BIBS Header

BIBS Insulation: Should You Consider This Blown In Product?

By Tom Saxton Rise Writer
Apr 28, 2021

Insulation is a diverse field with an array of options. Insulation in batt form, such as fiberglass batting, has been the most common insulation type for a long time. As demand for high-efficiency building envelopes increases, alternative techniques and products are emerging to add diversity to our insulation options.

Service Partners
Photo Credit: Service Partners

What Is BIBS Insulation?

Blow-In-Blanket System (BIBS®) is a patented process for installing JM Climate Pro's loose-fill fiberglass insulation. The BIBS system is a certified system that includes specific fabric and fiberglass fiber types that need to be "BIBS System Approved." It has been around for about 65 years, so while it's not necessarily new, its use is increasing as building energy efficiency becomes a popular and necessary focus. 

How Does BIBS Insulation Compare to Batts? 

The type of insulation specific to BIBS is loose-fill fiberglass blown into wall cavities with specialized skills and tools. Traditional fiberglass batt insulation is pre-made in rolls of 16 inch or 24-inch widths, depending on your stud spacing. Batts don't fill small gaps or irregularities effectively like those found around piping and electrical wiring. Seams around the edges of batts reduce thermal efficiency and increase air leakage. Installers can pack blow-in insulation two to two-and-half times as dense as batts with fewer gaps in wall cavities. You can install BIBS in cavities of any size or shape. Blow-in insulation also does not settle over time like batt insulation can, which leaves a gap at the top of the wall cavity, reducing the R-value of the wall structure.

Fiberglass

How is BIBS Insulation Made?

Fiberglass is made of glass fibers composed primarily of silica sand, soda ash, and limestone. Additional fiberglass components often include magnesite, borax, kaolin clay, feldspar, magnesite, nepheline syenite, and calcinated alumina.

What is the R-Value of BIBS Insulation?

BIBS insulation is R-15 for 3.5 inch thick walls or R-4.23 per inch. Fiberglass batting insulation is rated at R-11 for 3.5 inch thick walls or R-3.7 per inch.

Greenways Insulation
Photo Credit: Greenways Insulation

How Thick Does Bibs Insulation Need to Be?

BIBS insulation can be blown into any thickness, size, or shape of a wall cavity of conventional dimensions (3.5 inches and up).

Where Can BIBS Insulation Be Used?

BIBS insulation can be used as wall or roof insulation in both wood and steel-framed buildings. It can be installed in new construction as well as existing buildings.

How Long Does BIBS Insulation Last?

The service life of fiberglass insulation is usually said to be 100 years. Manufacturers commonly describe BIBS to last the lifetime of the building. Being so densely packed, which eliminates the risk of slumping, is a significant factor in BIBS long service life. Over time, we will learn more about the lifespan since we are nearing a century since its invention.

Everlasting Insulation
Photo Credit: Everlasting Insulation

Is BIBS Insulation Environmentally Friendly?

BIBS fibers incorporate materials with at least 25% recycled content. The remaining 75% is still raw materials newly manufactured for this sole use. These materials primarily include silica sand, limestone, and soda ash, extracted from the Earth's crust and have their footprints associated with extraction and manufacturing.

BIBS fiberglass insulation can result in less installation waste because only the amount of fiber necessary to fill the wall cavities is used. In contrast, batting insulation might result in scraps left over from cutting pieces to size. Old or dirty fiberglass insulation is seldom able to be recycled at the end of its service life. The most likely end place for this product is a landfill, like a spray foam insulation. Blown-in cellulose and sheep's wool insulation win on this front by being biodegradable.

From an energy efficiency standpoint, BIBS insulation offers superior R-value to fiberglass batt insulation. Its thermal resistance lasts for the product's lifetime. In contrast, other types of insulation like foams can reduce in R-value as they off-gas.

Great Northern Insulation BIBS
Photo Credit: Great Northern Insulation

Is BIBS Insulation Healthy?

The BIBS insulation system is free of formaldehyde and chemicals, including binders and inks. Once installed and sealed in the wall cavity, BIBS fiberglass insulation has minimal health risks. When there are health concerns, it's during installation or removal when tiny fiberglass fragments can become airborne. The fibers can also irritate or cause rashes on your skin. When dealing with fiberglass insulation, it's best to wear a respirator along with long sleeves and gloves to reduce itchiness.

Fiberglass excels from a fire safety perspective because it is fire resistant without flame retardants like foam insulation has.

How Much Does BIBS Insulation Cost?

BIBS installation cost will vary by location and contractor, but a rough estimate is $1 per square foot. When compared to standard fiberglass batt, BIBS insulation is more expensive to install. However, due to its higher R-value, a BIBS insulation system can easily be less costly than batt insulation when considering long-term energy savings.

Cube Insulation BIBS
Photo Credit: Cube Insulation

How Do You Install BIBS Insulation?

The BIBS system can only be installed by contractors that complete a BIBS training course. There are plenty of certified contractors across Canada and the United States.

