Texas Living

Attic Insulation vs. Radiant Barriers

By Paula Felps 7.26.13

Beating the summer heat is practically a full-time job in Texas, and it’s a time when cooling your home becomes top priority. Homeowners have long relied upon insulation to help keep their cool, but recent years have seen the development of additional ways to bring down those temperatures.

Radiant barriers are one of the most popular alternatives to traditional insulation, but may not be the most effective choice in every situation. Knowing what each one can (and can’t) do is crucial in helping you make the right decision for your home.


Understanding Radiant Barriers

Radiant barriers are exactly what the name implies: barriers that block radiant or infrared heat produced by the sun. A radiant barrier, which is typically made of aluminum, is installed in the attic and reflects the heat back before it can warm your home. It is more effective in warm climates, where studies show it can reduce cooling costs by up to 10 percent.

Standard insulation can be made of a variety of materials, including foam and fiberglass, and it operates by absorbing heat and dramatically slowing down the heating process. Before you make a decision, here are some important things you need to know:

  • Radiant barriers reflect heat rather than absorb it, which means they cannot reduce heat conduction like standard thermal insulation.
  • Although dirt does not affect traditional insulation, it can cause radiant barriers to lose their effectiveness.
  • Radiant barriers can also help heat a home during cooler months by reflecting the rising heat back into the home.