(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-5pm Eastern

insulation types and applications

Types of Insulation and their Applications

By Wayne Groszko Rise Renewable Energy Expert
Aug 4, 2017

Adding more insulation to a home can make you more comfortable and save energy and money, especially if you live in an older home that may not have been insulated to today’s standards. To do this, you have some decisions to make:

  1. Where will you insulate?
  2. What type of insulation will you use?
  3. How much insulation do you need?

In this article, we look at the first two questions. Learn how much insulation to use in another article.

Where to Add Insulation in a Home?

In a cold winter, you want to keep your hard-earned heating dollars inside your home, which means cutting down heat loss with insulation. Heat is lost from a house in every direction, not just ‘up,’ and it’s lost in three ways – conduction, convection, and radiation.

Conduction is transfer through material contacts, like the way heat will conduct to your hand if you pick up the hot handle of an iron frying pan on the stove. Convection is the movement of air, like the way hot air rises above a heater. Radiation is the energy that transmits in all directions through space from hot to cold objects. It’s like the heat you feel if you hold your hand a few inches away from that hot frying pan.

heat flow diagram
Image courtesy of Dane George

Insulation mainly slows down conduction, but some types of insulation will also create air barriers to prevent convection and air leakage.

Based on these three principles, it makes sense to insulate all the surfaces that reach the exterior, including basement walls, ground slab, above-grade walls, and ceilings. But although heat goes in all directions, we know that hot air actually does rise, which means you do get more heat loss from the top than the bottom of a house. This is why the ceiling needs the thickest insulation and is a good place to start if you can only do one part at a time.

blown-in cellulose
Blown-in cellulose insulation in an attic. Image courtesy of Dane George.

Okay, now what type of insulation to use?

Each type of insulation is suitable to be used in various places, and for each place, there are usually several types of insulation that are suitable. Confusing? To help decide in your situation, here is a table of common insulation types and what they are used for:

insulation types

There are lots of other insulation types out there, like sheep’s wool insulation, denim batt insulation (made from recycled jeans!) and straw bales. We can’t cover them all in this article, but they all have their applications, as well as pros and cons.

mineral wool batt insulation
Mineral wool batt insulation in a wall. Image courtesy of Wayne Groszko..

Which insulation to choose for which purpose?

Here is a guide to selecting insulation for different parts of a house, identified in the diagram below.

house parts diagram
Image courtesy of Dane George
insulation application guide
closed cell spray foam insulation
Closed-cell spray foam insulation in a wall.. Image courtesy of Wayne Groszko..

What’s next?

That covers the basics of insulation. To learn more about how much insulation to choose, check out Part 2 in the insulation series.

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: 2021-04-28T19:44:40+0000
Wayne Groszko

Article by:

Wayne Groszko

Wayne Groszko is a consultant, researcher, and teacher in Energy Sustainability with 13 years of experience. He has taught at Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Community College, in the Faculties of Engineering, Environmental Science, and Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology. Wayne is also President of the Community Energy Cooperative of New Brunswick, and has worked as Renewable Energy Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia. He holds a B.Sc. (Hon.) from the University of Calgary, and a Ph.D. from Dalhousie University.