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Insulation 101

by Meghann Finn Sepulveda on May 1, 2015

While there are several insulation options, the most commonly used in Arizona include blown-in fiberglass (made up of tiny pieces of glass fibers); blown-in cellulose (consisting of recycled paper materials); batts or rolls of precut sheets of fiberglass; and a relatively newer alternative, liquid spray foam.

Common applications

Although wall insulation is applied in the same locations regardless of product type, there are a variety of ceiling applications.

“The two most common applications are conventional and cathedralized,” said Todd Russo, president of REEis Home Performance and Air Conditioning in Phoenix. “Conventional insulation is blown or placed on the drywall of the ceiling line creating a vented attic space. Cathedralized insulation is installed underneath the roof deck.”

R-value levels

The “R-value” rating of a particular type of insulation measures its ability to resist heat transfer. Typically, higher R-value levels result in better performance. R-value guidelines differ in each state due to the variable range in climate.

“An R38 in the attic and R13 in the walls are very common for new construction in Arizona,” said Scott Petre, Phoenix manager for Banker Insulation.

Many experts agree that the quality of the insulation is more important than the quantity.

“The key to determining the right amount and type of insulation is for buyers to be well-informed,” said Jeff Banker, president of Banker Insulation. “There are many options for insulation package upgrades in new-home builds, depending on desirable performance and budget.” 


Today, homebuilders are using energy modeling which estimates average monthly utility bills and user performance. 

Utility companies offer energy audit programs to determine effectiveness and performance, check for leakages, offer recommendations and evaluate energy behaviors and habits. Some homeowners may qualify for rebates and federal tax credits.

“The insulation is one component of obtaining an efficient home,” Banker said. “It also includes the quality of the framing, heating and cooling system, and windows. It should be thought of as part of a system.”

Energy-efficiency as a result of proper insulation can result in significant cost savings for new-home buyers because the home will be less expensive to operate and more comfortable to live in, Banker added.

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