Blown-in insulation, or blow in insulation refers to blowing or spraying insulation product into wall cavities, attics and floors. These products aim to bring improved performance per square inch and the least amount of settling over time to the insulation market. Methods vary depending on the form of insulation selected.
Cellulose and fiberglass are the two most popular types of blown insulation, and they each have some pros and cons. Here are some details on the differences between cellulose and fiberglass insulation.
Cellulose and fiberglass have similar insulating values; a slight difference being cellulose has a higher R-factor, 3.0 to fiberglass’s 2.1-2.7 per inch. Cellulose will settle over time, potentially leaving some areas (walls, particularly) with little to no insulation. Fiberglass manufacturers, on the other hand has developed blown fiberglass insulation they claim won’t settle over time.
Cellulose retains its insulating value no matter the temperature. Fiberglass, on the other hand has been shown to lose some of its insulating value as the temperature drops. In extreme temperatures, the loss of insulating value can be as much as 50%.
About Health Concerns
Loose-fill, or blown cellulose insulation is made primarily from recycled newspapers, a very benign product, so there’s virtually no ongoing health risk.
On the other hand, blown fiberglass is made up of very fine strands of glass and these tiny fibers are a carcinogen that can be easily inhaled by your lungs. To offset this potential health concern, fiberglass insulation is usually covered with something after it’s installed, or it’s installed in an area where it won’t be disturbed (such as an attic), so the fibers won’t get into the air where they could be inhaled. With these precautions, it’s no threat to your health.
Obviously, cellulose is made of newspaper, and it burns. Cellulose insulation manufacturers have responded to that concern by having it treated with fire-retarding chemicals such as boric acid, ammonium sulfate, or sodium borate during the manufacturing process. These chemicals have the bonus of repelling mice and other rodents.
Fiberglass, on the other hand, because it's made from glass, simply won't burn (although it will melt at extremely high temperatures).
Cellulose contains the higher percentage of recycled materials. While the fiberglass industry does a good job of recycling and uses approximately 35 percent recycled material, cellulose manufacturers average over 75 percent recycled content.
Fiberglass insulation has proven over the years to provide effective temperature and sound insulation while more recently, cellulose has established itself as a viable alternative. Since either will do an effective job insulating your home, the insulation you choose should be based on other factors such as cost and availability of the product, quality and reputation of the installers (if you're not doing it yourself), and your personal environmental concerns.
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