What Is Blown-In Cellulose Insulation?
Blown-in cellulose insulation is quickly surpassing batt style or blown-in fiberglass insulation as the construction standard for homes and businesses. While fiberglass insulation is not nearly as toxic as other types of insulation, it cannot be considered eco-friendly either. The fiberglass particles are an irritant to the skin and can be dangerous if inhaled into the respiratory or digestive tracts. Plus, batt-style insulation must be cut to fit penetrations, tight corners, or irregularly shaped spaces, which leaves gaps that increase the transmission of heat or cold.
Cellulose insulation is made from almost 100% recycled wood and paper products, which means it meets most green building certification requirements. There is no danger or irritation associated with working with the material, and its ability to more comprehensively insulate every available inch of the intended space means the R-value is consistently upheld.
In addition to its lack of toxic chemicals or particles, cellulose insulation is considered eco-friendly because:
- It can boast a much cleaner and pollution-free production process when compared with other alternatives
- When it is removed from a building as the result of a renovation or remodel, it degrades without contributing harmful chemicals or off-gassing into the soil, water, or air.
- It has high energy-efficiency ratings
Blown-in cellulose insulation is a fire retardant
Also called loose-fill cellulose insulation, this product is very fire retardant. This is because it is treated with borax, boric acid, and/or ammonium sulfate (all of which are considered non-toxic in this application). In fact, cellulose insulation has a Class 1 Fire Rating.
It is completely safe to use it around contemporary light fixtures and/or recessed cans. However, you may want to speak to your insulation contractor about other options if your wiring is outdated or you are installing it in direct contact with antique or vintage light fixtures that were not produced to the same fire-rated standards as their counterparts are today.
How Is Blown-In Insulation Installed?
Even though it winds up being a loose-filled product, cellulose insulation comes in tightly-packed bales. These are loaded into hoppers after which:
- Rotating prongs are activated to loosen and fluff it all up
- The loose fill is then blown through long flexible tubes that are directed into the
attic or wall spaces
- It is blown in until it fills the desired space or covers existing insulation
- It is allowed to settle over time (no pressure is needed to “press” it into place or
compact it into a more dense product. In fact, its lack of density is part of what
makes loose-fill insulation work so well
- The walls or patches used to get the tube into the wall are closed up and patched
and painted to look like new
Once it is installed, we recommend that homeowners take a peek into their attic space(s) at least two times per year to keep an eye on red flags such as moisture, signs of a pest infestation, or any pockets where insulation has shifted or “blown” into a new formation – a sign that you may need to enhance air sealing.
While R-values are the industry standard for “grading” insulation materials, there is more to it than that. R-values only take the specific product into consideration. The draftiest home in the world won’t benefit much from replacement insulation with a high R-value because the home’s insulation system – air sealing, moisture control, ventilation, and insulation – all work together as a whole.
Cellulose insulation goes beyond R-value because it also reduces air infiltration and convection more effectively than fiberglass, which further enhances its insulation properties. In fact, studies have shown that cellulose insulation can reduce airflow by as much as 30% when compared with other products.
It’s better for high-moisture areas
Here in the Bay Area, we are just as concerned about products that work to prevent moisture accumulation as we are about heat conduction and air leaks. If you do experience a significant roof leak or a burst pipe in the attic, cellulose fibers are better at absorbing the liquid and preventing it from seeping into structural components, which lead to further damage and costly repairs.
That said, if the situation is left untreated, that absorbed moisture can lead to mold and mildew issues, so always consult your insulation contractor after roof repairs or
plumbing leaks are fixed to make sure your insulation is standing up to the job. If not, it’s always better to replace damaged insulation sooner rather than later.
It is affordable
You may have seen that blown-in cellulose is more expensive than fiberglass, but that is not necessarily the case when you consider the big picture. The products themselves are fairly comparable in price, especially if you are comparing the price between blown-in fiberglass insulation and blown-in cellulose.
The installation fees (labor charges) are typically higher for cellulose than they are for fiberglass batts. However, this difference will pay for itself in terms of energy savings during the first several years and there is the invaluable benefit of a more eco-friendly product.
Contact Neo Attic Solutions to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We can look into your attic and crawl spaces to identify what if anything would make a difference for your comfort and peace of mind.