A Guide to the Different Types of Insulation

Insulation is one of the most important things to have in your home. It helps it stay warm or cool and makes life a lot more comfortable overall. Below we will look at the main types of insulation and their pros and cons, along with their prices and installation.

Fiberglass Blankets and Batts

R-value: 3 to 4 inches (R-13 when you have a 2×4 framed wall)

Pros: Very familiar with available, has standard thicknesses and widths which are made to fit in between joists, rafters and studs. Foil and paper-faced versions come with stapling flanges to give you easy installation.

Environmental issues: Inhaling the fibers can be bad to your health. The phenol formaldehyde has been linked to a possible risk of cancer and the fibers quickly break down in the lungs. The amount of recycled content is up to 60 percent.

Best to use in: Ceilings, floors and walls.

DiY or Professional Installation installation? DIY

Cost: .30 /square foot

Rockwool Blankets and Batts

R-value: 4-5/inch (R-15 when you have a 2×4 framed wall).

Pros: Much more resistant to fire when compared with fiberglass. Isn’t itchy. Is fast and easy to install because it shapes against the studs so you don’t need staples.

Cons: Holds moisture and isn’t widely available. If it becomes wet, mold can grow.

Environmental issues: A lot of it is recycled content (as much as 90% pre-consumer) and even though there may be tiny crystalline silica amounts in them that can cause cancer, there are studies that have shown that there’s no evidence that inhaling it can lead to lung disease.

Best to use in: Ceilings, floors, walls.

DiY or Professional Installation? DIY

Cost: .60/square foot

Cotton Batts (Blue Jeans)

R-value: 3.5-4/inch (R-13 when you have a 2×4 framed wall).

Pros: Isn’t itchy, comes in rolls that are easy to handle, and can be cut to fit around your pipes.

Cons: More expensive than other kinds and isn’t widely available.

Environmental issues: It has a minimum of 85% recycled fibers and needs more energy to create. Contains a fire retardant made of borate and can deter some types of insects.

Best to use in: Walls.

DiY or Professional Installation installation? DIY

Cost: .90/square foot

Loose-Fill Insulation

If you’re looking for insulation, this type of insulation is fluffy fiber strands that’s blown into walls using a specific type of machine. It fills in the spaces that you can’t reach and eliminates cold spots.


R-value: 2.2 to 2.7 inches.

Pros: It’s light enough to use I the attic over ½ inch ceilings made of drywall with frames at two-foot intervals.

Cons: It’s very fluffy so the loose applications could as much as half of the effectiveness when it’s really cold. The way that you can stop this is by topping it with blanket insulation types or with loose fill that is higher density.

Environmental issues: This has the same issues as the blankets and batts made of fiberglass with the exception of formaldehyde. The content is up to 60 percent recycled.

Best to use in: Ceilings.

DiY or Professional Installation? It’s pretty easy to insulate your open attic if you are good at do it yourself projects. You are going to save as much as 70% than if you have a professional do it. Check if you’re able to rent a blower from a home improvement store. However, if your job is more complicated, it’s best to have the professional do it. It will save you money with energy.

Cost: .30 cents/cubic foot


R-value: 3.2–3.8/inch.

Pros: Works at any temperature and even can perform better when the temperature is colder.

Cons: Too heavy to use in attics. The ceiling must have framing on 16 inch intervals or a minimum of 5/8 inch drywall. As time goes by it may settle nearly 20% and reduce how effective it is.

Environmental issues: The large fibers won’t go into lungs and the dust only causes a nuisance. How cellulose insulation is made up is usually around 85% of recycled paper (post-consumer) and 15 percent fire retardant. This is usually borate compound and helps with deterring pests.

Best to use in: New open wall cavities, attic floors that are unfinished, other places that are hard for you to reach, ceilings, and existing walls that are enclosed.

Cost: .31/cubic foot per

Structural Insulated Panel

These types of panels, also known as SIPs, give you a great energy savings that is equal to 12-14%. However, they also come with a higher price tag. They’ll usually come in sheets of 4×8 foot even though there are some manufacturers that make them as big as 8×24 feet, and these are usually used for the newer construction.

If you are replacing roofing or siding, or if you’re adding something to your building, these boards are going to insulate your whole wall’s surface, along with the framing. Some of the sheets offers the edges that are groove and tongue so that the seams are energy efficient and tight. This insulation also is used for crawlspace and basement walls. When a living area is being faced, the building code usually will require that the material’s covered with a drywall layer.


