Posting is Follow up on Radiant Barrier Issues: http://stlouisrenewableenergy.blogspot.com/2010/06/cool-roofs-materials-options-insulation.html
August 2000-From Journal of Light Construction Radiant Heat Barriers
Q. I have seen many ads for radiant barriers designed to save energy. Is there any evidence that these radiant barriers can reduce home energy costs? If so, in what climates are they most effective? How should they be installed?
A. David Beal, building scientist at the Florida Solar Energy Center, responds: In cooling climates, radiant barriers can and do save cooling energy. Testing at the Florida Solar Energy Center and other laboratories have consistently shown that a radiant barrier can reduce the amount of heat entering a home through the ceiling by 25 to 40 percent. The amount of energy saved depends on the level of conventional insulation in the attic. For those with a thick layer of attic insulation, a 40% reduction in the small amount of heat coming through the ceiling is correspondingly small. For those with minimal attic insulation, on the other hand, a 40% reduction in heat flow through the ceiling is a much larger amount.
Two rules of thumb:
- If you have R-30 or better attic insulation, the payback period for the installation of a radiant barrier may be long, although it will save energy.
- In a cooling climate, a house with a radiant barrier and R-19 attic insulation, compared to R-19 with no radiant barrier, should see a reduction in cooling energy requirements of about 10 to 12 percent.
The easiest and cheapest way to install a radiant barrier in new construction is to install roof sheathing with a radiant barrier. Several manufacturers now offer OSB or plywood roof sheathing with a laminated radiant barrier. A radiant barrier system can also be installed under the bottom of the top chord of a roof truss, or to the bottom edge of rafters. Installing a radiant barrier on an attic floor is not recommended, since such barriers easily get dirty, reducing the performance of the radiant barrier significantly. For more information, contact the Florida Solar Energy Center at 407/638-1000.
Another Article from JLC
October 1992 Do radiant barriers save energy?
Steve Andrews responds: Yes, radiant barriers in vented attics can cut cooling bills by about 10%. They achieve this by reducing heat flow down through the ceiling by 40% or more. But the better question is: Are radiant barriers cost-effective? The answer is also yes, but only in the right climates, only when properly installed, and only at the right price (see map).
Here�s a summary of the latest information:
Climate. The NAHB Research Center�s study (funded by Eagle Shield) promised to yield good information on radiant barrier performance in cold climates, but it has hit contractual snags. So climate-related advice hasn�t changed: Radiant barriers in attics make the most sense in locations where there are 2,000 cooling degree days or more (see map at right). They may also make sense in more moderate climates where annual cooling bills still exceed annual heating bills (excluding mild sections of the West Coast). In cold climates, radiant barriers can make sense in a crawlspace, but this remains unproven for attics.
Properly installed. For attics, staple the barrier beneath the rafters, drape it over the roof trusses before the decking goes on, or staple it directly to the bottom of the roof decking � shiny side down in all cases (see illustration at left). Make sure you vent the attic, since this is the best way to cool this space. Research shows that laying a radiant barrier flat over horizontal attic insulation can cut radiant barrier performance by up to 50% after five years due to dust buildup.
Cost. If you buy material directly from a manufacturer, expect to pay between 7� and 15� per square foot, depending on the quality of paper backing and fiber mesh reinforcement. These two features can dramatically reduce tearing during installation; test this by ripping up samples before you buy. According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, if a homeowner pays about 20� per square foot for the installed barrier, the simple payback will be as little as five years in a cooling climate (based on electricity costs of 8� per Kwh). The greater the cooling load and utility costs, the faster the payback will be.
Steve Andrews is a residential energy consultant and freelance writer in Denver, Colo.
Department of Energy
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Building Envelope Research
For more information, contact the program manager for Building Envelope Research:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
André O. Desjarlais
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
P. O. Box 2008, MS 6070
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6070
E-mail Andre Desjarlais
Effect of Radiant Barrier on Heating and Cooling Bills
Important Non-Energy Considerations
Key to Abbreviations
About This Fact Sheet
Radiant barriers are materials that are installed in buildings to reduce summer heat gain and winter heat loss, and hence to reduce building heating and cooling energy usage. The potential benefit of attic radiant barriers is primarily in reducing air-conditioning cooling loads in warm or hot climates. Radiant barriers usually consist of a thin sheet or coating of a highly reflective material, usually aluminum, applied to one or both sides of a number of substrate materials. These substrates include kraft paper, plastic films, cardboard, plywood sheathing, and air infiltration barrier material. Some products are fiber reinforced to increase the durability and ease of handling.
