A few decades ago, most people thought of insulation as more of a luxury than a necessity. However, as energy costs escalated, homeowners quickly began to realize that much of their hard-earned money was escaping right through their ceilings and walls. These days, fiber glass insulation is the most common choice for homes, and most people know that going without it is an inefficient and expensive proposition. If you’ve ever spent a hot summer night in a house without fiberglass insulation, you know that the air conditioner thermostat just never seems to click off. So, obviously, fiberglass insulation is valuable and important for reducing energy costs, but doles it have a downside? A closer look at fiberglass insulation reveals that just like most things in life, there are some negatives and some positives.
Another drawback of fiberglass insulation has to do with contamination. This is usually a result of fiberglass being exposed for too long or just outright improper installation.
Who Needs Insulation?
The simple answer to this question is: virtually everyone needs some degree of insulation in their home. Since insulation helps keep temperatures at a comfortable level, going without it just doesn’t make much sense. Prior to the 1970s, not many people thought about insulating their homes. At that time, energy resources like coal and natural gas seemed nearly infinite and the monthly prices were very cheap. However, when the energy crises of the 1970s struck, people began to think differently about insulating their homes. These days, most people know that a poorly insulated home is a recipe for inefficiency and high energy costs.
Benefits of Fiberglass Insulation
The number one benefit to fiberglass insulation is that it can drastically reduce the cost of heating and cooling a home. You would be amazed how well insulation traps in heat in the winter and keeps cool air in the summer. Most people don’t realize how valuable fiberglass insulation is until they spend a hot day or a cold evening in a home that doesn’t have it.
Another great thing about fiberglass insulation is that it absorbs noise. It is for this reason that many people use extra insulation in certain parts of their home where they are likely to play instruments or the stereo. Extra fiberglass insulation can also help drown out noisy neighbors and a teenager’s blaring stereo, alike.
Risks of Fiberglass Insulation
While fiberglass insulation is highly effective at creating a comfortable home environment and lowering energy costs, it does have its detractors. Although, fiber-glass insulation is believed to be safe, there are some who argue that inhalation of the microscopic glass shards could pose long-term health risks. While, there have yet to be studies confirming these fears, proper care should be taken when installing fiberglass insulation. For one, insulation should never be touched with bare hands. The tiny pieces of glass can easily get into the surface of the skin causing irritation, burning and painful rashes. Gloves and protective eye-wear should always be worn around exposed insulation and a respirator should be worn in areas like attics where ventilation is poor. Furthermore, fiberglass insulation should never be left exposed in areas like garages and basements. Any exposed fiberglass should be covered with “breathable” materials like sheet rock and wood. Plastic should never be used to cover exposed fiberglass insulation as this can trap moisture in and lead to mold infestations.
Another drawback of fiberglass insulation has to do with contamination. This is usually a result of fiberglass being exposed for too long or just outright improper installation. Since fiberglass insulation is simply a collection of millions of tiny shards of glass, one simple tap will expel tens of thousands of microscopic particles into the air. These particles can often end up in carpet, clothing and heating and air ducts. This is why it is so important to make sure that not even a little fiberglass insulation is exposed, especially in a place like a basement where people often do laundry and where heating and air ducts tend to run.
Although some are concerned about the potential long-term health effects caused by exposure to fiberglass insulation, these worries are likely to be more pressing for those who work with and around it. The fact is: fiberglass insulation is much safer than asbestos, which was widely used in the past and later found to be responsible for health problems like malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. With proper, safe handling, fiberglass insulation can be a safe, efficient way for you to lower the energy costs for your home and make it a more comfortable place to live.
References: Fiberglass Insulation: Benefits and Risks By Yodle available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.