One term you may come across when discussing a home build or the Inflation Reduction Act is ‘Insulation R-Value’ – but what does that mean? If you want to keep utility bills low and reduce the carbon footprint of your tiny home, this is something you’ll want to understand.

Here, we’ve broken down what R-Value is, the necessary ranges for a tiny or modular house, and the pros and cons.

Here is everything you need to know about R-Value-

What is R-Value?

R-Value is the “capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow. The higher the number, the greater the insulating power.” 

A greater R-Value means better insulation, which will help maintain the home’s internal temperature. Builders use different insulation levels for various areas, such as a lower R-Value for flooring and a higher value for an attic. 

Insulation levels range from R10 to R60. For purchasing purposes, a builder may get all the insulation with the same R-Value, doubling it up in certain areas of the home can create a higher R-Value. 

Why is Insulation R-Value important? 

Keeping your home warm and energy down is a big priority for many people. Knowing the insulation R-Value in the home will help ensure the home is energy efficient. The correct insulation can make or break a build, yet another reason to trust expert builders instead of a Home Depot tiny house kit.

Not only does insulation keep your home warm during the winter months, but it also reduces strain on HVAC systems. Without adequately insulating a home, the thermostat will need to run constantly, leaving the HVAC system on overdrive. 

What is the right amount of Insulation R-Value?

The level of R-Value installed in a home will depend on where you live. If you live in a cooler climate, a higher insulation value is necessary vs. a warmer climate. The United States Department of Energy has created a great resource map recommending the R-value levels by region (shown below). 

As you can see in the above table, homeowners living in the Texas area would want an attic insulated from R30 to R60, while the floor should be insulated between R13 to R 25, depending on which part of the state you live in.

How do R-Values compare for types of insulation?

When building a new home, there are decisions about which level of insulation to use for floors, walls, and the roof. If you are purchasing a tiny home on wheels (THOW), you’ll want to make sure that you are also considering additional insulation underneath the house. With the THOW being off the ground, there is ample opportunity for air to escape out the bottom of the home. 

There are many types of insulation on the market today:

  • Loose-Fill/Blown-In Insulation – Low R-Value per inch
  • Batt Insulation – Low R-Value per inch
  • Spray Foam Insulation – Medium R-Value per inch
  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) – High R-Value per inch
  • Rigid Insulation Boards – High-R-Value per inch

Each type of insulation comes with its pros and cons. If you are building a new house, you have more options than adding on to a current home. 

What are Structural Insulated Panels?

SIP panels are made by laminating styrofoam insulation with sheet goods. Using styrofoam makes the product extremely lightweight, a considerable benefit for a tiny house. 

There are considerable benefits to using SIP panels-

  • Lightweight – these panels create up to 30% weight reduction in framing from traditional houses.
  • SIPs are earthquake and hurricane-resistant, standing the test of time.
  • Cost-effective – the high R-Value means the place is temperature controlled. 
  • There are no studs when using SIP panels, so you are free to hang items anywhere on the walls!

At Turn Key Fabrication, we build our homes with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). They are the best option in the insulation market and are worth the upgrade

How do you increase R-Value?

There are a variety of ways to increase the R-Value of your home:

  • Insulate – The best place to add additional insulation in your attic/roof. 
  • High Standards – Make sure your builder knows the code standards for your municipality. Adding more insulation is an option, but your R-Value should always stay within the building code requirements. 
  • Beyond R-Value – Some other ways you can help your home maintain heat are to stop leaks and replace windows. 

A single layer of our SIP panels is R25. Since we make them in-house, we can use thicker styrofoam to increase the R-Value and match the recommended amount per region. With a heat flow reduction above 96%, you can rest assured that the tiny or modular home will maintain the temperature inside. 

Can you have too much insulation? 

Although you can’t necessarily over-insulate your home, there are a few areas to consider when adding more insulation. There is the possibility of a diminishing return, environmental impacts, and the potential for mold.

Each time you add a layer of insulation, the newest layer is doing less work because there isn’t as much availability for heat flow between layers. At some point, there will be little impact on the home while costing more money. 

While adequately insulating a home has a positive environmental impact by reducing the amount of energy consumed each month, there can be an ecological downfall. Manufacturing insulation requires energy, natural resources, and the emission of greenhouse gases. 

Another downfall of stacking up too much insulation is that moisture can get trapped between the layers, creating a perfect environment for mold. The home needs to be able to breathe through all the insulation. Poor ventilation is a common problem with tiny homes that aren’t built correctly. 

How can Turn Key Fabrication help?

Insulation is often overlooked by homeowners, leaving that decision up to the builders, but this is one area you should make a point to ask about. Adding insulation with the right amount of R-Value and sealing air leaks can create a 10% savings on yearly utility bills. 

Turn Key Fabrication takes pride in using SIP panels for all areas of our homes. We can create any R-Value panel level, allowing us to use them for flooring, walls, and ceilings. Not only do we use these on homes we build, we happily construct them for other tiny home builders as well! If you are in the market for a tiny house or needing SIP panels, contact us today!     

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