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What Is Foil Barrier Reflective Insulation?

Foil Barrier insulation is a reflective insulation system that offers a permanent way to reduce energy costs. Foil Barrier insulation systems reflect radiant heat energy instead of trying to absorb it. A pure aluminum Foil Barrier reflective insulation is unaffected by humidity and will continue to perform at a consistent level no matter how humid it may be. A foil barrier insulation system is a layer of foil facing airspace and is installed in the envelope of a building.

Most people are familiar with traditional insulating materials such as fiberglass, cellulose, Styrofoam, and rock wool. These products use their ability to absorb or resist (slow down) convective and conductive heat transfer to insulate (R-value). A third, seldom discussed but dominant form of heat transfer exists: radiant heat transfer. What are the differences among the three forms of heat transfer?



          

  Conductive: Direct contact. If you touch a pot on the stove, this is conductive heat transfer.

  Convective: Steam, moisture. If you put your hand above a boiling pot, you will feel heat in the form of steam. This is convective heat transfer.

  Radiant: Electromagnetic. Step outside on a sunny day and feel the sun’s rays on your face. You are feeling radiant heat transfer. All objects above absolute zero (-459.7 degrees F.) emit infrared rays in a straight line in all directions.

A Foil Barrier reflects radiant heat energy instead of trying to absorb it. What does this mean in your home or business? During the winter, 50-75% of heat loss through the ceiling/roofing system and 65-80% of heat loss through walls is radiant. In the summer, up to 93% of heat gain is radiant. If you are depending on R-value (resistance) alone to insulate against heat gain and loss, remember that thin layers of fiberglass are virtually transparent to radiant energy and are affected by changes in humidity (moisture levels). A 1-1/2% change in the moisture content of fiberglass insulation will result in a 36% decrease in performance (referenced from HVAC Manual 10.6; McGraw-Hill). A pure aluminum Foil Barrier is unaffected by humidity and will continue to perform at a consistent level no matter how humid it may be.

Testing and Approvals

  • Building Officials and Code Administrators

  • International Conference of Building Officials

  • Building Officials and Code Administrators

  • Southern Building Code Congress International

  • Metropolitan Dade County (FL) Building Code Compliance Dept.

  • United States Testing Company

  • Tennessee Valley Authority

  • Tennessee Technological University

  • State of California

  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • Texas A & M University

How it works…

Foil Barrier is unlike mass insulation which only slows down or resists heat transfer. RB reflects heat. Heat always goes cold by natural law—the problem is how to keep the heat in in the winter and how to keep it out in the summer. There are three ways in which heat goes from warm spaces to cold spaces: CONDUCTION is direct heat flow through a solid object such as a wall or a ceiling. CONVECTION is heat movement through air, occurring when air is warmed. The warm expands, becoming less dense and rising. RADIATION is the movement of heat rays across air spaces from one warm object to a cooler object. The heat we feel from a wood stove or a quartz space heater is radiant heat. ALL OBJECTS AND BODIES GIVE OFF RADIANT HEAT. Even the insulation in your attic gives off radiant heat to the cold attic space in the winter, and to the living space in the summer. Regular insulation won’t stop radiant heat loss. Radiant heat must be REFLECTED with a reflective barrier.

What is the “R” Value…

The “R” value depends on the number and size of the airspaces surrounding the RB and on the direction of the heat flow. Since RB is usually installed on top of existing mass insulation, its R-value is a moot point. It is RB’s ability to reflect heat that makes it such an energy saver.

How it works in the winter…

Just like wrapping a baked potato in aluminum foil keeps a potato warm longer by holding the heat in, covering your attic insulation with RB holds heat in the house. Another analogy would be that RB in the winter works just like a space blanket, which, although very thin and lightweight, holds your body heat in. A thin space blanket can keep you warmer than several heavy blankets.

