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Radiant barriers keep your space comfortable throughout all seasons while saving both energy and money. 

Before we get deep into it, here are a few radiant barrier facts for you all to consider: 

  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, installing radiant barriers into the attic of your home can reduce cooling costs by five to ten percent, while some sources claim it can get even higher.
  • On average, radiant barriers effectively reflect nearly 95 percent of radiant heat in an indoor space (source: U.S. Department of Energy)

Now, let’s focus on the topic at hand.

Radiant barriers are typically installed in the attic space of a house namely to reduce cooling costs and heat accumulation in the summer months. The barriers are comprised of highly-reflective materials that effectively reflect radiant heat instead of absorbing it.

We know that there are several other ways to save energy, starting from home areas with the highest source of heat gain or loss. 

When considering energy savings, homeowners typically have cooler months in mind when added energy is required for indoor heating spaces; however, few realize that a considerable amount of energy can also be saved during summertime. 

How? 

Basically, extra energy is needed to cool down indoor spaces during warm summer months. We can lower our energy consumption and the money spent paying for it by cutting down the cooling demand. 

Most homeowners know heat accumulation can arise from several varying sources like drafty doors, old and poorly insulated windows, uninsulated floors, and walls.

However, a substantial amount of heat generally seeps through roofs and loft spaces since they are under the direct sun, absorbing and emitting significant heat, even at night.

This is where radiant barriers enter the picture. 

For those unfamiliar, radiant barriers are a kind of home insulation that reflects heat, preventing it from entering (and exiting) an attic. The flag-bearer for energy efficiency – at least where home insulation is concerned – these barriers are a popular choice among cost-conscious and eco-friendly homeowners seeking to keep their space comfortable while lowering energy costs.

A radiant barrier is installed above the rafters in a home's attic

Keep scrolling to learn the specifics on how radiant barriers achieve a comfortable home throughout all seasons and the dollars you can expect to save on energy bills, thanks to them. 

Radiant Barriers Save Energy (And Money): Fact or Fallacy?

Houston Home Energy Efficiency Study provides us with data about home energy consumption and the impact of radiant barriers on energy bills and cooling loads.

Radiant barrier sheathings reduce cooling loads in the summertime by about 0.09 kWh/ft² of sheathing, which is equivalent to roughly 180 kWh/year per house or three percent of cooling loads. At 12 cents/kWh, on average this would save about $21.60 per year.

Bear in mind the study is based on homes in Houston, Texas—a place no stranger to unforgiving heat. So, if you were wondering whether the energy-saving claims of radiant barriers are a fact or merely a fallacy, let us say it once and for all, they are as valid as anything can get. 

How Much Energy and Money Can Radiant Barriers Save?

Before we get to the actual saving numbers, it is essential for you first to understand that your savings on energy and cooling/heating bills will differ depending on several elements. These factors include:

  1. Size of your home
  2. Radiant barrier application type
  3. Amount of existing insulation in the attic
  4. Weather conditions
  5. Location of the ductwork
  6. Attic ventilation effectiveness
  7. House structure (whether it’s ranch style or a two-story home)
  8. Home roof color
  9. Building envelope tightness
  10. Thermostat settings
  11. Fuel prices
  12. Heating and cooling equipment efficiency

There is no denying that radiant barriers are an excellent investment for your house or workspace, as they can save considerable dollars on cooling and heating bills. However, it would be best to understand that the warmer the weather, the more effective the barrier.

A U.S. Department of Energy document, namely Radiant Barrier Attic Fact Sheet, outlines how to gauge the economics of radiant barrier and supplementary ceiling insulation. Please give it a look to learn more about factors affecting energy consumption and cooling/heating bills.

Cost Saving with Radiant Barriers

As mentioned, homeowners can save 5 to 10% on cooling bills as per the U.S. Department of Energy, with hot, sunny climates coming in at the upper end of that range compared to cooler temperatures or homes with significant shade. That is about $120 in savings per year for warm climate areas and $15 in savings for cooler climate regions.

Some radiant barrier manufacturers even claim to install a radiant barrier that can save up to 17% and more. But either way, you can enjoy substantial savings. Another source shares that radiant barriers may save you around $200–300 in energy costs each year.

In addition, another cost-saving aspect of radiant barriers is related to the wear and tear on your air conditioning and heating units.

An excellent barrier will allow you to use a smaller air conditioning/heating system, which would be cheaper and eventually lead to additional savings.

The other important point is that if your cooling load is not as high as warmer U.S. states or regions, your savings will be less, both in terms of costs and energy. Moreover, if the electricity rates in your area are higher, so will be your savings.

Installing a radiant barrier to your house can undeniably help reduce scorching summertime attic temperatures and give your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system a bit of rest.

For greater efficacy, you will want to accompany the barrier with the right kind of insulation. A source claims that insulation absorbs and re-emits nearly 80 to 90 percent of radiant heat.

Therefore, combining insulation with radiant barriers can successfully keep heat out of your indoor spaces. As a result, the lesser cooling needs you’ll require, the lesser energy you’ll use, and thus, the lesser money leaving your pocket.

Truth be told, radiant barriers alone will only cut down your monthly cooling bill by five to ten percent. However, coupled with the proper insulation, they can potentially lower your cooling costs by half.

Naturally, the outcomes will differ grounded on the size of your house as well as on the fact whether it’s well-insulated or not. Nevertheless, every little bit matters. 

And That’s Not All…

Apart from the above mentioned perks, here are a few other benefits of radiant barriers that you can enjoy by installing one: 

  • They work effectively to keep solar radiant heat out during summertime and warm air during the winter. 
  • Lower utility outlays and improved energy efficiency, especially if your duct and HVAC systems are placed in the attic space of your home.
  • Effective prevention of solar radiation and considerably curbs attic temperatures.
  • Faster cooling and heating with fewer cycle times while extending the lifespan of HVAC equipment and reducing the need for recurrent repairs.
  • Providing more precise and comfortable heating and air-conditioning.
  • Greater control over cooling, heating, and humidity levels.
  • Once installed, radiant barriers do not require regular maintenance and can literally last you a lifetime.  
  • Radiant barriers may allow you to require a smaller, cheaper HVAC system.

In addition to all this, installing a radiant barrier can qualify you for one or more energy incentive programs in your region. Here are some money-saving incentives you can enjoy in California.  

Closing Note

If you are experiencing high indoor temperatures or mounting energy bills, radiant barriers coupled with insulation are perhaps the best way to go. Undeniably, this combo is energy-efficient and cost-saving.

However, it is critical to note that your savings on energy and cooling/heating bills will vary based on several factors (outlined above). Therefore, ensure that you choose the best option for your home.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, there’s no foolproof answer to solve this problem. You need to understand that the decision to install radiant barriers depends on your personal lifestyle, preferences, and, of course, the attic itself.

Moreover, if you have an HVAC system with no barrier or see missing insulation, you may be allocating too many dollars to your energy bills. Just remember that both insulation and radiant barriers can reduce heating, energy consumption, and energy costs.

To learn more about radiant barriers, how they work, and their installation costs, be sure to check the rest of our posts on this building material. 

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