Choosing Insulation This Winter

Insulation is a hot topic right now as the weather changes here at the tail-end of Autumn, and looking at the beginning of Winter.  At this point, technology has come pretty far as to the kinds of materials for insulation that are available to the homeowner.

Some products are standard glass fiber insulation. And others are derived from natural materials. But, which makes the most sense as far as cost-effectiveness over the long term, and environmental friendliness?

Writer Elaine Hirsch is here to explain some of the basics on select insulation options to help you orient yourself when choosing replacement insulation, or when building a home from the ground up this coming winter.


When building or remodeling a home, several choices of insulation materials are available for most jobs. It is, of course, important to consider both the effectiveness and the cost of an insulation material.

In addition, considering the environmental friendliness of the material used to create the insulation is another important factor when planning for insulation. In addition to the widely used artificial insulation types such as fiberglass natural insulation may meet your cost, effectiveness, and environmental-friendliness needs.

Insulation and R-value

Whether you’re looking at natural or synthetic insulation, the common factor for comparison is the insulation’s effectiveness. The effectiveness of insulation is measured using a standard unit known as the R value, with a higher R value indicating a more effective insulation. In more than half of homes in the United States, it is recommended that your house be insulated to an R value of at least R38 in the attic, R25 under the floor, and R5 in the walls.

When most people think of home insulation, they imagine big rolls of pink fluff. This type of insulation is made of fiberglass and is very common in modern construction. Fiberglass insulation, as a standard for comparison, is a relatively effective type of synthetic insulation, with an R value ranging from R2.5 to R4 per inch of insulation.

Blue jean insulation

One type of natural insulation that may be used in place of fiberglass rolls is cotton batting, or “blue jean” insulation. Cotton batting typically has rating of around R3 per inch of insulation. Cotton batting is fairly simple to install, too. It can be cut to size, and pressed into place in a similar manner to fiberglass rolls.

In addition to being manufactured from natural resources, cotton insulation can be recycled or composted at the end of its useful life, lowering the environmental impact of its disposal.

Wool batting insulation

Another effective natural insulation is wool batting. Similar to fiberglass rolls and cotton batting, installation involves cutting and pressing the wool batting. Not only is it durable, but it is also an effective insulator. Wool batting’s effectiveness is on par with cotton and fiberglass, having an approximate R value of R3 per inch of insulation.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, wool is a safe and healthy for your family. It is fire and mold resistant in addition to being non-carcinogenic. Wool is a renewable resource, too. A single sheep creates 6-10 pounds of wool every year from virtually harmless annual shearing.

Choosing insulation involves lots of options

When it comes to home insulation, keep in mind that you are not limited to the roll of pink fiberglass fluff that you may be accustomed to seeing on the job site. There are plenty of options for people who are interested in Earth friendly options in choosing home insulation. The price of natural insulation can vary by region, so talk to your contractor or home improvement store representative to find out what is available and cost effective in your area.


Thanks, Elaine!

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education to technology to public policy, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. She is currently a writer for a master’s degree program resource.






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