Radiant barriers can be used in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. However, this fact sheet was developed only for applications of radiant barriers in ventilated attics of residential buildings. For information on other applications, see the references at the end of the Fact Sheet.
How are radiant barriers installed in a residential attic?
Radiant barriers may be installed in attics in several configurations. The simplest is to lay the radiant barrier directly on top of existing attic insulation, with the reflective side up. This is often called the attic floor application. Another way to install a radiant barrier is to attach it near the roof. The roof application has several variations. One variation is to attach the radiant barrier to the bottom surfaces of the attic truss chords or rafter framing. Another is to drape the radiant barrier over the tops of the rafters before the roof deck is applied. Still another variation is to attach the radiant barrier directly to the underside of the roof deck.
How do radiant barriers work?
Radiant barriers work by reducing heat transfer by thermal radiation across the air space between the roof deck and the attic floor, where conventional insulation is usually placed. All materials give off, or emit, energy by thermal radiation as a result of their temperature. The amount of energy emitted depends on the surface temperature and a property called the "emissivity" (also called the "emittance"). The emissivity is a number between zero (0) and one (1). The higher the emissivity, the greater the emitted radiation.
A closely related material property is the "reflectivity" (also called the "reflectance"). This is a measure of how much radiant heat is reflected by a material. The reflectivity is also a number between 0 and 1 (sometimes, it is given as a percentage, and then it is between 0 and 100%). For a material that is opaque (that is, it does not allow radiation to pass directly through it), when the emissivity and reflectivity are added together, the sum is one (1). Hence, a material with a high reflectivity has a low emissivity, and vice versa. Radiant barrier materials must have high reflectivity (usually 0.9, or 90%, or more) and low emissivity (usually 0.1 or less), and must face an open air space to perform properly.
On a sunny summer day, solar energy is absorbed by the roof, heating the roof sheathing and causing the underside of the sheathing and the roof framing to radiate heat downward toward the attic floor. When a radiant barrier is placed on the attic floor, much of the heat radiated from the hot roof is reflected back toward the roof. This makes the top surface of the insulation cooler than it would have been without a radiant barrier and thus reduces the amount of heat that moves through the insulation into the rooms below the ceiling.
Under the same conditions, a roof mounted radiant barrier works by reducing the amount of radiation incident on the insulation. Since the amount of radiation striking the top of the insulation is less than it would have been without a radiant barrier, the insulation surface temperature is lower and the heat flow through the insulation is reduced.
Radiant barriers can also reduce indoor heat losses through the ceiling in the winter. Radiant barriers reduce the amount of energy radiated from the top surface of the insulation, but can also reduce beneficial heat gains due to solar heating of the roof. The net benefits of radiant barriers for reducing winter heat losses are still being studied.
How does a radiant barrier differ from conventional attic insulation?
Radiant barriers perform a function that is similar to that of conventional insulation, in that they reduce the amount of heat that is transferred from the attic into the house. They differ in the way they reduce the heat flow. A radiant barrier reduces the amount of heat radiated across an air space that is adjacent to the radiant barrier. The primary function of conventional insulation is to trap still air within the insulation, and hence reduce heat transfer by air movement (convection). The insulation fibers or particles also partially block radiation heat transfer through the space occupied by the insulation.
Conventional insulations are usually rated by their R-value. Since the performance of radiant barriers depends on many variables, simple R-value ratings have not been developed for them.
What are the characteristics of a radiant barrier?
All radiant barriers have at least one reflective (or low emissivity) surface, usually a sheet or coating of aluminum. Some radiant barriers have a reflective surface on both sides. Both types work about equally well, but if a one-sided radiant barrier is used, the reflective surface must face the open air space. For example, if a one-sided radiant barrier is laid on top of the insulation with the reflective side facing down and touching the insulation, the radiant barrier will lose most of its effectiveness in reducing heating and cooling loads.
