This reflective insulation guide covers the product, its applications and reflective insulation costs. Reflective insulation is very similar to radiant barrier systems which we discuss in a separate guide. Both are used to reflect heat rather than resist heat, so they don’t have rated R (resistance) values.
About Reflective Insulation
Reflective insulation is made with a reflective surface. This surface, typically aluminum foil, is installed facing an enclosed space such as an unfinished attic. The foil may be attached to craft paper, plastic film, cardboard or polyethylene bubbles for flexibility.
Just as metal reflects heat from the sun, so a reflective insulation product will reflect rather than transfer a percentage of the heat that comes against it. It prevents radiant-heat transfer.
Reducing the transfer of radiant heat will help to keep the air cooler in the space served by the reflective insulation. For example, in an attic, the reflective barrier will help prevent the heat from the sun that is radiating through the roofing material from heating the air in the attic and penetrating into your home.
The presence of reflective insulation does not mean that another source of insulation such as loose fill insulation or fiberglass roll insulation isn’t needed. Reflective insulation is commonly used in conjunction with another type of insulation.
Another value of reflective insulation is that it is not affected by humidity. Fiberglass and rock wool insulation becomes less effective where humidity is high, so having reflecting insulation in place too can help overcome any deficit in other insulation types caused by excess humidity.
The attic space is the most common place to install reflective insulation, but it can be used in any location with unfinished walls, ceilings or floors. In unfinished space, the reflective surface will keep the heat from the heating system inside the home during the heating season. In the summer, it will prevent heat from outside the house from penetrating inside by reflecting the heat back toward the roof.
In roof applications, reflective insulation is most often used in warm climates to prevent heat from penetrating the home.
Reflective insulation is also commonly used in barns and sheds with unfinished walls and ceilings to reflect created heat back into the building.
Table 1: Prices shown for Reflective Insulation, divided down into Material per Sq. Foot and Labor per Sq. Foot:
|Insulation Rating||Material per Sq. Foot||Labor per Sq. Foot|
|Variable||$0.35 to $0.75||$0.65 to $1.00|
The cost of the material ranges from $0.35 (35 cents) to $0.75 depending on the quality of the material being installed. Thicker material, for example, is more durable and easier to fasten in place without tearing.
Installing reflective insulation is somewhat labor intensive. Expect estimates for labor to be $0.65 to $1.00 per square foot of material installed. Fasteners and other supplies will be extra – roughly $25 to $40 per 1,000 square feet.
Get Tips on Radiant Barrier Insulation from the US Department of Energy
A Technical Article on How Reflective Insulation Works