A Guide To Understanding How Insulation Works

Sunlight coming into insulated attic

There’s nothing worse than sitting at home on a sweltering hot summer’s day and feeling every sweat droplet roll down your face. On the flip side, the last thing you need is to be walking around your home in winter with blue lips and chattering teeth. 

You want the outside weather to do just that – stay outside. That’s where insulation comes into the picture, preventing those sweat droplets and blue lips before they even form. 

A well-insulated home offers year-round comfort. You’ll find yourself reaching for that air-conditioning button far less and enjoying the natural refuge your home creates all on its own. 

Are you curious about how insulation works? We have all the answers you need to live in comfort day in and day out.

What is insulation?

Insulation is a material you can use in your home to resist or block the flow of heat energy. Put simply, in summer, you can use insulation to prevent the heat from outside entering your home. During winter, you can keep any heat you have inside from escaping out. It’s the perfect barrier to create year-round comfort you can rely on.

Types of insulation – and how they work

How your insulation works all depends on what type you opt for. When it comes to insulation products, you’re looking at two main categories: bulk and reflective. These can also be combined into a composite material.

At 4 Seasons Home Insulation, we only sell materials that meet Australian Standard AS/NZS 4859, Materials for the thermal insulation of buildings.

Heat can be transmitted in three different ways: 

  • Convection: the way heat circulates through liquids and gases
  • Conduction: the way heat moves through materials
  • Radiation: heat that travels in a straight line

Bulk insulation deals with the former two, while reflective insulation caters to the latter. As you might expect, composite insulation aims to offer the best of both worlds and block out as much heat as possible.

Bulk insulation

Bulk insulation is made from low-density materials and generally uses pockets of trapped air to prevent the transfer of convected and conducted heat. It works well in both ceilings and floors, trapping the heat in when it’s cold, and preventing it from entering when it’s warm. It can include:

  • Cellulose fibre pump in materials
  • Polyester batts
  • Fibreglass batts including rock wool
  • Rock wool pump in materials

Reflective insulation

As the name suggests, reflective insulation works by reflecting radiant heat, and is commonly used in the hotter parts of Australia. It uses a layer of foil backed by paper or plastic to bounce the heat back, away from your home. This style insulation relies on an air layer at least 25mm next to the surface. Materials include:

  • Foil faced blankets or sarking
  • Foil faced boards
  • Multi-cell foil products

Choosing the best insulation

As you might expect, not all insulation is created equal.

If you’re looking to compare different types of insulation on the market, then you need to understand its R-value. The higher this value, the higher the level of insulation. This value is determined by the type of insulation, its thickness and its density.

Your home is made up of the roof and ceilings as the outer walls. Each of these materials possess their own heat resistance (R-value). By adding the R-value of each of these components, you can determine the total R-value for your home.

The NCC and BASIX (in New South Wales) set out the minimum requirements when it comes to R-values for materials. Ideally, you want to set your sights higher than this for complete comfort in your home. Use it as a baseline, not as the standard.

Is insulation worth it?

The answer to this question is going to rely on a number of varying factors, including: 

  • It is an essential component to New Builds (BASIX Requirements) in Australia
  • Energy savings (less reliance in heating and cooling)
  • The environmental impact
  • Comfort
  • Health
  • Where you live and what the climate is like
  • How much time you spend at home

The simple answer is yes: insulation acts as a barrier to your home, keeping it nice and warm in winter and cool in summer. Properly insulating your home reduces heating and cooling costs, while also improving comfort. No more breaking out the icepacks or bringing your hot water bottles to bed. 

Without insulation, you’re allowing any artificial hot or cool air you create in your home to simply escape straight back outside, while also allowing the outdoor temperatures to creep inside. 

Good insulation regulates the temperature and keeps your fingers off that air-conditioning remote.

Finding the right insulation

Investing in the right insulation for your climate significantly reduces your heating and cooling costs – saving your valuable pennies. In fact, insulation is now mandatory in new builds, which makes sense since it’s cheap and will pay itself back in no time.

However, getting your hands on the right product isn’t enough. It needs to be installed correctly to perform well and avoid condensation problems. 

The effectiveness of your insulation is also dependent on where and how it is installed. For example, insulation that is flattened, won’t provide its full rated R-value. 

You also need to be aware of any thermal bridging in your home. These are pathways created by the building frame and allow heat and cold to travel through. Thermal bridging can be minimised with the right tools and expertise on hand, to ensure you receive the most effective insulation.

That’s where 4 Seasons Home Insulation comes in – we have over 25 years experience in installing insulation correctly. If you’re looking for more information or would like to arrange a quote, fill out a contact form today.