Emissivity is the property that determines how well a radiant barrier will perform. This property is a number between 0 and 1, with lower numbers indicating better potential for performance. The emissivity of typical, clean, unperforated radiant barriers is about 0.03 to 0.05. Hence they will have a reflectivity of 95 to 97 percent. Some materials may have higher emissivities. It is not always possible to judge the emissivity just by visual appearance. Measured emissivity values should be part of the information provided by the manufacturer.
A radiant barrier used in the attic floor application must allow water vapor to pass through it. This is necessary because, during the winter, if there is no effective vapor retarder at the ceiling, water vapor from the living space may condense and even freeze on the underside of a radiant barrier lying on the attic floor. In extremely cold climates or during prolonged periods of cold weather, a layer of condensed water could build up. In more moderate climates, the condensed water could evaporate and pass through the radiant barrier into the attic space. While most uniform aluminum coatings do not allow water vapor to pass through them, many radiant barrier materials do allow passage of water vapor. Some allow water vapor passage through holes or perforations, while others have substrates that naturally allow water vapor passage without requiring holes. However, excessively large holes will increase the emissivity and cause a reduction in the radiant barrier performance. The ability to allow water vapor to pass through radiant barrier materials is not needed for the roof applications.
What should a radiant barrier installation cost?
Costs for an attic radiant barrier will depend on several factors, including the following:
What should conventional insulation cost?
Heating and cooling bills can also be reduced by adding conventional attic insulation. So that you can have some basis for comparison shopping, typical installed costs for adding various levels of insulation are given in Table 2. These costs are typical for insulation installed by contractors. Actual insulation costs will vary from region to region of the country, will vary with the type of insulation selected (blown, or loose-fill, insulation is usually lower in price than "batt" insulation), and may vary from one local contractor to another. You can expect to deduct 20% to 50% for a do-it-yourself application.
You should always check with your local or state energy office or building code department for current insulation recommendations or see the DOE INSULATION FACT SHEET.
Effect of Radiant Barriers on Heating and Cooling Bills
Most of these field tests have been performed in warm climates where a large amount of air-conditioning is used. The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) at Cape Canaveral has performed tests for a number of years using attic test sections, and has also performed tests with full-size houses. A test using a duplex house in Ocala, Florida has been performed by the Mineral Insulation Manufacturers Association. The Tennessee Valley Authority has performed a number of winter and summer tests using small test cells in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has performed a series of tests using three full-size houses near Knoxville, Tennessee. The ORNL tests included summer and winter observations. So far, very little testing has been done in climates colder than that of Knoxville. Also, little testing has been done in hot, arid climates such as the southwestern United States.
The tests to date have shown that in attics with R-19 insulation, radiant barriers can reduce summer ceiling heat gains by about 16 to 42 percent compared to an attic with the same insulation level and no radiant barrier. These figures are for the average reduction in heat flow through the insulation path. They do not include effects of heat flow through the framing members. See Tables A1 and A2 in the Appendix for a comparison of measured performance.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT A 16 TO 42 PERCENT SAVINGS IN UTILITY BILLS CAN BE EXPECTED. Since the ceiling heat gains represent about 15 to 25 percent of the total cooling load on the house, a radiant barrier would be expected to reduce the space cooling portion of summer utility bills by less than 15 to 25 percent. Multiplying this percentage (15 to 25 percent) by the percentage reduction in ceiling heat flow (16 to 42 percent) would result in a 2 to 10 percent reduction in the cooling portion of summer utility bills. However, under some conditions, the percentage reduction of the cooling portion of summer utility bills may be larger, perhaps as large as 17 percent. The percentage reduction in total summer utility bills, which also include costs for operating appliances, water heaters, etc., would be smaller. Tests have shown that the percentage reductions for winter heat losses are lower than those for summer heat gains.
Experiments with various levels of conventional insulation show that the percentage reduction in ceiling heat flow due to the addition of a radiant barrier is larger with lower amounts of insulation. Since the fraction of the whole-house heating and cooling load that comes from the ceiling is larger when the amount of insulation is small, radiant barriers produce the most energy savings when used in combination with lower levels of insulation. Similarly, radiant barriers produce significantly less energy savings when used in combination with high levels of insulation.
Most of the field tests have been done with clean radiant barriers. Laboratory measurements have shown that dust on the surface of aluminum foil increases the emissivity and decreases the reflectivity. This means that dust or other particles on the exposed surface of a radiant barrier will reduce its effectiveness. Radiant barriers installed in locations that collect dust or other surface contaminants will have a decreasing benefit to the homeowner over time.
