Brr, it’s cold outside, but for how much longer? Brace yourself! The Old Farmers’ Almanac suggests Phoenicians can look forward to a hot, dry summer beginning as early as April. It goes without saying that staying indoors with the air conditioner running at a comfortable level will once again become the norm for many residents. Bank accounts may consequently be impacted by summer cooling costs. Radiant barriers can offset those costs by effectively reducing summer heat gain.
What is a Radiant Barrier?
A radiant barrier is a highly reflective material, usually aluminum, that reflects radiant heat rather than absorbing it. When combined with attic insulation, it is an effective way to keep your entire home cooler in the summer, without sacrificing your monthly utility budget. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, radiant barriers can reduce cooling costs 5 to 10 percent when installed in a hot, sunny climate like Phoenix. Radiant barriers can be installed in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
How Does Heat Travel?
To understand how a radiant barrier works, it helps to understand that heat is mobile, meaning that it is transferable from warm areas to colder locations. There are three main ways it does this: conduction, convection and radiation. With conduction, heat travels from a hotter spot within a material to a colder location, such as how hot coffee warms the mug it’s poured into. Insulation works to slow this mechanism.
We’ve all heard that warm air rises and cool air falls. This is how convection works. The third and final principle of heat transfer is radiation. Radiation is the heat traveling in the form of visible and non-visible light. Sunlight and infrared are two forms of radiation – both of which can heat your home to uncomfortable levels during the summer. Radiant barriers block this type of heat transfer by reflecting radiant energy off the surfaces of your home.
Types of Radiant Barriers
Radiant barriers consist of a highly reflective material, usually aluminum, which is applied to one or both sides of a substrate material. These substrates include Kraft paper, plastic films, cardboard, plywood sheathing, and air infiltration barrier material (U.S. Department of Energy). If one-sided materials are being used, the reflective side must face the open-air space, ensuring its effectiveness. Also, and this pertains to both material types, it must allow water vapor to pass through it.
Like attic insulation, a radiant barrier’s effectiveness depends on proper installation, so it’s best to use a licensed installer. Banker Insulation is a full-service insulation and energy conservation contractor serving the greater Phoenix area. In business since 1977, we provide residential and commercial insulation, sound control and other valuable services, including radiant barriers. For more information on services offered, please contact us at (602) 273-1261, or at any one of these other locations.