and fiberglass has its own pros and cons.
- Energy Efficiency:
The energy efficiency of the insulation depends on its ability to stop air from passing through it. Spray foam is a much better air barrier when compared to fiberglass. Even if the fiberglass insulation is installed properly, more than 30% of the air conditioning escapes. Closed cell foam insulation doesn’t let any air escape, and this makes it highly energy efficient. The leakage is minimal in open cell insulation too. Irrespective of the type of spray foam, it is still more energy efficient than fiberglass.
The R-Value of a house indicates its resistance to heat flow. The higher the r-value, the better the insulation. It is recommended that a house should have r-value of at least 38. The r-value of spray foam is almost triple that of fiberglass. This means that to achieve the r-value of 38, the thickness of fiberglass will be triple the thickness required for spray foam insulation.
Fiberglass insulation comes in the form of rolls or batts. Although it is most effective when installed by a professional, it can still be done on your own without the help of a professional. However, spray foam insulation needs to be applied by a professional only. The installation is not a simple process and there are various precautions to be taken.
If the fiberglass remains dry, it will last anywhere between 10 to 25 years. Spray foam will last more than 80 years. This implies that once you get spray foam insulation, you need not spend on insulation again for almost a century.
Fiberglass is obviously the cheaper insulation option and this is one of the key reasons for its popularity. The cost of spray foam insulation can be more than triple the cost of fiberglass insulation. Since spray foam insulation can only be installed by professionals, the labor cost should also be considered.
- Other Benefits:
Fiberglass insulation doesn’t have any other benefit apart from the fact that its low cost. Spray foam, on the other hand, has multiple other benefits. It also doubles up as soundproofing for your home. It improves the structural integrity of the house and it also keeps air, moisture, pollen, and dust out of your home. It also reduces the maintenance and wear of your HVAC equipment.
- Health Risks:
Spray foam becomes non-toxic and inert once it has been cured and has set completely. However, while the chemicals are being mixed to get the spray foam, certain toxic gases are emitted that can cause respiratory distress. This mainly affects the workers during the installation process and is the main reason why you need professionals with proper protection and equipment to perform the installation. Inhalation of the glass wool fibers in the fiberglass can lead to cancer and therefore it should also be handled with extreme care while installing.
Apart from the high cost, spray foam has no other disadvantages. It outperforms fiberglass on almost every other point of consideration. The only advantage of fiberglass is that it is cheap. However, since its lifetime is much shorter than that of spray foam, in the long run, spray foam is still more cost-effective.
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