Insulation ‘reflects’ energy efficiency

While metal building systems are widely used across the country for various commercial and industrial applications, they often pose a difficult challenge: how to maintain desired temperatures inside while keeping energy costs down.

Over the years, more and more companies have found the solution by installing reflective insulation throughout their metal building systems.

Reflective insulation has gained popularity for its energy saving benefits, ease of installation and competitive pricing.  This is evident by an average annual industry growth well beyond the overall insulation industry performance.

Because metal buildings conduct heat, maintaining desired temperatures during summer and winter can be an ongoing and expensive challenge. Based on technology dating back to the early 1920s, reflective insulation works by reducing heat transfer across a building’s air spaces — a major component of the total heat transfer exchange within metal buildings.

Mass insulation slows down conductive heat transfer; reflective insulation works by reflecting heat away from its highly reflective, low emissive surfaces before it can be conducted. As much as 95-97 percent of radiant heat that strikes an aluminum or low E surface is either reflected or not emitted.

For  more information, visit Reflective Insulation Manufacturers International Association’s web site at

Look at the benefits

The major benefit of reflective insulation products in metal buildings is that, in winter, heat inside a building is reflected off the insulation’s shiny surface back into the building so heat is retained inside. In summer, heat radiated through the roof is reflected off the insulation’s surface back to the roof (not to the inside of the building), or in the case of other kinds of reflective products, is not emitted to the inside space, keeping the building cooler.

As with other types of insulation, reflective insulation is available in various R-values, depending on the application. The major types of reflective insulation include:

• A layer, or multiple layers, of aluminum foil or low emissive films, separated by a layer or layers of plastic bubbles or foam material.

• Multiple layers of aluminum, kraft paper and/or plastic with internal expanders or flanges at the end for easy installation.

As with all types of insulation, to achieve maximum performance, insulation must be properly installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications.  The performance of reflective insulation depends on the number and size of reflective surfaces facing air spaces, so for maximum performance the shiny, reflective surface should be exposed to the building’s interior for maximum thermal benefit.  The result is that occupants inside the building are more comfortable and less energy is needed to maintain desired temperatures.

And other advantages

In addition to its energy saving capabilities, reflective insulation has many other desirable features:

• Reflective insulation is easy to install, resulting in lower labor costs. It’s fiber-free, lightweight and can be cut to fit virtually any configuration. In most cases, reflective insulation can be installed by smaller crews in less time than other types of insulation products.

• Reflective insulation can be installed over previous insulation to increase insulating properties, or to improve a building’s interior appearance.

• Insulation’s reflective surface reduces interior lighting needs by as much as 35 percent, cutting energy costs.   

• Reflective insulation’s low moisture transfer improves the overall thermal performance of the building.

Need more information?

More information is also available online at www.rimainternational. org or by contacting the Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association International (RIMA-I) at 800 279-4123.

RIMA-I is the only trade association representing the reflective insulation, radiant barrier and interior radiant control coating industries.

Mary Edmondson is executive director for the Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association International (RIMA-I).

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