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How Insulation Makes a Difference in HVAC Performance

A well-insulated home enables HVAC equipment to deliver superior performance. Proper insulation can help furnaces and air conditioning systems keep the environment warm in cold weather and cool when outside temperatures are on the rise. When insulation is absent or in poor condition, HVAC equipment may have to work harder to keep up, drawing too much electricity and heating and cooling less efficiently. Proper and sufficient insulation helps save energy and money while ensuring a comfortable indoor climate.

Leaks Equal Energy Loss

It may be estimated that leaks in system duct work may lead to a 10% to 30% loss of the energy used to heat or cool a home. Leakage in thin duct material needs to be sealed in order for forced air to maintain the appropriate temperature and stay free of dust and other allergens. An HVAC professional is likely to use a sealant specially designed for the duct type. This kind of material will resist decomposition and shrinkage over time. Despite its name, duct tape is not the ideal fix-it for duct leaks, as it is in fact prone to shrinkage and deterioration.

Where and How to Insulate

Once any leaks have been addressed, it is time to install some insulating material. It is important to provide insulation where there may be a concentration of piping and duct work, such as the basement or the attic. Floors and ceilings are other areas where insulation best serves its purpose. Ducts themselves may be insulated directly with either fiberglass or a duct wrap. Fiberglass has been in use for some time and has several advantages. Fiberglass can be:

  • Cost effective
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to replace
  • A noise barrier

Fiberglass insulation does require regular inspections to ensure that it is in good shape and providing appropriate coverage. Duct wraps are usually applied by HVAC professionals. They are lightweight, stable and efficient. One style is composed of a foil face with layers of bubble pack and polyethylene. Duct wrap is flexible and can provide excellent coverage in even hard-to-reach places. Unlike fiberglass, duct wrap resists problems caused by excess moisture.

The R-Value

The R-value of a given insulating material is the number that indicates the material’s ability to resist heat flow. In general, a higher number indicates a higher capacity to effectively insulate against heat or cold. Different geographical regions have varying requirements for both new construction and renovation. It is possible to add onto existing insulation to increase its energy efficiency. Some values for different insulating materials are:

  • Cardboard: R-3 – R-4
  • Polyurethane spray foam: R-3.6
  • Fiberglass batts: R-3.6 – R-5
  • Other foams: up to R-8.3

Today spray foams are produced that contain no CFCs, providing flexible insulation choices that are environmentally friendly as well. Whether it is a new home, a renovation, or maintenance, the HVAC professionals at Econo West Heating Air & Plumbing can recommend and install the right insulation to keep your home energy-smart and comfortable.

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