The attic floor application is most susceptible to accumulation of dust, while downward facing reflective surfaces used with many roof applications are not likely to become dusty. When radiant barriers are newly installed, some testing shows that the attic floor application will work better than the roof applications. As dust accumulates on the attic floor application, its effectiveness will gradually decrease. After a long enough period of time, a dusty attic floor application will lose much of its effectiveness. Predictive modeling results, based on testing, suggest that a dusty attic floor application will lose about half of its effectiveness after about one to ten years.
Testing of radiant barriers has been primarily concerned with the effect of radiant barriers on the heat gains or losses through the ceiling. Another aspect of radiant barriers may be important when air-conditioning ducts are installed in the attic space. The roof applications of radiant barriers can result in lowered air temperatures within the attic space, which in turn can reduce heat gains by the air flowing through the ducts, thus increasing the efficiency of the air-conditioning system. These changes in heat gains to attic ducts have not been tested; however, computer models have been used to make estimates of the impact on cooling bills.
Not all field tests have been able to demonstrate that radiant barriers or even attic insulation are effective in reducing cooling bills. In a field test performed by ORNL in Tulsa, Oklahoma, using 19 full-sized, occupied houses, neither radiant barriers nor attic insulation produced air-conditioning electricity savings that could be measured. As in all field tests, these results are applicable only to houses with similar characteristics as those tested. Unique characteristics of the houses used in this field test included the facts that the houses were cooled by only one or two window air-conditioning units, that the units were able to cool only a portion of the house, and that the occupants chose to limit their use of the units (initial air-conditioning electricity consumption averaged 1664 kilowatt-hours per year or about $119 per year).
How much will I save on my heating and cooling bills?
Your savings on heating and cooling bills will vary, depending on many factors. Savings will depend on the type of radiant barrier application, the size of your house, whether it is a ranch style or a two story house, the amount of insulation in the attic, effectiveness of attic ventilation, the color of the roof, the thermostat settings, the tightness of the building envelope, the actual weather conditions, the efficiency of the heating and cooling equipment, and fuel prices.
Research on radiant barriers is not complete. Estimates of expected savings, however, have been made using a computer program that has been checked against some of the field test data that have been collected. These calculations used weather data from a number of locations to estimate the reductions in heating and cooling loads for a typical house. These load reductions were then converted to savings on fuel bills using average gas furnace and central air-conditioner efficiencies and national average prices for natural gas and electricity.
ASSUMPTIONS. For these calculations, the house thermostat settings were taken to be 78F in the summer and 70F in the winter. In the summer, it was assumed that windows would be opened when the outdoor temperature and humidity were low enough to take advantage of free cooling. Also, it was assumed that the roof shingles were dark, and that the roof was not shaded. The furnace efficiency used was 65 percent, and the air-conditioner coefficient of performance (COP) was 2.34. Fuel prices used were 52.7 cents per therm (hundred cubic feet) for natural gas and 7.86 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity.
Factors that could make your savings larger than the ones calculated would be: a summer thermostat setting lower than 78F, a winter thermostat setting higher than 70F, keeping the windows closed at all times, lower efficiency furnace or air-conditioner, or higher fuel prices. Factors that could make your savings less than the ones calculated would be: a summer thermostat setting higher than 78F, a winter thermostat setting lower than 70F, light colored roof shingles, shading of the roof by trees or nearby structures, higher efficiency furnace or air-conditioner, and lower fuel prices.
A standard economic calculation was then performed that converts the dollar savings from periods in the future to a "present value". The dollar savings were also adjusted to account for estimates of how prices for natural gas and electricity are predicted to rise in future years. This calculation gives a "present value savings" in terms of dollars per square foot of ceiling area. When this value is multiplied by the total ceiling area, the result is a number that can be compared with the cost of installing a radiant barrier. If the present value savings for the whole ceiling is greater than the cost of a radiant barrier, then the radiant barrier will be "cost effective." A real discount rate of 7 percent, above and beyond inflation, and a life of 25 years were used in the calculations.
