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Fiberglass vs Cellulose, the Pros and Cons by Comparison

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There are many different types of insulation to use in your home’s walls, attic and basement, but the two most types of insulation are fiberglass and cellulose. They share some similarities and have difference and the application will generally dictate which substance you will use.

Cellulose insulation, advantages and disadvantages

Advantages:

  • Made or paper, cellulose helps reduce paper waste through recycling the material for insulation
  • Treated with boric acid helps the material become flame retardant, rejects mold spores and stops insects from invading
  • In some cases, cellulose is treated with an acrylic binder that prevents R-value degradation over time
  • Costs are cheaper with cellulose insulation, in some cases 25 per cent cheaper
  • Has a higher R-value per inch in comparison with fiberglass (R-3.2 – R-2.2 per inch)
  • Is less of a health hazard than fiberglass

Disadvantages:

  • Installations costs are higher for cellulose
  • Creates a massive cloud of dust when installed and breathing apparatus may necessary if a large installation is being done
  • Dry-blown cellulose characteristically settles and sags in place and that reduces its’ R-value
  • As a recycled paper product, cellulose is prone to absorb moisture that can cause mold and wood rot – wet-blown cellulose if subject to similar contamination too

Fiberglass, advantages and disadvantages

Advantages:

  • Fiberglass insulation is very effective as an insulator and is inexpensive on the pocketbook
  • Fiberglass insulation does not shrink over time
  • Insulation manufacturers supply the material in sealed batts that are wrapped in a plastic film to prevent health risks
  • The plastic film that the batts are wrapped in acts as a vapour barrier
  • Fiberglass insulation is 100 per cent flame retardant and will not burn
  • Most fiberglass insulation is made with recycled materials and that reduces its’ carbon footprint
  • Fiberglass insulation comes in two types of density – medium and high – and that translates into an R-11 and R-15 respectively for a standard 2×4 wall
  • Fiberglass insulation has no nutritutional value for insects so they will leave it alone

Disadvantages:

  • Personal protective equipment must be worn when working with fibreglass as the slivers of insulation can be inhaled and get stuck on the skin
  • If you do not use sealed batts, fiberglass insulation will require a vapour barrier during the installation phase
  • Blankets of fiberglass have trouble sealing walls and ceiling spaces well
  • If sliver of fiberglass are inhaled, over time it can cause lung disease
  • Depending on the fiberglass product used, it could contain formaldehyde – another cancer causing agent
  • Fibreglass insulation, over time will sag and settle reducing its R-value

Both cellulose and fiberglass are the two most inexpensive insulation products that you can use and fiberglass is the most common product for insulation outpacing cellulose by 50-1. Both share common characteristics and both are in direct competition for the residential insulation market and offer distinct options when deciding what type of product to use.

blown insulationFiberglass insulation is the easiest insulation product on the market to install and if installed correctly the most effective product on the market for home attic insulation. When using cellulose – blown-in dry insulation – it requires a machine to achieve its’ purpose and a training session from wherever you rent the blower from.

Both products have similar R-values per inch, but it can vary due to the circumstances that affect your home. Insulation settling can be a problem as temperatures and wind washing are all common problems that will affect the insulation’s ability to keep heat in the house.

Both types of insulation require an air barrier to be installed at the time the insulation is added, and fiberglass is susceptible to air leakage and that will affect the R-value of the product installed. Moisture can absorbed by both products and each has the capacity to dry quickly, yet in a damp environment like a basement it could be problematic.

AS mentioned previously, both products react differently to flame and fire  if fiberglass insulation is exposed to flame and fire it will melt as it is made up of glass fibres. Problem though, is the wrapping that comes with batts, it is flammable and could ignite if expose to open flame. As for cellulose, it is heavily treated with chemicals to reduce its flammability, and while the chemicals may not be harmful to humans they are highly effective.

When making a product choice for you insulation needs, always contact a professional for their advice, as each product works in different applications and no two applications are alike. Also, you need to take into consideration the weather in your area and the lifestyle you lead to help make the decision is easy.

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