Photo of a tan stucco Florida home with a red tile roof and manicured landscape; caption "Florida Building Code: Home Insulation"

When you think of Florida, you likely think of palm trees and sunshine. Although Florida is primarily a warm-weather state, homes there still need some form of insulation.

Framed walls and raised floors require insulation with an R-value of at least 13 in the state of Florida. Meanwhile, the area of the home that requires the highest insulating power is the ceiling. Florida ceilings must have insulation with an R-value of at least 30.

You can’t skip insulation if you’re building in Florida, as it is required by code. Home insulation requirements are beneficial, both for homeowners and the environment. Keep reading to learn more about Florida insulation requirements and how they will benefit your home!

Florida Home Insulation Requirements

If you are not familiar with insulation, or with reading legal codes, identifying the correct insulation to use in your home could prove challenging. Luckily, we have read the code and are here to simplify it for you!

As mentioned earlier, the type and strength of the insulation required will depend on the wall’s location and composition. Before we get into Florida’s insulation requirements, let’s first discuss how insulation is rated.

General Information About R-Values

Insulation receives an R-value that describes its insulating power. The higher the R-value, the less heat the material lets pass through the walls. Higher R-value insulation does not just keep the home warm during the cooler months. Instead, the insulation works all year long to keep the house at a comfortable temperature.

R-value is measured by taking the temperature differential (TΔ) and dividing it by the heat flux (W/m^2, where W represents heat flow rate and m is meters). That sounds complicated, but the temperature differential is usually measured simply by taking the temperature of either side of a surface and subtracting the larger number from the smaller. Heat flux, on the other hand, is usually measured with specialized measuring devices.

If you would like to measure the R-value of your home’s insulation yourself, you can do so using just an infrared thermometer, as described on this website. Just be warned that cheap infrared thermometers don’t tend to be hugely accurate.

States must follow specific insulation requirements as set forth by the United States Department of Energy. Because insulation keeps both heat and cool air inside the home, it helps reduce energy usage across the United States of America. To ensure homes throughout the country are insulated correctly, the United States Department of Energy enforces region-specific insulation codes.

Now that we know a bit more about reading insulation ratings, we can look at the specific requirements for residential homes in Florida.

Insulation Ratings For Florida

As described above, insulation ratings vary for each wall depending on its construction and location. Find these R-values in the table in Section 402.1.1 of the Florida Code.

Rather than using framed walls, many people in Florida build homes out of concrete blocks. These walls require a lower R-value. Exterior walls constructed out of these blocks need insulation with a rating of at least 6; meanwhile, interior walls need an insulation rating of at least 7.8.

Insulating ceilings is especially important in Florida because of our famous sunshine. Your roof can absorb an incredible amount of heat and there has to be something preventing it from getting into your living areas.

When building your Florida home, you will have to show the plans to a Plan Inspector, as outlined in Section 103.2.2 of the Florida Code. This inspector will verify that the home will meet Florida’s Building Codes, including insulation requirements.

The plans shown to the inspector must have the type of insulation used in each wall and ceiling labeled, along with its R-value. If something does not meet building codes, you will have to delay the construction process until the plans are corrected.

However, a change on paper will not be sufficient. Throughout the construction process, a building inspector may visit the site to verify that the approved plans are being followed. In the event they find the plans are not being followed, construction will be further delayed and you may have to pay a hefty fine.

The building inspector will also verify that the insulation has been properly installed.

Insulation & Air Sealing

Photo of a technician using special tape to seal a window. Air sealing is important for home insulation.
Insulation can’t function properly in a home with a lot of air leaks.

Insulation requirements do not solely apply to the insulating material used inside your home. Florida building codes also require the walls to be sealed to a certain degree of “air tightness,” listed in Section 402.4.2., along with other inspection requirements for home insulation and energy flow. In other words, the walls must not allow too much air to pass through.

This is related to insulation, as higher airflow means that more of the heat that’s in your home can escape. The amount of air let through must not exceed 7 Air Changes per Hour (ACH). But what does 7 ACH mean?

An air change per hour explains how many times all of the air inside your house leaks out each hour. So a home with 1 ACH only leaks its air out once each hour; meanwhile, a home with 2 ACH leaks all of its air out twice each hour.

Florida code requires homes to be sealed well enough that only seven air changes occur each hour. This means all the air in your home is able to leak out in just eight and a half minutes! Although code only requires an airtightness rating of 7 ACH, you may want to speak with your contractor about sealing the home better. The ideal airtightness rating is 3 ACH or less.

The longer it takes for air to leak out of the home, the less energy is needed to keep the home heated or cooled. Airtightness is created by thoroughly sealing walls, doorways, windows, and any outside vents. Building codes restrict what materials can be used when sealing these areas.

For example, batting or felt paper cannot be classified as an air barrier. Use something like caulking to create an airtight seal inside your home.

Conclusion

Properly insulating your home is an important step in the construction process. Even in areas where the weather stays warm for most of the year, insulation must be used. Although insulation is commonly thought to keep homes warm, it is also used to keep homes cool.

Using the proper type of insulation will help keep your home at comfortable temperatures all year long. Not only is this better for the environment, but it could save you hundreds of dollars on energy bills each year!

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