Cellulose Insulation Pros and Cons

When it comes to choosing insulation for your home, there are a variety of options available. Three of the most common types are fiberglass insulation, which often contains recycled glass; foam insulation, which expands when sprayed into a space; and cellulose insulation. Often called "green insulation," this third option has gained popularity in recent years due to its use of recycled paper and high R-Value. If you are interested in cellulose insulation pros and cons, here are some basics.

Recycled materials. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that cellulose insulation (both blown-in and spray-on varieties) include a minimum of 75 percent post-consumer paper. Most manufacturers will use around 80 percent recycled materials, with the remaining 20 percent being fire-retardant chemicals and, in some cases, acrylic binders. The paper used to make this type of insulation is almost always old newsprint. In 1994, the cellulose industry in the U.S. used an estimated 840 million pounds of recycled newspapers in the production of insulation.

It is important to note that green insulation is a term that can also apply to some types of fiberglass insulation and to types of cotton-based insulation.

Green attic insulation. Because cellulose insulation can be blown into a space, it is often used in attics, where spacing can be cramped. Fiberglass insulation can be blown-in, but is more often cut from larger sheets or rolls, and fitted into the space.

Advances in manufacturing have also allowed for the development of cellulose insulation that is stabilized for use in attics. This type of loose-fill insulation does not settle as much as other types. The same breakthroughs have led to a method that breaks the paper down into fibers, which makes it fluffier and increases its R-Value.

Cellulose insulation R-Value. The R-Value calculates the resistance to heat flow of the insulation; the higher the R-Value, the stronger the insulation. Different types of insulation have different R-Values, and depending on the climate where your home is located, you may need to choose a type of insulation with a stronger rating.

When it comes to cellulose insulation, R-Values per inch vary from 3.2-3.8. This gives cellulose insulation the highest R-Value of the loose-fill options available, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Fiberglass insulation has an R-Value that is often close to that of cellulose, and rock wool insulation is the third-most used option.

Another thing to consider is that the R-Value can be increased by combining forces. For example, if existing fiberglass insulation is damaged or degraded, adding blown-in cellulose insulation on top of it can give you a boost in energy efficiency.

Additional information. People often wonder if cellulose insulation is more flammable than other types of insulation, because it is made of paper. Another concern is that it is more susceptible to mold, mildew and moisture than other types of insulating materials.

Cellulose insulation is treated with fire retardant chemicals, and has a Class 1 fire rating. It also has strong ratings for low smoke development and fire spread. Additionally, studies have shown that cellulose is not any more prone to molding or mildew than other methods.

Another key factor when considering cellulose insulation is that it can also be treated with boric acid – an effective pest deterrent. When insects ingest or come into contact with boric acid, it kills them, so they cannot infest your insulation.

If you are wondering about adding cellulose insulation to your home, give Terminix® a call and schedule your free insulation inspection.