What Type of Insulation Is Best for My Home?

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated January 7, 2022
Contractor installing insulation in ceiling
Photo: Arturs Budkevics / Shutterstock

Different types of insulation provide different benefits for energy efficiency, pest control, noise reduction, and eco-friendly living

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When it comes to protecting your home with insulation, one size does not fit all. Before you start, consider the local climate, your budget, priorities, the installation area, and whether you want to DIY or hire a contractor. 

Your choice of insulation material will depend on these factors. The top four most common insulation types are spray foam, fiberglass, cellulose, and mineral wool.

How to Choose the Best Insulation for Your Home

If an insulation inspection finds that you need repairs or replacements, or you’re just sick of high heating and cooling costs, it’s time to pick an insulation material. 

Your choice will depend on many different factors, such as:

  •  Climate/location: Your climate and location is important for how you want airflow managed at your home.

  • Project scope: While some insulation requires wall removal, other insulation types like spray foam and blown-in fiberglass or cellulose are applied using a hose without making any structural changes.

  • Budget: Insulation cost varies by material and method.

  • DIY or professional: While some insulation options are doable for homeowners, others are complex and require a pro.

Types of Insulation

There are four common types of insulation used in homes. While each one has its unique benefit, not every option will be perfect for your home. Use the guide below to determine which type of insulation will provide the best value, help reduce energy costs, and create an eco-friendly, efficient environment at your home.

1. Spray Foam Insulation

The easiest "hack" for insulating your home without major construction is spray foam, a chemical-based insulation that’s mixed at your home before it's applied using a special sprayer. Spray foam's ability to get into tight spaces makes it a top pick for cold climates.

The national average spray foam installation cost is $2,500, or $1.50 to $4.90 per square foot, including materials and labor.

Pros:

  • High R-value, a measure of how well a material prevents heat transfer

  • Good vapor barrier and water resistance

  • Resistant to mold

  • Resistant to insects

  • Suitable in both newer and older homes

  • Great for sealing small crevices

Cons:

  • Pricier than other options, for both materials and labor

  • Very difficult to install yourself

2. Fiberglass Insulation

The most common insulation found in homes, fiberglass consists of extremely fine glass fibers. It comes in batts/rolls, loose fill, rigid boards, and specialized duct insulation.

Fiberglass batt installation costs range from $1,000 to $2,400, but if you decide to DIY, the material itself costs only $0.30 to $1.50 per square foot.

“Fiberglass batts are probably the most cost-effective choice for insulation,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “You can buy them at all the big box stores and literally push them between the joists or wall structure and get a great R-value, which is how well insulation can keep heat from leaving or entering your home.”

Pros:

  • Exceptional for reducing heat transfer

  • Fire-resistant qualities

  • Homeowners can install if they have some DIY knowledge

  • Quick, easy installation when done by insulation companies

  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Fiberglass can be hazardous if mishandled or inhaled

  • Less effective than spray foam in cold climates

  • You sometimes need to pull down walls to install batts

3. Cellulose Insulation

Thick and dense, cellulose is the "down feather" of the home insulation world. Cellulose is a top eco-friendly pick because it’s derived from plant sources.

Pros:

  • Settles into spaces and obstructions in walls and attics

  • Affordable

  • Easy to fill in without tearing down walls if you choose loose-fill cellulose

  • Repels insects and vermin

Cons:

  • Sometimes settles or packs down over time to create thermal bridges capable of transferring hot and cold air

  • Takes a long time to dry when it soaks up moisture

  • Higher risk for mold and mildew than other insulation materials

4. Mineral Wool Insulation

Famed for having a higher R-value than fiberglass, mineral wool is a high-density insulation material with some surprising perks for quieting and sealing your home.

Pros:

  • Often made from 30% recycled materials

  • Three times the density of fiberglass, mineral wool blocks out noise pollution

  • Offers superior fire resistance; it can slow down the spread of fire in a home

  • Its hydrophobic qualities prevent it from absorbing moisture that can lead to mold and mildew

  • Created with stiffer batts, mineral wool will stay in place without flopping when compared to fiberglass

  • The high stiffness of mineral wool batts eliminates the need for staples or wires to hold your insulation in place

Cons:

Home Insulation Comparison

While the various types of insulation offer tons of benefits for making your home more comfortable and efficient, some win out when it comes to giving your home the edge based on your needs and budget. Take a look at the insulation superstars for various categories.

Best Insulation for Safety: Mineral Wool

With its natural fireproof qualities, mineral wool wins out if safety is a priority in your home. This is a top pick if you have a home with young kids because you'll have extra peace of mind.

Best Budget Insulation for Your Home: Fiberglass

With an average insulation cost of $0.30 to $1.50 per square foot, fiberglass insulation offers the best value overall.

Best Insulation if You Live on a Noisy Street: Mineral Wool

With its natural soundproofing qualities, mineral wool wins by providing sound-blocking qualities that can drastically reduce noise pollution from outside getting into your home.

Best Eco-Friendly Insulation for Your Home: Cellulose

Derived from plant matter, cellulose insulation is the top pick if you want to save on energy costs using an eco-friendly material.

“Cellulose is a great material,” says Tschudi. “You blow it in and it provides a strong R-value. The only downside is that you can displace it by crawling through it after it’s been installed.”

Best Insulation for Pest Control: Cellulose

Cellulose is exceptional for preventing insects from tunneling through your home because it contains boric acid, a natural insect repellent.

Best Insulation for Return on Investment: Spray Foam

Homeowners that seal and insulate with spray foam can save up to 20% per year on energy costs.

Best Insulation Options Overall

The best insulation types largely depend on the local climate, although your home’s structure is also an important factor. Here are the best insulation materials for cold, warm, and humid climates.

Best for Cold Climates

Blown-in cellulose insulation or loose-fill fiberglass insulation fills cracks and crevices to help prevent heat loss during the winter.

Best for Warm Climates

Fiberglass is a great option for keeping heat out that won't settle as time goes on. Its fire-resistant properties make it suitable for dry climates.

Best for Humid Climates

Spray foam is highly suited for humid conditions because it settles into a very durable barrier. It also protects against moisture.

Best for Ceilings, Unfinished Attic Floors, and Open Wall Cavities

Blown-in cellulose insulation is great for getting insulation into complex, hard-to-reach places.

Whether you DIY insulation installation or hire a local insulation company, you’ll want to carefully consider the best options for your home. 

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