This SIP type has two different versions. The EPS is the one that is more affordable and offers the R-value that is the lowest. The type called extruded or XPS is usually pink or blue in color. It’s also stronger and will block moisture a lot better when compared with EPS.

R-value: 3.8 for EPS and 5 for XPS for each inch.

Pros: Easily installed and lightweight.

Cons: Has to be cut so that it fits around wall penetrations such as pipes. This leaves gaps that you should fill using sealing foam. It isn’t structural, so nothing can be nailed to it. Pests and insects are able to tunnel through them. You should treat your panels using insecticide prior to using them. They’re also very airtight, so an SIP structure that is well-built could need some fresh-air ventilation so that building codes are met and to keep it safe.

Environmental issues: Toxic smoke is emitted from the panels when they are burned. Even though leftovers and scraps are able to be recycled, this rarely happens. They usually are found in oceans and rivers as plastic bead trash.

Best to use in: New ceilings, floors, roofs and walls.

DiY or Professional Installation? This can be done on your own but because these types of panels are best used for full replacement or new construction, chances are that you already will have someone working on it.

Cost: EPS: $6 (one inch thick, 4×8 foot sheet) XPS: $15 (one inch thick 4×8 foot sheet)


R-value: 5.6 to 7.7/inch

Pros: It has the highest value per inch when it comes to R-value of any kind of insulation that has a thickness anywhere from ½” – 2”. This is often faced using foil, and this acts like a barrier for moisture. It simple to install.

Cons: Since the foil kind is a barrier for moisture, you shouldn’t use it where you already have an inside moisture barrier. It’s also expensive.

Environmental issues: Toxic smoke is emitted when they panels are burned. Even though the leftovers and scraps are able to be recycled, they usually aren’t. Panels emit toxic smoke when burned. Although scraps and leftovers can be recycled, they rarely are.

Best to use in: New ceilings, floors, roofs and walls.

DiY or Professional Installation? The same as XPS and EPS – chances are that you’ll use a professional.

Cost: $22 per sheet that’s 1-inch-thick, 4 x 8

Spray Foam

This type of insulation will cost more when compared with batt insulation but it’s R-value is higher. It also will form air barriers, which helps eliminate other types of weathering tasks like caulking.

This particular plastic insulation will go on in liquid form and then expands so your space is filled, sealing all of the cracks and gaps and halting any types of air leaks. Professionals will spray this insulation into the framing cavities. After it’s dry the extra is then cut away and the surface that is left is flat and even.

Open-Cell Polyurethane

R-value: 3.5-3.6/inch.

Pros: Halts air movement.

Cons: Lets water vapor pass through, so you still may need a type of moisture barrier. It will need a professional to install it.

Environmental issues: This is sometimes known as half-pound foam and contains some plant-based or petroleum based plastic. VOCs and chemicals that are released during the application as well as during the curing process can greatly affect the health, so you should not go back into the space for as long as three days.

Best to use in: Ceilings, floors, walls.

DiY or Professional Installation? Even though cans can be purchased for the smaller jobs, like filling the spaces around a door frame, a professional who has special equipment will be needed for insulating the roof, attic, floor or walls. This is particularly true if you want a really high R-rating.

Cost: $1-$1.20 per square foot. (R-13 when you have a 2×4 framed wall).

Closed-Cell Polyurethane

R-value: 6.0-6.5/inch.

Pros: Halts air and moisture movement

Cons: Fairly expensive and must be installed professionally.

Environmental issues: Is installed with blowing agents which can affect global warming and is often referred to as 2-pound foam. It will use a lot more material when compared with the open-cell counterpart. Being exposed to it are like the open-cell.

Best to use in: Ceilings, floors, walls.

DiY or Professional Installation? Definitely professional.

Cost: $1.75-$3 per square foot. (R-13 when you have a 2×4 framed wall)

These are the types of installation that there are available. When you are thinking of installation, you want to think about your expectations, your budget and whether you want to do it yourself or hire someone to do it. Then you can choose the one that’s best for you.

Need Help? Talk to An Expert!

Our goal is to help educate our HVAC customers in the Port Charlotte and Charlotte County, Florida area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC, Heating and Air Conditioning systems).

If you are contemplating having your air conditioning repaired, Contact Dales Heating and Air Conditioning by calling (941) 629-1712 or by filling out our secure Contact Form.