How it works in the Summer…

Just like a space suit, RB reflects the sun’s heat before it can warm up the insulation in your attic. When the insulation stays cooler, your house will stay cooler. It helps to understand how RB will work for you if you think of other things that work in much the same way. ASTRONAUTS’ SPACE SUITS—keep body heat and reflect the sun’s heat away. THERMOS BOTTLES—keep hot things hot and cold things cold. They are almost perfect insulators. The tight seal and air space prohibit heat transfer by conduction and convection. The reflective surfaces inhibit radiation heat transfer. If the bottle starts out hot, it stays hot because very little heat is transferred to the cooler outside. If it starts out cold, it stays cold because very little heat is transferred from the warmer outside.

What if RB collects dust over a period of time? Will it still work?

This very issue has been studied by research institutes. Most attics don't accumulate enough dust to affect RB's ability to save energy costs. Thousands of homes and structures have had RB installed for as long as ten years or more with no significant accumulation.

Will the roof get hotter…

No. RB has been used extensively in the south, showing no difference in roof temperatures, as confirmed by field tests.

Will existing insulation need to be removed…

No. RB actually makes your present insulation more effective.

How does it get installed…

RB can be laid over your present insulation like a blanket or stapled under your rafters or crawl space.  Under the rafter installation is preferred as it reflects the radiant heat before it enters the attic.

Is foil-faced fiberglass just as good…

No. The foil on the fiberglass is in direct contact with the attic floor. Aluminum foil becomes more conductive when in contact with a solid surface. The air space facing the foil surface is of primary importance.

Is RB necessary if there already is plenty of insulation…

Regardless of how much insulation you have in your attic, adding RB will save on your heating and cooling expense, and keep you much more comfortable. Energy savings for heating and cooling can vary from 17% to 25% depending on a number of factors, including climate, building configuration, materials used, site, family size and lifestyle. Your RB dealer has been trained to evaluate your home or business and advise you of your savings potential.

Has qualified independent laboratories or government agency testing been done…

The Florida Solar Energy Center at Cape Canaveral has tested radiant barriers in both small scale laboratory and full scale building models. Their results indicate that radiant barriers provide significant resistance to heat transfer. Current tests conducted by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Mississippi support the findings of the Florida Solar Energy Center. Northeastern Illinois University conducted winter tests in residential and commercial structures using infra-red thermograph photography. The photos showed significant resistance to heat transfer over the regular insulation.

Will dust collecting hurt its effectiveness over a period of time…

A1 “Aluminum foil exposed in a vertical position since 1929 to the dust and fumes in the Heat Measurements Laboratory, M.I.T. Samples of this foil have been removed from time to time and the emissivity determined. Over a period of 10 years no appreciable change in emissivity was found.” American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers’ Journal Section, Jan. 1940, Professor Wilkes, M.I.T.

A2 “Thin layers of dust readily visible to the eye do not cause very serious lowering in the reflective power. The appearance of the surface is not a reliable guide as to its reflectivity for radiant heat, and foil which appears dark or discolored may have lost little in insulating value if the surface film is thin.” -The National Bureau of Standards, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Letter Circular - 535.

Will the aluminum corrode and lose its effectiveness…

A1 “Hundreds of samples of aluminum foil have been stored in the laboratory for various periods of time up to 10 years with no visible signs of deterioration.” American Society of Heating & Air Conditioning Engineers’ Journal Section

A2 “Aluminum is highly resistant to the effect of corrosion… Aluminum is constantly being used where it is exposed to weather, salt spray and other conditions, which would adversely affect most metals.” The United States Rubber Co. Booklet, Serving You Through Science, Page 5.

Do I need Foil Barrier if my home is already well insulated?

A1  SUMMER:  “A Foil Barrier system can stop 97 percent of the thermal radiation across an attic space. If it is not stopped, that radiant energy would be absorbed by the ceiling insulation and eventually be transferred to the living space below.” The Solar Collector, Quarterly Newsletter of the Florida Solar Energy Center.

“The heat storage capacity of reflective insulation is low. As a result, it does not store heat during summer days, only to pass it on down into the rooms of the house from the attic at night when coolness is most apt to be desired from the point of view of sleeping comfort.” Progressive Architecture, Nov. 1949, Page 76.