Tables 3, 4, and 5 give present value savings for radiant barriers based on average prices and equipment efficiencies. Table 3 applies to the attic floor application, where the effects of dust accumulation have been taken into account. Since dust will accumulate at different rates in different houses, and since the effect of dust on performance is not well known, ranges of values are given for this application. Table 4 applies to radiant barriers attached to the bottoms of the rafters, while Table 5 applies to radiant barriers either draped over the tops of the rafters or attached directly to the underside of the roof deck. For comparison purposes, the same computer program has also been used to estimate present value savings for putting additional insulation in the attic; these values are listed in Table 6. By examining several options, the consumer can compare the relative savings that may be obtained versus the cost of installing the option. Generally, the option with the largest net savings (that is, the present value savings minus the cost) would be the most desirable. However, personal preferences will also enter into a final decision.
If you want a better estimate based on your local fuel prices or other equipment efficiencies, you may use the worksheet in the Appendix. Local fuel prices may be obtained from your local utilities.
Examples of Use of Present Value Tables
I live in Orlando, Florida in an 1800 square foot ranch style house. I have R-11 insulation in my attic, and the air-conditioning ducts are in the attic. A contractor has quoted a price for a radiant barrier installed on the bottoms of my rafters and on the gable ends for $400. Would this be a good investment?
For this type of radiant barrier, the appropriate table is Table 4. For Orlando with R-11 insulation, the present value savings is listed as $0.32 when the air-conditioning ducts are in the attic. Multiplying this value by 1800 square feet gives a total of $576. This value exceeds the quoted cost of the radiant barrier of $400, and thus this would be a good investment.
I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota in a 2400 square foot two-story house. I have R-19 insulation in my attic, and have no air-conditioning ducts in the attic. A contractor has quoted a price for a radiant barrier installed on the bottoms of my rafters and on the gable ends for $250. Would this be a good investment? Would investment in another layer of R-19 insulation be a better investment? A contractor has quoted a price of $564 for adding this insulation.
For this type of radiant barrier, the appropriate table is Table 4. For Minneapolis with R-19 insulation, the present value savings is listed as $0.08 when there are no air-conditioning ducts in the attic. Since the house is two-story, the ceiling area is 1200 square feet. Multiplying $0.08 by 1200 gives a total of $96. This value is less than the quoted cost of the radiant barrier of $250 and thus this would not be a good investment.
For adding another layer of insulation, the appropriate table is Table 6. For Minneapolis, this table gives a present value savings of $0.57 for adding a layer of R-19 insulation to an existing layer of R-19 insulation. Multiplying this value by 1200 square feet gives a total of $684. This value exceeds the quoted cost of the insulation, and thus this would be a good investment.
Condensation of moisture can be a concern when a radiant barrier is installed on the attic floor directly on top of conventional insulation. During cold weather, water vapor from the interior of a house may move into the attic. In most cases, this water vapor will not cause any problem because attic ventilation will carry excess vapor away. During cold weather, a radiant barrier on top of the insulation could cause water vapor to condense on the barrier's underside.
Condensation of large amounts of water could lead to the following problems: 1) the existing insulation could become wet and lose some of its insulating value, 2) water spots could appear on the ceiling, and 3) under severe conditions, the ceiling framing could rot.
Some testing has been performed to determine the potential for moisture condensation with perforated radiant barriers laid on top of the insulation. A test was conducted during the winter near Knoxville, Tennessee, using houses that were operated at much higher-than-normal indoor relative humidities. Since this testing did not reveal any significant moisture condensation problems, it is expected that moisture condensation will not be a problem in climates warmer than that of Knoxville. Further testing of radiant barriers is needed to determine if moisture condensation is a problem in climates colder than that of Knoxville.
One precaution for preventing potential moisture problems is the use of perforated or naturally permeable radiant barriers. The higher the perm rating, the less potential for problems. Avoiding high indoor relative humidities, sealing cracks and air leaks in the ceiling, using a vapor retarder below the attic insulation, and providing for adequate attic ventilation are additional precautions.
Attic ventilation is an important consideration. With adequate ventilation, radiant barriers will perform better in summer and excess water vapor will be removed in winter. Unfortunately, specific recommendations for the best type and amount of attic ventilation for use with radiant barriers are not available. Model building codes have established guidelines for the amount of attic ventilation area per square foot of attic floor area to minimize the occurrence of condensation. These guidelines specify one square foot of net free ventilation area for each 150 square feet of attic floor area. This ratio may be reduced to 1 to 300 if a ceiling vapor retarder is present or if high (for example, ridge or gable vents) and low (soffit vents) attic ventilation is used. Since part of the vent area is blocked by meshes or louvers, the net free area of a vent is smaller than its overall dimensions.
