What Is A Radiant Barrier?


In homes, Radiant barriers are usually installed in attics.  Radiant barriers properly used can improve the comfort of your home, reduce the amount of energy you consume and extend the life of your heating and cooling system.  This article reviews and discusses what a radiant barrier is and what the benefits are.


According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s a radiant barrier is defined as follows:

A radiant barrier blocks radiant heat sources like the sun rays from passing through a home's attic into the rooms below

Figure 1: A radiant barrier blocks radiant heat sources like the sun rays from passing through a home’s attic into the rooms below


The barriers [radiant] consist of a highly reflective material that reflects radiant heat rather than absorbing it.


The worlds foremost expert on radiant barriers and reflective insulation Dr. David Yarbrough, PhD, PE, says this:  “The science associated with reflective products is well established.  Consensus methods for establishing performance have been developed.  Reflective technology has an important place in reducing utility bills in residential and commercial buildings.”


Radiant Heat


Radiant heat can be the sun’s rays hitting your roof in the summer or the hot air trying to escape your house during the winter.   That’s where Radiant Heaters get there name!   Heat can travel from hot to cold by a combination of conduction, convection, and radiation.  When you are cooking and using a metal spoon, think of a how the heat transfers from the food or liquid you are heating through the spoon to your hand.  That is conduction.  Radiant heat will travel in a straight line away from any surface and heat anything solid that will soak up its energy.  In the case of a hot roof in the summertime – the heat will travel from the underside of the roof to the insulation in the attic and then into the rooms below it.  A radiant barrier inhibits or stops that flow as shown in figure 1.


Insulation materials, the common ones, work by slowing conductive heat flow.  In the winter the heat flow rises from rooms inside a house up through the ceiling.  In the summer heat flow pushes down from the Sun through a roof into the attic and down through the ceiling.  A radiant barrier will work by cutting down heat gain that will occur regardless of which direction it is coming from.


Radiant Heat in the Summer passes through traditional insulation into your home

Radiant Heat in the Summer passes through traditional insulation into your home

To be effective a radiant barrier should face an open air space.  With proper ventilation there is no need to worry about dust accumulation which can reduce the emissivity of the reflective surface and reduce the effectiveness of a radiant barrier.  A radiant barrier works best when it is perpendicular to the radiant energy colliding with it.


The Benefits of a Radiant Barrier


The benefits of a properly installed radiant barrier include dollar savings, increased comfort and expanding the use of existing space – to name a few.  The less you have to run your heating or cooling system the less you have to pay to run it.  This has another benefit as well – less wear and tear on the cooling system ultimately lengthening the lifespan of that system saving you on equipment costs.  In some cases, a smaller unti can be used to replace worn out heating and cooling systems.

Comfort in the home is increased with a radiant barrier in a couple ways.  One, you won’t hear the noise of the heating or cooling system switching on and off.  The noise can be annoying as the system frequently works to replace the hot or cool air leaving your house.   A radiant barrier also helps reduce temperature variances from room to room to just a few degrees.


Expanding the use of your existing space inside the home can be useful and save you money.  Think about the garage, it gets really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter.  If you do laundry in the garage you know this.  Inside the house during the winter one end of the house can be much cooler than the other end depending on your heating system and where it is located.  Some people will put in a space heater to account for the variance.  Another expense eliminated with a radiant barrier!


To learn more about radiant barriers visit the U.S. Department of Energy, the Florida Solar Energy Center or Oak Ridge National Labratory websites.  All of these organizations are well known and are authorities on the subject of radiant barriers.


There are five general types of radiant barriers.  Click here to read about them.


SETI Logo 150 Pixel TestSmart Energy Today, Inc.™ is a certified installer of reflective insulation systems and features a radiant barrier solution called Sol-Blanket Insulation™.  Sol-Blanket Insulation™ acts as a radiant barrier and reflective insulation system and complements traditional insulation.  The consensus is that most homes need more insulation.    Smart Energy Today, Inc.™ is located in Olympia and serves all of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California and Pennsylvania.  Specializing in solar and the installation of insulation, Smart Energy Today, Inc.™ offers products that are able to exist for a long time without significant deterioration saving you money and making your home or business warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  Smart Energy Today, Inc.™ never wants a complaint and always strives for positive reviews.