A2  WINTER:  “CONCLUSIONS: Reflective foil retrofitted to fiberglass insulated…buildings is demonstrably effective in reducing heat loss… Installation of foil in uninsulated buildings would show even more pronounced reduction in heat loss.” Effects Of Reflective Foil On Heat Loss in Attic Floors and Metal Building Installations, Northeastern Illinois University, Prof. Charles Shabica, May 20, 1986.

Attic

Much of the heat entering your home comes through the roof. Adding FoilBarrier™ in your attic helps to keep your house cooler in the summer. FoilBarrier™ is an ideal supplement to the insulation already in your attic. Consider our 16" or 24" on-center rolls when insulating your attic.

Insulation Choices


 

FoilBarrier™ attic application with a turbine or gable vent. A 3" gap along the ridge pole and at the base of the rafters (soffit) ensures enough air flow between FoilBarrier™ and the roof deck. This applies to all vent systems other than soffit and ridge.

How is Heat Transferred?


 

FoilBarrier™ attic application with a soffit and ridge vent system. Install FoilBarrier™ clear to ridge pole.

Installation
  • Carefully read over the Helpful Tips before starting.
  • Check the area you are insulating and make any needed repairs before installing FoilBarrier™
  • Unroll the FoilBarrier™ as you work, and cut it to suitable lengths with scissors or utility knife.
  • Allow for proper ventilation. See note below on ventilation.
  • Staple FoilBarrier™ to the undersides of exposed rafters or between the rafters, if you have trusses.
Ventilation:

Good ventilation in your attic increases your comfort and helps the materials of your house last longer. Be sure not to block ventilation paths when you install FoilBarrier™.



PRODUCT DATA SHEET

 


DIAMONDTM (Residential)         

 

PRODUCT: Two-Sided reflecting 99% pure

aluminum foil with reinforced scrim

 

WEIGHT:  17 lb M/sf

 

TENSILE STRENGTH: Test Method ASTM D-882

Machine Direction: 14.9 lb/in width

Cross Direction: 5.2 lb/in width

 

FLAME SPREAD: 15

 

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 5

 

WATER VAPOR PERMEABILITY:

 

EMISSIVITY: 0.03

 

REFLECTIVITY: 97%

 

PREMIUMTM (Commercial)

 

PRODUCT: Two-sided reflecting 99% pure

aluminum foil with poly fabric

 

WEIGHT: 16.5 lb M/sf

 

TENSILE STRENGTH: Test Method ASTM D-882

Machine Direction: 13.5 lb/in width

Cross Direction: 15.0 lb/in width

 

FLAME SPREAD: 5*

 

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 10*

 

WATER VAPOR PERMEABILITY: 60g/m2/24hr***

 

THERMAL PROPERTIES: Emissivity 0.03****

(Reflects 97% of Infrared Energy)

 

 

 

 

PLUSTM (Industrial)

 

PRODUCT: Two-sided reflecting 99% pure

aluminum foil with woven polyolefin

 

WEIGHT: 23.8 lb M/sf

 

TENSILE STRENGTH: Test Method ASTM D-882

Machine Direction: 64.0 lb/in width

Cross Direction: 30.0 lb/in width

 

FLAME SPREAD: 10*

 

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 10*

 

WATER VAPOR PERMEABILITY: 60g/m2/24hr***

 

THERMAL PROPERTIES: Emissivity 0.03****

(Reflects 97% of Infrared Energy)



UNITED STATES TESTING COMPANY, INC.

 

*          ASTM Test Method E-84-81A

**         ASTM  Test Method E-84-95

***       ASTM  E-96 Method A

****     ASTM  E-408


 

 

 


PRODUCT DATA SHEET

 


FOILSHIELDÔ SINGLE BUBBLE WHITE

 

PRODUCT:  One layer of 3/16" barrier bubble film laminated between one layer of foil and one layer of polyethylene

CONTACT TEMPERATURE RANGE: -60 degrees F to 180 degrees F (-51 degrees C to 82 degrees C)

THICKNESS: 3/16" or .1875 minimum.

