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Why Homeowners are Opting for Blown in Cellulose Insulation

Published on May 01, 2018

With so many different insulation options on the market today, how do you know which material is best for you? Today on the EcoComfort blog, we’re going to break down one of our most popular options, blown in cellulose insulation, something you might have seen advertised at the local Home Depot. Do you think your energy bills are too high or that your home is too drafty? If you’re interested in improving your home’s thermal performance, blown in cellulose insulation might be the right product to help you combat these common household problems.

Read on for some of the top benefits that blown in cellulose insulation provides:

Environmentally friendly: One of the top benefits of blown in cellulose insulation is that it made from recycled materials: the contents of your paper recycling bin. Post-consumer paper waste like paper, packaging, and cardboard boxes is recycled into an insulation that is good for your home and the environment, because it requires less embodied energy to produce.

Lowers your risk of contamination from animals, insects, and mold: Blown in cellulose insulation has been treated with boric acid, a non-toxic naturally occurring chemical that helps create a hostile environment to pests. Boric acid has other benefits that we’ll cover a bit later, but it’s also an effective insecticide that repels bugs such as flies, ants, and cockroaches.

Tight air seal: One of the biggest problems in the attics that we assess is air leaks. These small holes and and gaps are sometimes responsible for up to a 30% loss in home heating - which translates directly into higher energy bills. Because it is created from many small pieces, blown in cellulose insulation is excellent at efficiently covering a space, filling and preventing the gaps that contribute to air leakage.

Fire Retardant: Since it’s made from paper, you might be concerned that blown in cellulose insulation is a fire risk - and it certainly was in the early days. But today’s modern products have a very low risk of contributing to house fires because of the boric acid treatment. The tiny boric acid crystals actually release small amounts of water, helping to extinguish and suppress flames and smoldering.

Sound Proof:  Blown in cellulose insulation adds a sound proofing benefit to any installation. Sound waves travel best with least resistance, and the small corners and irregular shape of the cellulose pieces catch that sound and prevent it from making it through the layer of insulation.

Affordability: One of the biggest concerns for many of us when doing home renovations is cost, and blown in cellulose insulation provides a great option when you’re looking for something to fit your budget. Installation of blown in cellulose is fast, easy, and it has an excellent value-per-inch because it continues to perform well over time.

Does blown in cellulose insulation settle?

Blown cellulose insulation will settle over time. When installed, blown cellulose creates air pockets for thermal protection. Over time, as the insulation settles, the air pockets are lost. This reduces insulation effectiveness and therefore reduces thermal protection year after year. The effects are noticeable.

Compared with other similar products, blown cellulose insulation is most prone to settling. Over time, it can lose up to 20% of its R-Value once the material has settled. On the other hand, blown insulation made from rock wool or fiberglass will typically lose about 5% of R-Value once the material settles.

If your attic has a high level of moisture, it can cause your insulation to settle more quickly. Because cellulose blown insulation absorbs more water than other products, R-Values are more rapidly lost. With rock wool or fiberglass products, there is much less moisture absorption and less problems.  

Probably the most common remedy for insulation that has settled, is to simply add more insulation. With blown cellulose insulation, topping up about 20% will account for the loss of integrity due to settling. The rock wool and fiberglass products will not require as much topping up (perhaps 5%).

Does cellulose insulation need a vapour barrier?

While not every insulation product might require a vapour barrier, insulation performance can often be improved when a vapour barrier is installed. This is particularly relevant in an attic space which might have high moisture levels. Better managed air moisture makes for better performance.

Compared to other products, cellulose insulation generally does an adequate job of blocking moisture-laden air. Some professionals recommend a vapour barrier for added benefit, as long as ventilation is properly installed. Here, an expert assessment would be helpful in determining course of action.

The physical nature of cellulose insulation allows for the better management of air moisture, both in summer and winter. While cellulose prevents air moisture from accumulating and causing damage, a proper inspection will accurately determine the full necessity for a vapour barrier and/or air barrier.

Can you put new cellulose insulation over old?

According to industry professionals, new insulation can be effectively installed over old insulation. This is not possible if existing insulation material is wet or has previously been wet. Needless to say, the cause and source of water should be identified and repaired.

For best results, an insulation professional should handle any “topping up” of insulation. This is especially true if old insulation removal is required, or if repairs and retrofits are required. What’s most important is to ensure that the installation space if well sealed.

How long does blown in cellulose insulation last?

Blown in cellulose insulation has a satisfactory lifespan, thus making it a popular option for a typical residential home.  However, realistically, most insulation materials will degrade over time. With a professional install, blown in cellulose should provide years of service.

With proper home maintenance, blown in cellulose will maintain its integrity. At the same time, there are a number of physical conditions where cellulose insulation can be damaged and compromised. Here, a suitable remedy is required prior to installing new insulation.

  • Water damage can slowly degrade cellulose insulation and performance
  • Insects, rodents, and birds can cause damage to insulation while nesting
  • Although cellulose insulation is mold resistant, mould growth is possible

In general, blown cellulose insulation has a long and effective lifespan. This will vary with the age of your home and the degree of home maintenance. The best results are achieved when all systems are properly working together - air sealing, insulation, and ventilation.

How cellulose insulation is blown into the home

Because of its material composition, cellulose insulation is considered to be an eco-friendly product. Blown in cellulose (also known as loose-fill) is recommended for the attic, where it’s “blown” throughout the space, filling the entire area with an effective thermal “blanket”.  

Cellulose insulation can be used to fill empty joist cavities, as well as topping up existing insulation. Professional expertise is highly recommended for the best long-term results.

  • Using special equipment, bales of cellulose insulation are processed by a “hopper”, after which an electric blower mechanism fluffs up the cellulose material for installation.
  • When ready, the cellulose material is blown throughout the attic cavity using a special application nozzle – cellulose insulation can also be installed into exterior wall cavities.
  • When professionally installed, blown cellulose insulation fills a given cavity and creates a thermal blanket of insulation. Once settled, the blanket provides maximum protection.

Why is cellulose insulation the best insulation?

For homeowners who care, cellulose insulation contains a very high amount of recycled material. It’s been specially treated to be flame resistant, pest resistant and mold resistant. When properly installed, blown cellulose insulation fills small gaps, cracks, and crevices.

Cellulose is considered denser than fiberglass. In the attic, it means that less cellulose is used than fiberglass. When aiming for a specific R-Value, cellulose insulation can provide a very effective performance level. In addition, the product and application are cost effective.

Cellulose insulation is also used for sound dampening. When professionally installed, it resists so-called airborne sound transfer. With excellent sound absorption qualities, blown cellulose is an ideal product for interior partition walls, and equally effective in ceilings.

Why choose EcoComfort for blown in cellulose insulation

When it comes to attic insulation, EcoComfort are the experts. We offer a wide range of attic and roof services, with attic insulation that saves energy, ensures comfort, and reduces utility costs. We use only safe, chemical-free, Canadian-approved materials.

At EcoComfort, our installations are fully guaranteed – we do the work right the first time and will usually exceed your expectations. Our installers are dependable, knowledgeable, and friendly. Best of all, we won’t be satisfied with the job until you’re fully satisfied.

We service the Greater Toronto Area and many of the surrounding communities. With attic insulation, you’re assured of high-quality products and a quality approach to installation. It’s probably why we get so many referrals from all of our previous satisfied customers.

Choosing insulation doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re still confused or have questions about the different products and kinds of insulation available, give us a call at EcoComfort. We’d be happy to tell you more about blown in cellulose insulation and the benefits it can bring to help improve your home.

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