What Is R-Value and How Is It Used in the Insulation Installation Business?

October 6, 2015

Who would have guessed years ago those high school Algebra classes would help you on the job? How about Geometry? Or even, brace yourself, Calculus. Egad!

So many formulas! Those darn little “x”s and “y”s, mixed in with dozens of little numbers, the multiplication and division symbols, those Greek thingies, and those hypothetical word problems! It was enough to drive you screaming to philosophy class to beg the question: Why? Why? Oh, why?

We at Capitol Machine share your bewilderment, a word we learned in English class, but the fundamentals of Algebra serve a very useful function in the world of insulation installation.In this industry, it’s not the “x” that’s important, but the “r” – specifically the “R-value.”

Calculating a home’s R-value is imperative in determining exactly how much insulation the structure needs. According to the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association, the R-value is the measure of resistance to heat flow through a certain thickness of material: the higher the R-value, the greater the resistance. Other factors must also be factored into the equation (here we go again with Algebra) to determine how effective a particular insulation material is.

What Is R-Value and How Is It Used in the Insulation Installation Business?

Other Factors Are Important for the Equation

Gauging how well insulation performs also involves where the insulation is installed. While higher R-values generally enhance thermal performance, properly placed insulation, the type, thickness and density are all elements that deserve equal consideration in the equation. (We’ll discuss those qualities in future articles.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established eight zones. The quantity of insulation a home may need depends on zone specifications. Warmer climates have lower zone numbers while colder climates have higher numbers. The U.S. Department of Energy provides information on how much insulation homes need in different areas and a zone calculator that helps contractors work through the Algebra.

One important aspect contractors should understand is the occasional overemphasis (or, perhaps, misplaced emphasis) on the R-value as the sole indicator of insulation levels.

Other yardsticks for finding the most effective insulation levels and types for a structure include: conduction (measured by the R-value), convection, radiation and air filtration. The R-value does not measure the latter three categories.

We’ll explore those subjects in upcoming articles.

Did you find this topic helpful? We at Capitol Machine offer a wide variety of insulation machinesinsulation blowers and insulation removal vacuumsContact us with questions or for more information.

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