Effect of radiant barriers on roof temperatures
Field tests have shown that radiant barriers can cause a small increase in roof temperatures. Roof mounted radiant barriers may increase shingle temperatures by 2 to 10oF, while radiant barriers on the attic floor may cause smaller increases of 2F or less. The effects of these increased temperatures on roof life, if any, are not known.
The fire ratings of radiant barriers are important because flame and smoke characteristics of materials exposed to ambient air are critical.
TO MEET CODE, A RADIANT BARRIER MUST BE RATED EITHER CLASS A BY THE NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (NFPA) OR CLASS I BY THE UNIFORM BUILDING CODE (UBC).To obtain these ratings, a material must have an ASTM E-84 Flame Spread Index of 25 or less and a Smoke Developed Index of 450 or less. Look for these ratings either printed on the product, or listed on material data sheets provided by the manufacturer.
Previous Section - Effect of Radiant Barriers on Heating and Cooling BIlls
Next Section - Installation Procedure
Location 1 is a relatively new application, where the radiant barrier material is attached directly to the underside of the roof deck.
Location 2 may offer advantages to the builder during construction of a new house. Before the roof sheathing is applied, the radiant barrier is draped over the rafters or trusses in a way that allows the product to droop 1-1/2 to 3 inches between each rafter.
In Locations 3 and 4, the radiant barrier is attached to either the faces or bottoms of the rafters or top chords of the roof trusses. Locations 3 and 4 may be used with either new construction, or with retrofit of an existing house. With either Location 2, 3 or 4, the space between the roof sheathing and the radiant barrier provides a channel through which warm air can move freely, as shown in Figure 2.
In Location 5, the radiant barrier is laid out on the attic floor over the top of existing attic insulation. As discussed previously, this location is susceptible to the effects of dust accumulation. This location is not appropriate when a large part of the attic is used for storage, since the radiant barrier surface must be exposed to the attic space. Also, kitchen and bathroom vents and recessed lights should not be covered with the radiant barrier.
To obtain the best performance with radiant barriers installed in Locations 1 through 4, radiant barrier material should also be installed over the gable ends. For attics that are open to the space over garages or carports, the radiant barrier should extend eight feet or more into the garage or carport to achieve the same effect as installing a radiant barrier on the gable ends. It is not necessary to cover the gable ends with Location 5.
Radiant barriers that are reflective on one or both sides may be used with any of these locations. However, if the radiant barrier is reflective on only one side, the reflective side must face toward the main attic space for Locations 1 and 5. Since a surface facing downwards is less likely to have dust settle on it, it is also recommended that the reflective side face downwards toward the main attic space for Locations 2, 3, and 4.
Since proper attic venting is important to obtain the best performance of the radiant barrier, some modification in the attic vents may be required to achieve expected performance. Where no ridge or gable vents exist, it is recommended that one or the other be installed. Always check existing ridge vent systems to ensure that roofing paper is not blocking the vent opening, and check the soffit vents to ensure that they have not been covered with insulation.
When installing a radiant barrier, care should be taken not to compress existing insulation present in the attic. The effectiveness of the existing insulation is dependent upon its thickness, so if it is compressed, its R-value is decreased. For instance, an R-19 batt compressed to 3-1/2 inches (to top of 2X4 attic floor joists) would now be approximately an R-13 batt.
- The installer should wear proper clothing and equipment as recommended by the radiant barrier manufacturer. Handling conventional insulation may cause skin, eye, and respiratory system irritation. If in doubt about the effects of the insulation, protective clothing, gloves, eye protection, and breathing protection should be worn.
- Be especially careful with electrical wiring, particularly around junction boxes and old wiring. Never staple through, near, or over electrical wiring. Repair any obvious frayed or defective wiring in advance of radiant barrier installation.
- Work in the attic only when temperatures are reasonable.
- Work with a partner. Not only does it make the job go faster, it also means that you'll have assistance should a problem occur.
- If the attic is unfinished, watch where you walk. If you step in the wrong place, you could fall through the ceiling. Step and stand only on the attic joists or trusses or the center of a strong moveable working surface.
