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How to Safely Manage the Risks of Different Insulation Materials in Your Home

Properly insulating your Northern California home is a must if you want to keep your energy bills down and your house warm during the winter (and cool in the summer.)

Installing additional insulation on your own is a great idea, but you should know the risks of the insulation materials both already in your home and those you choose to install before you begin.

Here are some common insulation materials you might have around your house, and the risks associated with each of them.

Fiberglass

What is it?: This is the most common form of insulation. It’s the pink cotton candy looking material you’ve probably seen.

Fiberglass insulation is made of bundles of very thin strands of glass. This gives it a high surface area-to-weight ratio, which makes it a lightweight and cost-effective option.

How can it be dangerous?: Fiberglass can cause itching bouts because the thin strands of glass make small incisions on your skin. Also, inhaling the fiberglass can cut your throat or sinuses and irritate your respiratory system.

Spray Foam

What is it?: It’s a two component mixture that comes together at the tip of a foam gun and forms an expanding foam.

There are a variety of foam insulations.

These include:

  • urethane
  • polystyrene
  • isocyanurate
  • urea-formaldehyde

Each has their own unique components, but all of them are sprayed onto walls and in attics. Foam spray insulation is also great for small, hard-to-reach places.

How can it be dangerous?: Some foam insulations contain chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). It’s a gas that can leak out gradually and cause blurry vision, respiratory tract irritation, and skin problems.

Cellulose

What is it?: Cellulose is insulation made from recycled newspapers that have been sprayed to be fire and rodent resistant.

How can it be dangerous?: The ink from the newspapers is still in the insulation. Inhaling the ink can lead to nausea, dizziness and other effects.

Vermiculite

What is it?: Vermiculite is a naturally-occurring mineral composed of shiny gold or light brown flakes. When heated at high temperatures, it expands 8-30 times it’s normal size and becomes lightweight, fire resistant, odorless, and absorbent. It has been used in several products like insulation for attics and walls.

How can it be dangerous?: Vermiculite may contain asbestos, which if inhaled after long periods of time can cause problems like lung cancer. Here is a guide by the EPA about how to recognize vermiculite in insulation and what to do with it.

If you have vermiculite in your insulation, then DO NOT disturb it. Call a professional immediately to have it removed.

Stay safe with insulation installation

As you can see, insulation should always be handled with care.

Whenever you handle any insulation, remember these safety tips:

  • Wear gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and long pants to guard your skin.
  • Put on goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Wear a mask so you don’t inhale any of the insulation.
  • When in doubt, call a professional for help.

To find a professional that will ensure your safety for installing new insulation, check out this post to help you figure out how to choose a contractor.

Service Champions is a heating, air conditioning and air quality company located in Northern California. Our blogs are designed to keep you cool, comfortable, safe and healthy while in your home.

Properly insulating your Northern California home is a must if you want to keep your energy bills down and your house warm during the winter (and cool in the summer.)

Installing additional insulation on your own is a great idea, but you should know the risks of the insulation materials both already in your home and those you choose to install before you begin.

Here are some common insulation materials you might have around your house, and the risks associated with each of them.

Fiberglass

What is it?: This is the most common form of insulation. It’s the pink cotton candy looking material you’ve probably seen.

Fiberglass insulation is made of bundles of very thin strands of glass. This gives it a high surface area-to-weight ratio, which makes it a lightweight and cost-effective option.

How can it be dangerous?: Fiberglass can cause itching bouts because the thin strands of glass make small incisions on your skin. Also, inhaling the fiberglass can cut your throat or sinuses and irritate your respiratory system.

Spray Foam

What is it?: It’s a two component mixture that comes together at the tip of a foam gun and forms an expanding foam.

There are a variety of foam insulations.

These include:

  • urethane
  • polystyrene
  • isocyanurate
  • urea-formaldehyde

Each has their own unique components, but all of them are sprayed onto walls and in attics. Foam spray insulation is also great for small, hard-to-reach places.

How can it be dangerous?: Some foam insulations contain chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). It’s a gas that can leak out gradually and cause blurry vision, respiratory tract irritation, and skin problems.

Cellulose

What is it?: Cellulose is insulation made from recycled newspapers that have been sprayed to be fire and rodent resistant.

How can it be dangerous?: The ink from the newspapers is still in the insulation. Inhaling the ink can lead to nausea, dizziness and other effects.

Vermiculite

What is it?: Vermiculite is a naturally-occurring mineral composed of shiny gold or light brown flakes. When heated at high temperatures, it expands 8-30 times it’s normal size and becomes lightweight, fire resistant, odorless, and absorbent. It has been used in several products like insulation for attics and walls.

How can it be dangerous?: Vermiculite may contain asbestos, which if inhaled after long periods of time can cause problems like lung cancer. Here is a guide by the EPA about how to recognize vermiculite in insulation and what to do with it.

If you have vermiculite in your insulation, then DO NOT disturb it. Call a professional immediately to have it removed.

Stay safe with insulation installation

As you can see, insulation should always be handled with care.

Whenever you handle any insulation, remember these safety tips:

  • Wear gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and long pants to guard your skin.
  • Put on goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Wear a mask so you don’t inhale any of the insulation.
  • When in doubt, call a professional for help.

To find a professional that will ensure your safety for installing new insulation, check out this post to help you figure out how to choose a contractor.

Service Champions is a heating, air conditioning and air quality company located in Northern California. Our blogs are designed to keep you cool, comfortable, safe and healthy while in your home.

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