Reflective Insulation & Radiant Barriers
Reflective insulation and radiant barriers serve primarily to reflect radiant heat, but do little to prevent heat transfer through convection. They’re highly useful in southern or warm climates where the main objective is to keep solar heat out of the building. They look like a big sheet of foil, and serve primarily to block solar heat, even though they’re applied internally. Here’s how: the sun heats the materials on a roof, for example. These materials, now hot, transfer heat through convection (heat moving through the material) and through radiation (heat emitted directly from material). The radiant barrier, which you could install by laying it on top of existing attic insulation, or by attaching it to the underside of the rafters, blocks the radiant heat, reflects it back into roofing material and keeps it out of your living space.
Doesn’t prevent convective heat transfer – so it won’t keep the heat inside in the winter. Reflective insulation does include a thin layer of material to prevent heat transfer through convection, and so has a small R-value (a radiant barrier has no R-value). Reflective insulation and radiant barriers thus serve as a supplement to bulk insulation (i.e. cellulose, spray-foam or fiberglass batts), but will not suffice on their own, particularly in cool climates.
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