- Watch your head. In most attics, roofing nails penetrate through the underside of the roof. A hard hat may be of some use.
- Make sure that the attic space is well ventilated and lighted.
- Do not cover any recessed lights or vents with radiant barrier material (attic floor application).
Most tests of radiant barriers have measured the reduction in heat flow through the ceiling caused by adding a radiant barrier. The test results are usually expressed in terms of a percentage ceiling heat flow reduction. Table A1 gives a summary of measured ceiling heat flow reductions for summer conditions when radiant barriers were added in various locations to existing R-19 conventional insulation. Table A2 gives a summary for winter conditions. Table A1 shows that, while there are some variations in the summer data, there is also a good amount of consistency. For winter conditions, there are wider variations in the data and less consistency, but the percentage reductions for winter are less than for summer. Tests by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Mineral Insulation Manufacturers Association show that increasing the insulation level from R-19 to R-30 instead of installing a radiant barrier reduces the ceiling heat flow by 27 to 33 percent. REMEMBER THAT THE NUMBERS GIVEN IN THE TABLES ARE PERCENTAGE REDUCTIONS FOR THE HEAT FLOW THROUGH THE CEILING; THEY ARE NOT PERCENTAGE REDUCTIONS FOR TOTAL ENERGY USED BY THE AIR-CONDITIONING OR HEATING EQUIPMENT.
- Examine air-conditioning unit, determine SEER (for a key to abbreviations, see page 24). Divide SEER by 3.413 to obtain efficiency or COP and enter result in Box A. Typical efficiencies are given in Table X. If SEER is unknown, enter 2.3 in Box A.
- Examine heating equipment. Determine whether it is a gas furnace, oil furnace, heat pump, electric furnace, or electric baseboard heating. Determine efficiency, and enter in Box B. Typical efficiencies are given in Table X. If efficiency is unknown, enter 0.65 in Box B.
- Obtain cost of electricity, either by examining your electric bills or by contacting your utility. Multiply the cost in cents per kilowatt-hour by 2.93 and enter result in Box C.
- Obtain cost of heating fuel, either by examining your fuel bills or by contacting your utility.
If you heat with gas, multiply the cost in dollars per CCF (or therm) by 10 and enter result in Box D.
If you heat with oil, multiply the cost in dollars per gallon by 7.15 and enter result in Box D.
If you heat with electricity (including a heat pump), multiply the cost in cents per kilowatt-hour by 2.93 and enter result in Box D.
- Divide the value in Box C by the value in Box A and enter result in Box E.
- Divide the value in Box D by the value in Box B and enter result in Box F.
- Inspect your attic to determine the type and level of conventional attic insulation, the area of the ceiling, and whether or not the cooling ducts run through the attic. The level of insulation may be estimated with the following chart for insulation thickness (in inches) as a function of insulation type and level:
Type of Insulation R-11 R-19 R-30 R-38 Fiberglass batts
- a. If you plan to install a radiant barrier (RB)
Go to Table Y1. Locate a city that is near your location and then read off the value for that city for the level of insulation in your attic. Then multiply this value by one of the following factors depending upon the type of radiant barrier you plan to install, and enter the result in Box 2:
Radiant Barrier Description Configuration Factor For low range of values for dusty attic floor RB 0.16 For high range of values for dusty attic floor RB 0.65 For RB attached to rafter bottoms, and with no ducts in attic 0.78 For RB attached to rafter bottoms, and with ducts in attic, - and with R-11 conventional attic insulation 0.98 - or with R-19 conventional attic insulation 1.07 - or with R-30 conventional attic insulation 1.15 - or with R-38 conventional attic insulation 1.22 For RB draped over tops of rafters or attached to roof deck, - and with no ducts in attic 0.68 For RB draped over tops of rafters or attached to roof deck, and with ducts in attic, - and with R-11 conventional attic insulation 0.86 - or with R-19 conventional attic insulation 0.93 - or with R-30 conventional attic insulation 1.01 - or with R-38 conventional attic insulation 1.07
Go to Table Y3. Locate a city near your location and read off the value for that city and for the initial and final levels of attic insulation. Note that values in the table may be added in steps. For example, if you start with R-11 insulation and want to go to the R-38 level, add the values for going from R-11 to R-19, for R-19 to R-30, and for R-30 to R-38. Enter the value in Box 2.
- a. If you plan to install a radiant barrier.
