Frequently Asked Questions about Cel-Pak Cellulose InsulationQ.: I'm a handy person. Can I install Cel-Pak myself?
A.: Sorry, no. It takes a very special machine and unique training. Even where Cel-Pak is used to 'cap' an attic, i.e., it is blown in loose, there's a technique to it, and you really need to know what you're doing.
For attics only, you could rent a light-duty machine at the Home Center and install a 'homeowner grade' cellulose product, but you won't get the same result. And that home center or lumberyard rental machine simply isn't capable of dense packing a wall cavity. Save yourself the hassle and call us!
Q.: Are there other choices in insulation?
A.: There are basically three widely available choices in insulation products for your home : glass fiber, cellulose and sprayed foam insulation.
Q.: Doesn't R-Value tell the whole story, i.e., 'Good R-Value equals good insulation.'?
A.: You've hit upon perhaps the single most misunderstood idea about insulation, that R-Value tells the whole story. Not only does R-Value not tell the whole story, it barely scratches the surface.
R-Value is a measure of a material's thermal conduction, which is fine as far as it goes. Unfortunately, R-Value has taken hold in the consumer's mind as a universal method for comparing insulations - the higher the R-Value, the better the insulation, end of story. But all R-Values aren't created equal, because R-Value measures only one of the factors that determine how an insulation product will perform in the real world.
Insulation is, first and foremost, meant to stop the movement of heat. The problem with using R-Value as the sole yardstick of an insulation's effectiveness is that heat moves in and out of your home or office in four ways: by conduction (which R-Value measures), and by convection, radiation and air infiltration (which R-Value doesn't measure). But let's stick with the concept of R-Value for the moment. The R-Value's of insulation materials are measured in a lab. That would work great - if your home was inside a lab! But your home was built outdoors, and that means there are other factors like wind, humidity and temperature changes in play. These factors create pressure differences between the interior and the exterior of the building due to things like hot air rising, air pressure, and mechanical systems forcing air through every tiny little opening and making its way to the interior.
Your home or commercial building may look solid, but there are thousands of tiny gaps, cracks and penetrations between building materials. For example, when we apply the air pressure of a 20 MPH wind on a 20 deg. F day to a building, the typical R-19, glass fiber insulated wall often performs no better than the wood studs (R-6) - because of air infiltration, with heat being transported around (bypassing) the glass fiber batts through convection. In very low density materials like loose blown glass fiber, heat will actually radiate right through the insulation, and this, along with convection, significantly reduces glass fiber's installed performance and your comfort.
A superior insulation system will have good R-Value (prevent heat loss via conduction), will be pneumatically or spray applied, fully filling the building cavity (prevent heat loss via convection), and will be densely packed (prevent heat loss via air infiltration and radiation). Glass fiber meets the first criteria, but not the other three. Cellulose meets all four of these critical performance criteria! In addition, you want your insulation to do more than just insulate. Besides insulating, cellulose can help prevent the spread of flames in the event of a fire, deters mold and pests and blocks the transmission of sound much more effectively than glass fiber. The insulation in your walls, ceilings, attic, etc., has a lot of jobs to do besides insulating - and cellulose is up to all those jobs! Don't choose your insulation because some brightly colored cartoon cat with a catchy theme song says it's good. Choose it because it can do all the things you need your insulation to do!
Q.: But which one costs the least? I'm on a budget!
A.:First, we have to define our terms. If you're talking about price at the time of installation, well, that would be glass fiber, followed by cellulose, then comes foam. But cost isn't the same as price. Price is what you pay at the time of installation. Cost = Price plus the cost of ownership over time. (The 'cost of ownership' when it comes to your insulation choice is what you spend on energy to heat and cool your home.) In that equation, cellulose wins by a mile. Here's why:
If you simply compare the published R-Values, cellulose and glass fiber are very comparable. But R-Value only measures thermal resistance, i.e., how well insulation resists conducting heat energy.
It doesn't measure resistance to air infiltration, and cellulose does a much better job of stopping air infiltration than glass fiber. The University of Colorado School of Architecture and Planning did a study on Fiber Glass vs. Cellulose Installed Performance. They constructed two identical structures, insulating one with glass fiber, the other with cellulose. The cellulose structure was 38% tighter.
Thinking of insulating your attic, or adding to the insulation already in place? In a study done by Oak Ridge National Labs, the air permeability of loose fill cellulose at 2 lbs/cubic foot was found to be:
• 10 - 33 times better than blown fiberglass, depending upon the density of the fiberglass
• 3+ times better than standard fiberglass batts
• 2 times better than high density fiberglass batts
This has huge significance for your home's energy consumption, in both heating and cooling.
So the answer to your question is cellulose costs less to own, or saves more money, over time. (How much less? Savings vary, and every house is different.) That's before you take into account the fact that, because cellulose does such a good job at preventing air infiltration, if you're building a new home, you may very well be able to install a smaller furnace and a smaller AC unit - another savings! It's also quieter, safer in the event of a fire, and may help resist pests.
Q.: Where can I learn more about cellulose insulation?
A.: Try the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturer's Association website.
Q.: What's the difference between cellulose, glass fiber and foam insulations?
A.: There are many differences.
As you can see in this chart, Cel-Pak cellulose insulation offers some distinct advantages over glass fiber and sprayed foam. Cel-Pak offers:
- Resistance to air movement through the structure
- No gaps or voids
- The best resistance to noise transmission
- In the event of a fire, Cel-Pak works to help prevent it's spread
- The best protection from moisture, mold and pests like carpenter ants
- High recycled content
- Low embodied energy
In short, Cel-Pak cellulose insulation is an outstanding choice of insulation for most applications.
Q.: Embodied energy? What's that?
A.: One measure of embodied energy is simply the amount of energy it takes to manufacture something. Relative to cellulose, fiberglass takes much more energy to produce1. For the consumer, the lower the embodied energy of a product, the less pollution generated when the product was made.
Another approach is to look at the Global Warming Potential and Life Cycle Analysis measurements relative to energy usage. According to the University of Minnesota's Minnesota Sustainable Housing Initiative research2, by these measures, the life cycle of fiberglass batts, compared to cellulose, features:
- 683% more energy consumption
- 728% greater global warming potential (in lbs of CO2)
- 1,850% higher air pollution index
Sprayed foams? They take far more energy to produce than fiberglass, which means they have far worse environmental effects.
If you want to save money on energy and take it easier on the environment over time, Cel-Pak cellulose is a great choice!
1"Life Cycle Analysis of a Residential Home in Michigan” S. Blanchard & P. Reppe (Sept. 1998); Canadian Architect Measures of Sustainability
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