Comparing the Health and Cost of Common Insulations in One Graph

Insulation is arguably one of the most important parts of any home. It keeps your home comfortable, stops air gaps, and helps manage your energy usage. Many homes in the U.S. are underinsulated, so it’s recommended that  homeowners add insulation to their homes to correct this issue.

There are several types of insulation on the market today, making the choice a challenging one when it comes to deciding which is right for your home. Fixr has created this graph to help you see those choices ranked for how healthy they are and for how much they cost, so you can tell at a glance which ones might work best for you. We’ve taken a look at the most common materials based on Home Innovation’s 2019 Annual Builder Practices Survey, then examined their health ramifications according to EEFA's A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials to help you make the decision of which will be right for you.

Understanding Your Insulation Choices

The above graph is laid out to help you understand your insulation choices at a quick glance. Insulations aren’t equal in terms of how healthy they are to have in your home or how much they cost, so this graph is designed to help you compare them quickly.

The colors of the graph will help you see the health risk of each insulation choice. Insulations shown in green have the lowest risk, while those in red have the highest. The height of each section details how costly an insulation is; the higher the section, the more that particular insulation will cost.

Finally, the percentage shown for each section shows its popularity amongst other homeowners by indicating the percentages of homes insulated with that type. Higher numbers indicate more homes with that insulation, while low numbers show that fewer people are using it.

When comparing various insulation types in this way, certain trends become easier to see. It’s also interesting to note specific findings when comparing materials as well.

For example, fiberglass batt insulation is far and away the most popular choice at 52%. When you consider that it’s also the least expensive option, as well as one of the healthiest, this popularity becomes more clear. Blown fiberglass gets the second biggest segment at 19%, and it also ranks as one of the healthiest options, although more expensive.

Expense isn’t the only driving factor, though, as the next least expensive - mineral wool - gets only 1% of overall usage. This could be in part because of the fact that it’s not as healthy as either of the fiberglass options, despite its low cost.

On the other end of the spectrum are foam board and spray foam, which each come in at 11%. Of the two, foam board is the most expensive while spray foam is the least healthy. The fact that they do get as much use as they do could be due to the fact that both are good at insulating specific areas where the other materials can’t go, such as foam board helping to form a tight building envelope beneath the home’s siding.

Cellulose’s low popularity at 5% could be a result of the fact that it’s not as healthy as its direct competition - blown fiberglass. While the fiberglass is very slightly more expensive, it’s much healthier to have in the home.

Choosing the Right Type of Insulation

Health and cost are really only two considerations you should make when the time comes to insulate your home. The other considerations are where the insulation is going, and what kind of climate you live in.

Insulation can be added to a vast amount of spaces in and around the home. And not every insulation will work in every instance. Fiberglass batts are popular because they can often be added to new homes as walls are being built. They can also be added to attic spaces, crawl spaces, and to basement ceilings after the home has been constructed. But, they don’t always do a great job in finished areas. That’s why blow-in insulations like fiberglass and cellulose are also available; they can be blown into cavities that are hard to fit with batts.

Other areas may need insulating, but would be difficult to use either batts or loose fill. The underside of your roof deck, around pipes, and corners are all areas that require insulation, but that can be hard to insulate. Spray foam works particularly well in these areas, because it’s easy to apply and expands to fill the space.

Finally, you need to consider your climate, and how much insulation your home needs. Homes in temperate climates can often get away with less insulation or insulation only in strategic places, so things like fiberglass batts make the most sense. But a home in a climate with very cold or very hot weather will need more insulation, particularly in strategic areas.

For example, a home in Arizona, will need more insulation on the underside of a deck, while a home in New England will need to fill wall cavities. In addition, you’ll need to see how much R-value or insulation rating each material provides; higher R-values are more expensive, but insulate better.

So, when choosing insulation, first determine where you’re insulating and how much insulation is necessary. Then take a look at your options and consider how cost and health can factor into the equation.

Insulate Your Home

Home insulation is necessary no matter where you live. Make sure that you’re getting the right insulation for your home, and that you choose the healthiest and most effective options out there to get the best results.


Yuka Kato

Industry Analyst