Go to Table Y2. Locate the same city that you used for Step 8a and read off the value for that city for the level of insulation in your attic. Then multiply this value by one of the following factors depending upon the type of radiant barrier you plan to install, and enter the result in Box 3:
RAdiant Barrier Description Configuration Factor For low range of values for dusty attic floor RB 0.24 For high range of values for dusty attic floor RB 0.61 For RB attached to rafter bottoms 0.88 For RB draped over tops of rafters or attached to roof deck 0.82
Go to Table Y4. Locate the same city that you used for Step 8b and read off the value for that city and for the initial and final levels of attic insulation. Note that values in the table may be added in steps. For example, if you start with R-11 insulation and want to go to the R-38 level, add the values for going from R-11 to R-19, for R-19 to R-30, and for R-30 to R-38. Enter the value in Box 3.
- Multiply the values in Boxes 1, 2, and E together, and divide the result by 1,000,000. Enter the result in Box 4.
- Multiply the values in Boxes 1, 3, and F together, and divide the result by 1,000,000. Enter the result in Box 5.
- Add the values in Boxes 4 and 5 together, and enter the result in Box 6. This is the expected savings per year due to adding a radiant barrier or additional attic insulation.
- a. If you plan to install a radiant barrier
Determine the estimated cost for installing a radiant barrier in your home. This may be from a quote, or you may estimate the cost by using the values in Table 1 along with your estimate of the ceiling area. Note that for radiant barriers installed on the rafters or on the roof deck, you will have to estimate the area of the roof and the areas of the gable ends. Enter the estimated cost in Box 7. b. If you plan to install additional attic insulation.
Determine the estimated cost for installing more insulation in your home. This may be from a quote, or you may estimate the cost by using the values in Table 2 along with your estimate of the ceiling area. Enter the estimated cost in Box 7.
- Go to Table Z. Locate the census region where you live and read off the value for electricity. Enter this value in Box 8.
- Go to Table Z. Locate the census region where you live and read off the value for either electricity, oil, or natural gas, depending upon your heating fuel type. Enter this value in Box 9.
- Multiply the value in Box 4 by the value in Box 8. Enter the result in Box 10.
- Multiply the value in Box 5 by the value in Box 9. Enter the result in Box 11.
- Add the value in Box 10 to the value in Box 11 and enter the result in Box 12.
- Compare the value in Box 12 with the value in Box 7. If the value in Box 12 is greater than or equal to the value in Box 7, then the radiant barrier or additional insulation is an economical investment. If the value in Box 12 is less than the value in Box 7, then the radiant barrier or additional insulation is not an economical investment.
- A simple payback period may also be determined by dividing the value in Box 7 by the value in Box 6. The result will be the number of years that it takes for the energy savings with the radiant barrier or additional insulation to pay back its initial cost. Note that this procedure is not applicable to the radiant barrier on the attic floor, because the energy savings changes from year to year.
Following the steps outlined in the instructions, the worksheet is filled out. The total present value of energy savings given in Box 12 is $533.14. This value exceeds the quoted cost of the radiant barrier of $400, and thus this would be a good investment.
BARRIERS OR ATTIC INSULATION
|Cooling Equipment Efficiency |
(From Table X)
|Heating Equipment Efficiency |
(From Table X)
|Cooling Fuel Price |
|Heating Fuel Price |
|Cooling Energy Cost |
|Heating Energy Cost |
Electricity: $/million BTU = ¢/KWH x 2.93
Natural Gas: $/million BTU = ($/therm or $/CCF) x 10
Fuel Oil: $/million BTU = $/gal. x 7.15
|Ceiling Area, Square Feet||Cooling Load Factor |
(From Table Y)
|Heating Load Factor |
(From Table Y)
|Annual Cooling Savings, $/yr |
[(1) x (2) x E] ÷ 1,000,000
|Annual Heating Savings, $/yr |
[(1) x (3) x F]÷ 1,000,000
|Total Energy Savings, $/yr |
|Cost for RB or Insulation, $|
|Cooling Discount Factor |
(From Table Z)
|Heating Discount Factor |
(From Table Z)
|Present Value Cooling Savings, $ |
[(4) x (8)]
|Present Value Heating Savings, $ |
[(5) x (9)]
|Total Present Value Energy Savings, $|
[(10) + (11)]