Radiant Barrier: Alien Technology?

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By Chris Balzar

I have been in the home improvement industry for more than 17 years and have heard just about all the sales gimmicks and cheeky techniques used by sales people to wow customers. One slightly stretched story I heard about radiant barrier is that radiant barrier was developed by NASA from alien technology! If only radiant barrier was so glamorous. Actually, in 1925 two German businessmen filed patents on reflective surfaces for use as building insulation. This became the launching pad for reflective insulation. NASA did help to improve this technology and adopted it for the Apollo program. This metalized film was used to protect spacecraft, equipment and astronauts from the extreme heat of space. Even the student housing at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Princeton, and Frank Sinatra’s residence in Palm Springs have used radiant barriers to become more energy efficient. In 1996, Radiant barrier was even inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame, now that’s pretty cool.

So why use radiant barrier? When the Sun’s rays strikes a roof, heating the roofing material (shingles, tiles or roofing sheets) it causes the underside of the roof surface and the roof framing to heat up causing radiate heat to flow downwards through the roof space towards the attic floor, heating up the entire attic. When a radiant barrier is installed on the rafters in the attic, much of the heat radiated from the hot roof is reflected back toward the roof allowing for a cooler attic.

Why is that important? Many of our attics will reach into the 150° F to 160° F range this summer, lately in fall too, heating up insulation, ductwork and many times our stored belongings. Anyone who has stored candles in the attic knows what I mean. This extreme heat makes our current insulation and air conditioners work harder to keep our homes cool costing us money and comfort. Properly installed radiant barrier on the roof rafters will reflect 97% of the radiant heat reducing the attic temperature during this extreme heat by 40° to 50° degrees allowing your insulation, ductwork and HVAC systems to perform better saving you money and increasing your comfort.

One common misconception regarding radiant barrier is that the heat reflecting off the radiant barrier back to the roof has the potential to increase the roof temperature and possibly damage the roofing material voiding warranties. Performance testing by Florida Solar Energy Center showed that the increase in roof materials temperature, at the hottest time of day, was no more than 2° to 5° degrees. RIMA (Reflective Insulation Manufacturer Association) wrote a technical paper on the subject which included statements collected from large roofing manufacturers, and none said that radiant barrier would in any way affect the warranty or lessen the life of the roof.

To improve on this technology, we sandwiched a piece of high density insulation between two pieces of radiant barrier allowing our radiant barrier to help fight against not only radiant heat, but conduction and convection heat as well. My son recently did a science fair project on the performance of different types of radiant barrier, the results, our multilayer radiant barrier out performed both silver and copper single layer radiant barriers. If you would like to learn more or see a demonstration on how radiant barriers works, contact us at 850-588-2870 or visit us at www.trusteces.com.

Chris Balzer is the Founder and President of Emerald Coast Energy Solutions which is a Smile Provider Company. We provide smiles to our customers after installing our high energy efficient products, increasing comfort and lowering energy bills. For more information on how to save this summer and become energy efficient, schedule an inspection by calling (850) 588-2870, visit www.trusteces.com or email wecare@trusteces.com and Beat the Heat!