For an experienced contractor, the installation process is swift and creates minimal material waste. During installation, the wall or ceiling cavities are enclosed with a breathable fabric stapled in place, which holds the fiberglass in the wall. Then, a hole is cut in the fabric where the blowing tube will go. After measuring your stud cavities, technicians will measure fiberglass insulation's weight to the correct density as specified by the manufacturer. This amount will be fed into the hopper of a pneumatic blowing system by one technician. Another technician controls the hose that blows the insulation into the wall cavities through the hole in the fabric. 

If you are set on DIY, at the end of the day, the BIBS system is simply fiberglass blown behind a breathable fabric – all of these materials can be purchased by homeowners. It's not nearly as simple as installing batt insulation. Still, it is doable by capable and knowledgeable homeowners that do their research. You can also blow in sheep wool and cellulose with very similar techniques and fewer health risks. When handling fiberglass insulation, you should always wear appropriate PPE. These include respirators, safety glasses, long sleeve clothing, and gloves, and be sure to clean up loose fibers around the workplace during and after installation. 

Old Fiberglass Insulation

 How Do You Remove BIBS Insulation

When removing BIBS insulation, you should use an insulation vacuum remover to minimize exposure to fiberglass fibers. Before removing the breathable mesh, insert the vacuum's hose into the wall cavity and suck out all the fibers. Insulation vacuum removers can be rented at many rental shops. If you don't use a specialized vacuum, you will be dealing with pulling out handfuls of fiberglass, which will be dangerous as fibers become airborne.

How Do You Dispose of BIBS Insulation?

If it is new and not dirty, it can be donated for reuse. Old and dirty fibers should be disposed of properly in a landfill; recycling fiberglass insulation is not common at this time. Thankfully fiberglass fibers will last a very long time. So unless your house goes through a renovation project, it will likely not need to have the fiberglass insulation removed for the lifetime of the building.

What Are the Best Brands of BIBS Insulation?

The BIBS system approves CertainTeed InsulSafe® SP, InsulSafe® XC and Optima, Johns Manville Climate Pro® and Spider, and Jet Stream® ULTRA and Jet Stream® MAX fibers for its use. All of these fibers offer similar thermal performance.

Insulation Solutions BIBS
Photo Credit: Insulation Solutions

What Are The Benefits of BIBS Insulation?

  • Higher R-value- BIBS insulation has a higher R-value than fiberglass batts. This means lower energy bills.
  • Reduced air leakage and dust - It can reduce air leakage by 68% compared to fiberglass batts. This prevents infiltration of outdoor allergens and dust.
  • Sound reduction- Being densely packed, which eliminates air gaps around things like pipes, BIBS insulation reduces sound transmission.
  • Longevity- BIBS will last the lifetime of the building. Due to the densely packed nature of BIBS, fibers will not slump over time, so the thermal resistance of the wall structure will remain stable.
  • No off-gassing- BIBS-approved insulation has not been chemically treated with chemicals like formaldehyde, so there is no off-gassing or release of harmful fumes into the home. There are no odors associated with this material.
  • Moisture, mold, insect-resistant - Fiberglass does not absorb water or offer an environment for mold to grow. It does not provide food for insects or animals. 
  • Dynamic Installation - Can be installed in new or existing buildings in any climate type.
  • Fire Safety – Fiberglass is non-flammable. The BIBS system meets ASTM C674 for smoldering combustion and ASTM E136 for non-combustion.

What Are The Cons of BIBS Insulation?

  • Higher initial cost than batts – BIBS costs a little more than fiberglass batts. However, its superior thermal resistance will easily make up for the cost difference over time. 
  • Contractors needed – BIBS requires certified contractors to install the material to allow any warranty coverage. Specialized tools like an insulation blowing machine and plenty of research are necessary for the installation if you DIY.
  • Disposal – Used fiberglass is tough to recycle and typically must be disposed of in a landfill. 
  • Mining of raw materials- The extraction process of raw materials that create fiberglass has a considerable environmental footprint.
  • Skin and respiratory irritation- During installation or removal, loose fibers can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems if PPE is not worn. Once sealed up in the wall, this is not a concern. 
Service Partners BIBS
Photo Credit: Service Partners

If you are planning to go with fiberglass insulation, it is worth considering BIBS fiberglass blow-in system. You'll have a more efficient building envelope with this over traditional fiberglass batts. If you are looking for renewable and biodegradable material options for blow-in insulation, consider cellulose and sheep's wool insulation. 

While upfront costs are essential when choosing insulation, it's best to consider long-term energy efficiency foremost when considering insulation types. The cheaper to install insulation with a lower R-value won't be cheaper in the long run than slightly more expensive insulation with a higher R-value. Improving the energy efficiency of our built environments is critical to reducing negative impacts on the planet. Always think long-term when choosing your insulation while considering the total life cycle of the materials you choose.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-11-26T16:25:20+0000