Is a Higher or Lower R Value Better for Energy Efficiency?

Is a Higher or Lower R Value Better for Energy Efficiency?

Posted by Ecostar Insulation on September 20, 2018

One of the most confusing terms when it comes to home insulation is R Value and whether a higher or lower R Value is better. R value can make a huge difference when it comes to your home’s energy efficiency for many reasons. Today on the blog we’re going to explain R Values and whether a higher or lower R Value is better for your overall energy efficiency.

What is R Value?

R Value is the measurement of how well a product resists conductive heat flow. If you’ve read our blog on the different types of heat flow, you’ll know that conduction is one of the three ways the heat can be transferred (the other two are convection and radiation). Simply put, R Value is a term the construction industry uses to explain how well a material prevents heat from passing through a given material. The higher the R Value, the greater the resistance and better thermal insulating power. But is a higher or lower R Value better when it comes to energy efficiency?

Each part of your home’s building structure have different R Values, and when aiming for better energy efficiency, it’s more worthwhile to consider the effective R Value of the entire assembly.

For example, when insulating an attic, an effective R value will take into consideration not only the insulation materials, but the roofing, flooring, and other components that will affect the overall performance.

Why Is R Value Important? How Does It Affect Energy Efficiency?

When it comes to keeping your home warm and your energy bills manageable throughout the year, knowing the R Value of products you choose to put in your home and their cumulative effect on energy efficiency can help you save a great deal of money in the short and long term.

Whether adding to your home insulation or completely replacing it, insulating your home properly will greatly improve your overall energy savings. The two biggest reasons why homes are energy inefficient are because of heat loss and heat infiltration. During the winter months, a leaky home with insufficient insulation loses heat as the warm air touches cool exterior surfaces; this process reverses in the summer months. This energy loss puts a huge strain on your HVAC system when it needs to run constantly to keep up to the temperature set on the thermostat, which leads to huge utility bills.

So Which is Better? A High R Value or a Low One?

Deciding if a higher or lower R Value is better for your home’s needs is all about context. There are three main factors that affect the kind of R Value you might want to increase the energy efficiency of your home:

Climate: In Southern Ontario, our temperature can be +30 in the summer and -30 in the winter - which is a huge difference! This means that we need greater insulating power than someone in a more temperate climate, like British Columbia.

Construction materials and style: Where you put your insulation, how, and when your home was built are going to affect the choices you make in R Value. A century home and a new build are going to have different concerns because of their architecture, materials, and the different elements of a home, such as cathedral ceilings, basements, walk outs, etc.

Your method for heating and cooling: With so many options on the market for heating and cooling your home, it’s important to take into consideration how they may make a difference in your insulation decisions.

Should I Use the Same R Value Throughout my Home?

With so many different products on the market, it’s tricky to know which should be used where, but there are some general rules of thumb that can help guide you. It’s more efficient to use a higher R Value rated product in the upper levels of your home, such as the attic and in rooms with particularly high ceilings - this makes sense if you consider that heat tends to rise. We want to keep a lid on that! Conversely, a lower R Value rated product might work better in the basement, crawl space, or in wood frame walls.

How Do You Increase R Value?

There are a number of ways to increase the R Value of your home:

Insulate: While insulation can be added anywhere in your home, the best place you can put insulation is in the attic. Different insulation materials offer different R Values, and an inspection of your attic can help determine if you need all-new products or a simple top up.

High Standards: When working with a contractor, they should be able to tell you what the building code standards are for your municipality, and you can work towards insulating your home to and above those standards for greater energy efficiency.

Beyond R Value: The other thing you can do to increase the energy efficiency of your home and make your R Values more effective is by reducing air leaks in your home. These improvements will help make it easier for your insulation to work effectively.

How Do I know What R Value I’m Getting?

Every insulation product in Ontario is rated by a third party organization to ensure honesty and accuracy in R Value ratings. At EcoStar Insulation, we’re always happy to provide further information and fact sheets about all our products!

R Value and Attic Insulation

Insulating the attic is one of the best things you can do to increase your home’s energy efficiency. Your attic and roof cavity are part of a bigger system of temperature management in your home, and properly insulating, ventilating, and maintaining the attic has a huge affect on your indoor comfort. Insulating the attic is like wearing a hat during the winter - it helps to keep a lid on your internal temperature and prevent the external cold from zapping your heat. In the summer months, attic insulation is like a wide-brimmed sun hat or ball cap - it keeps the heat off the main rooms of your house, keeping you cooler.

How EcoStar Can Help You Increase Your Energy Efficiency With Spray Foam Insulation

At EcoStar Insulation, the question of whether a higher or lower R Value is better depends on the home and its needs - but when it comes to different types of insulation, we unequivocally believe that spray foam offers our customers the best in home insulation and R Values.

Choosing spray foam insulation not only gives you some of the best R Values on the market, but greatly helps improve your home’s overall effective R Value by offering superior air and sound sealing, moisture resistance, and pest protection. EcoStar’s confidence in spray foam comes from years of safe, stress-free installations, and our workmanship comes guaranteed.

If you have any questions about what R Value is better for your home or our overall process, insulation products, then give us a call! Our professional, friendly teams are happy to help you determine whether a higher or lower R Value is better for your home.

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