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Spray Insulation Contractor Tips: Open Cell or Closed Cell?

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If you are building a new home or are preparing to renovate an older one, one of the big factors you need to deal with is insulation. Insulation in a building is the material that keeps outside air from transferring into conditioned indoor air and vice versa, e.g. keeping the heat out in summer and the cold out in winter. Good insulation reduces your need to use energy for heating or cooling spaces, so finding the best insulation products and having them installed correctly will be cost- and energy-efficient choices far into the future. So what will a spray insulation contractor in Philadelphia tell you about your insulation choices and where specific types of insulation work best in your home?

Open Cell Versus Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation

When it comes to spray foam insulation, there are two basic types: open cell and closed cell. Open cell insulation does, indeed, have open cells. The foam is softer and more flexible than closed cell insulation, is lighter, and has a lower R-value than closed cell. Several advantages of open cell insulation are lower cost, better sound insulation, and its ability to allow water to pass through it (which can prevent some mold growth). Disadvantages include a lower R-value (this also happens when water has penetrated the insulation, as water is an excellent conductor of energy and can lower the R-value significantly).

Closed cell spray insulation, on the other hand, includes millions of tiny pockets of insulative gas chambers that are closed. It is a rigid product with no flexibility—unlike open cell foam— and is an excellent and highly efficient barrier against water and air. It is also the most expensive type of insulation product on the market today.

What Works Best Where?

If you ask five contractors whether open or closed cell insulation works best and where you should use it in your home, you will probably get six different opinions. You will need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of cost, strength, R-value, and permeability in various parts of the structure, from the attic roof to the underside of your ground floor. Open cell insulation provides far better sound insulation and is considered ideal around rooms that need to remain as quiet as possible, such as theater rooms or bedrooms. Closed cell insulation, on the other hand, adds to the integral strength of the walls. You can always choose to apply a combination of both types of spray foam insulation or just choose one for whole-house application.

One thing to keep in mind is that all spray foam insulation must, by law, be enclosed in rooms where people will be spending time. This means that even basement walls will need to be sheet rocked, which can be an additional expense you will need to factor in.

Budget Conscious Hybrid Planning

Though you may desire a complete spray foam insulation application throughout your home, your budget might not allow it. Some spray insulation experts have come up with an economical compromise: hybrid insulation systems. The idea is to use closed cell spray foam on exterior surfaces, sealing against airflow and water vapor with a one to two inch application and then fill in the extra space between studs with cheaper fiberglass insulation. For many, it has proven to be an excellent combination that keeps a home more energy efficient and comfortable without also blowing the budget. If you have questions about what is best in your situation, consult with an experienced spray insulation contractor in Philadelphia for more information.

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