WATER VAPOR TRANSMISSION:  .04 perms****

PUNCTURE RESISTANCE: 60 lbs. per sq. inch

PLIABILITY:  No Cracking

LINEAR SHRINKAGE: None

FLAME SPREAD: 60

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 40

FIRE RATING: Class B/Class 2

REFLECTIVITY:  97%

EMITTANCE:  0.03-.04 on foil side



FOILSHIELDÔ SINGLE BUBBLE DOUBLE FOIL

 

PRODUCT:  One layer of 3/16" barrier bubble film laminated between two layers of foil

CONTACT TEMPERATURE RANGE: -60 degrees F to 180 degrees F (-51 degrees C to 82 degrees C)

THICKNESS: 3/16 inch nominal

WATER VAPOR TRANSMISSION:  .04 perms****

PUNCTURE RESISTANCE: 108.65 inch/lbs***

PLIABILITY:  No Cracking

LINEAR SHRINKAGE: None

FLAME SPREAD: 15**

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 10**

FIRE RATING: Class A/Class 1

MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARD 302:

Zero surface burn rate

REFLECTIVITY:  97%

EMITTANCE:  0.032*****



FOILSHIELDä DOUBLE BUBBLE WHITE

 

PRODUCT:  Two layers of 3/16” barrier bubble film laminated between one layer of foil and one layer of polyethylene

CONTACT TEMPERATURE: -60 degrees F to 180 degrees F(-51 degrees C to 82 degrees C)

WEIGHT: .77 oz. per sq. ft.

THICKNESS: 3/8 inch nominal

WATER VAPOR TRANSMISSION: .04****

PUNCTURE RESISTANCE: N/A

PLIABILITY: No Cracking

LINEAR SHRINKAGE: None

FLAME SPREAD: 60

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 40

FIRE RATING: Class B/Class 2

REFLECTIVITY: 97%

EMITTANCE: .03-.04 on foil side

 

 

 

 

FOILSHIELDTM DOUBLE BUBBLE DOUBLE FOIL

 

PRODUCT: Two layers of 3/16" barrier bubble film laminated between two layers of foil

CONTACT TEMPERATURE RANGE: -60 degrees F to 180 degrees F (-51 degrees C to 82 degrees C)

THICKNESS: 3/8 inch nominal

WATER VAPOR TRANSMISSION:  .04****

PUNCTURE RESISTANCE: 344.5 inch/lbs***

PLIABILITY:  No Cracking

LINEAR SHRINKAGE: None

FLAME SPREAD: 15**

SMOKE DEVELOPMENT: 15**

FIRE RATING: Class A/Class 1

MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARD 302: Zero surface burn rate

REFLECTIVITY:  97%

EMITTANCE:  0.032*****

 

UNITED STATES TESTING COMPANY, INC.

*                ASTM Test Method E-84-81A

**              ASTM Test Method E-84-95      

***            ASTM Test Method D-781 

****          ASTM E-96 Method A

*****        ASTM E-408



TYPICAL THERMAL VALUES FOR

FOILSHIELDÔ BUBBLE PRODUCTS

PRODUCT                                  DIRECTION OF HEAT FLOW

 

SINGLE BUBBLE                      UP             DOWN     HORIZONTAL

                 

 

 R-VALUE                                   8.1            14.9           9.5

 

 U-VALUE                                   0.189        0.073         0.143

 

 

PRODUCT                                  DIRECTION OF HEAT FLOW

 

DOUBLE BUBBLE                     UP             DOWN     HORIZONTAL

 

  R-VALUE                                  8.6             15.4           10.0

  U-VALUE                                  0.172         0.070         0.133

 

 

R-values calculated on a typical wall cavity system including ¾ inch interior and exterior plywood, studs on 24-inch centers, and naturally occurring air films. The R-values observed are highly dependent on method of installation


 

 
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