The purpose of insulation is to reduce convection, conduction and radiation heat losses within the home. Good insulation is one of the homeowner’s best defenses against high fuel bills. Considering present liabilities and health concerns regarding types of insulation, it is important for a real estate agent to be able to recognize and evaluate them.
TYPES OF INSULATION
Glass Fiber Insulation is one of the most common and is made from threads of glass and formaldehyde. It is available in blanket or batt form, as well as loose fill. It is resistant to moisture, mildew, fungus, and vermin, and is generally considered non-combustible. During installation it is a skin irritant, and inhaling the small threads of glass fiber can affect the respiratory system. Cost: less than $.80 per sq.ft. for R-19 uninstalled.
Mineral Fiber or Mineral Wool is similar to glass fiber except that rock or slag is used to form the wool like texture. Like glass fiber insulation it resists fire and rot, and is less irritating to work with than glass. Cost: approx. $1.00 per sq. ft. installed.
Cellulose Fiber is made from paper, finely shredded and treated with chemicals to make it somewhat resistant to moisture, fire rot and vermin. It is usually blown in, but can also be poured. It is usually grey in color and is similar to lint from a dryer in texture. Though cellulose fiber is inexpensive, it will absorb water which will lead to deterioration. Cost: $2.00-$3.50 per sq. ft. (blown in).
Vermiculite is a mineral substance made from mica It is available as loose fill and can be recognized by the small individual rectangular pieces. It is non-combustible, subject to moisture damage and relatively expensive. It is used in block cavities in commercial construction.
Plastic Board Insulations are made from polystyrene, or polyurethane. Both pose fire hazards if left exposed. If applied on interior or exterior walls, they should be covered by at least a half inch drywall or plaster. They have the highest R-value, and are more expensive than most types. Cost: $1.00-$2.00 per sq. ft.
Urea Formaldehyde foam insulation was used extensively as a residential insulation in the mid-1970s. UFFI was banned in Canada in December 1980, because of suspected health hazards. Formaldehyde gas is an irritant and may be carcinogenic (cancer causing). Colors and textures of UFFI vary, but it can be distinguished from other foam insulations by its crumbly structure and powdery residue. Positive identification can only be done by laboratory testing. Cost to remove: $20-$35.00 per sq. ft.
Asbestos is an effective insulator against heat, cold, electricity and noise. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was used extensively for residential and commercial insulation. Under the Construction Safety Act of 1973, both the practice of spraying asbestos and using it for pipe and boiler wrap were prohibited. Asbestos insulation that has not been disturbed is not considered a serious health threat. When used as a pipe or boiler wrap, the heat causes the asbestos to become increasingly fragile. When asbestos becomes friable (crumbly to the touch), then it becomes air borne and presents a health concern. Asbestos is carcinogenic and where friable asbestos insulation is present, removal is strongly advised. Cost of removal: $20-$35.00 per sq. ft.
R-values and RSI values: The numbers shown in this chart are the current standards required by many northern codes. While these standards apply to new buildings only, they give an indication of the values one might insulate to when upgrading. The number indicated in this chart are known as R-values. An R- value is simply a numerical representation of thermal resistance. The higher the number, the greater the resistance to heat transfer. RSI values are the metric equivalent of the R-values. To obtain an RSI value, divide the R-value by 5.6.
2017 CHANGES TO THE ONTARIO BUILDING CODE
The building code in Ontario evolves over time to incorporate new standards and practices in the industry. One of the key areas of focus for the building code lately has been on energy saving initiatives. One of the bigger changes has been related to insulation in new builds or additions with permits issued as of the start of 2017.
The principle of continuous insulation means that a monolithic style of insulation must be installed that eliminates thermal bridging. Monolithic means continuous without gaps. Thermal bridging is a process where energy is lost through materials that are not covered with overlapping insulation. For example, the wood studs in your basement that contain insulation filled between them, but not over them, will allow some energy loss to the outside through the wood studs themselves.
This loss of energy is known as thermal bridging and has been targeted by the building code as an area that can be improved by implementing continuous insulation.
Continuous insulation can be achieved in the home by installing rigid board stock insulation all around the perimeter of the basement even before the studs are put in. This allows the entire basement wall to have monolithic insulation that contains no gaps and therefore allows no thermal bridging. Further insulation would still be put in after the studs are put up, and so the basement would have two good layers of insulation.
Attic Insulation Requirements
Another area where the Ontario Building Code has seen changes is in attic insulation requirements. Attic insulation value requirements have been raised so that the density for new homes and additions in Ontario now has been raised from R-50 to R-60.
WHAT IS AN R-2000 HOME?
Before a home receives an R-2000 designation, it must undergo a rigorous series of tests to ensure that it meets the exacting performance standards of the program.
The most important standard that every R-2000 home must meet is the energy performance target. During the evaluation stage, energy usage is calculated using a sophisticated computer program known as the HOT 2000. After construction, the home is inspected and issued an individual numbered certificate, verifying that it has met the R-2000 standard.
While homes built to R-2000 standards typically cost between two and six percent more than the conventionally built houses, they retain their initial value very well. In addition to lower energy bills, R-2000 homes also offer their owners peace of mind. There are more than 4,000 eligible builders in Canada who have taken a special R-2000 training program. These builders are typically on the leading edge of their professions, and are constantly upgrading their knowledge. R-2000 home owners have the satisfaction of knowing that their houses are among the quietest, cleanest, and best built homes on the market. Due to the controlled ventilation system found in R-2000 homes, fresh air is circulated throughout the house an average of eight times a day.
Cleaner air, the highest quality construction, and lower energy bills are all advantages of R-2000 construction. Knowing that they made the right decision from the start allows an R-2000 home owner to sit back and enjoy their surroundings.