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What Is a Radiant Barrier and How Does One Work?

Adding insulation like radiant barrier

If you’re tired of paying high energy bills and are looking for a way to cut costs year-round, you may want to consider having a radiant barrier installed. In this article, we will discuss what a radiant barrier is, how it works, what benefits it provides and some factors that impact installation costs.

As with most preventative measures, installing a radiant barrier is an investment aimed at providing you with significant savings over time. In this case, it functions to get the most out of the energy you are using, both in cold and warm weather. Let’s explore how this one addition to your home can ensure energy efficiency for years to come.

What Is A Radiant Barrier?

A radiant barrier is a layer of reflective material, such as aluminum foil, which is installed on the underside of your rafters and throughout other key locations in your home. It is often reinforced with fiber to bolster durability and extend its lifespan.

Though radiant barriers are most commonly installed in roofs, they can also be installed as an energy saving measure in walls, crawl spaces, garage doors and even outdoor surfaces to facilitate the melting of snow and ice.

The function of a radiant barrier is to keep radiant heat from entering your home during the summer months. In cold weather, it also serves to keep the heat from escaping through your roof when used in conjunction with insulation.

How It Works

Radiant barriers reflect infrared radiation (heat), rather than absorbing the radiation as normal insulation does without one. They are sometimes referred to as “solar reflectors” because like other reflective materials, they bounce solar rays away from your home and back toward their source. 

You’ve likely encountered a radiant barrier before and didn’t even realize it. Have you ever seen those shiny shades that some people put inside their windshield to keep their leather seats from getting too hot? That is an example of a radiant barrier.

The easiest way to understand it is through the analogy of using an umbrella at the beach. Though you can still feel the heat, the umbrella absorbs the majority of the sun’s rays and keeps you from getting overheated as quickly. 

Your roof is the part of your home through which most energy escapes (around 30% of total energy loss). Equipping your roof with the proper protection, in the form of a radiant barrier and sufficient insulation, will reduce this number dramatically.

Radiant barriers can also work with other heat sources, such as a stove or heater. Thus, they can also be used in winter to keep heat from escaping your house, though they are more effective as a reflector (to keep heat out) than as an insulator (to keep heat in).

For those who live in cold, snowy climates, radiant barriers also offer the added benefit of facilitating the melting of snow and ice. The sun’s rays reflect off the barrier and back toward your roof, warming it up and causing snow to melt more quickly.

Though they will have the most significant impact on those particularly hot and sunny days, radiant barriers offer year-round benefits. During the milder seasons like spring and autumn, they can even make the difference between turning your heat or A/C on low and not using it at all. 

Essentially, a radiant barrier keeps heat from entering your home when you want to keep it cool and also contributes to keeping it inside during the colder months so you use less energy to keep it warm. 

Who Benefits Most from Installing One?

The warmer and sunnier the climate, the more effectively a radiant barrier will function, both to regulate the indoor climate and reduce the amount of energy used to do so. For southern Californians, a radiant barrier can have a significant impact on the amount of heat entering your home and in turn, the amount of energy it will take to cool it.

Those who own larger homes can also benefit significantly from installing a radiant barrier. The larger your home and its roof is, the more energy it requires in order to heat or cool it and the more opportunities that energy has to escape.

Those who have a garage attached to their home also lose a considerable amount of energy through its door and roof. Installing a radiant barrier in your garage door and roof can minimize this loss considerably.

How Much Does A Radiant Barrier Cost?

The cost of installing a radiant barrier varies considerably based on the size of your home and the extent to which you’d like to install it in various parts of your home. Many homeowners choose to have them installed only in their roof whereas others strive to make their home as energy-efficient as possible by having it put in throughout their house.

The best approach is to speak with a local HVAC installation company so that they can assess your needs and give you a more accurate estimate of the total cost. Global Green Solutions offers free, zero-obligation quotes.

Are Radiant Barriers a DIY Project?

Though it is certainly possible to install a radiant barrier on your own, the project does require a certain level of expertise and specific tools. It also inherently carries a certain risk. Some who attempt to do construction in their attic sustain injuries, fail to install it properly, and even cause considerable damage in the process.

Working in an attic or crawl space without the proper equipment and understanding of the structure is dangerous. Because it is not meant as a place for people to spend time, attics are often constructed with exposed nails and insulation, both of which can be harmful.

Many homes are constructed without the floor of the attic being reinforced, so if you fail to step on the beams, you could end up stepping through your ceiling and injuring yourself as well as causing costly damage to your home.

Ultimately, the only way to ensure that the job will be done correctly without any injuries or damage being done to your home is to hire a qualified HVAC company to come and do the installation for you. 

A reputable HVAC company should be licensed, bonded and insured so that once you hire them, all the risk is eliminated and anything that may happen during the installation process is covered by them and their insurance provider.

Get Professional Help Installing Radiant Barriers

If you are seeking solutions to make your home more energy-efficient and are interested in having a radiant barrier installed, contact the professionals at Global Green Solutions. We can assess your home and provide you with a free, no obligation estimate as well as other potential solutions to save on your energy bills.

For radiant barrier installation in Los Angeles, give us a call at (888) 860-4826 or email us at [email protected]. You can also contact us on our website to schedule a free consultation.