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What is the Best Insulation for Your Home? R-Value vs. Cost

Choosing the proper insulation for your Northeastern Pennsylvania home requires a delicate balance between performance, cost, and long-term efficiency. 

When measuring performance, it’s always important to look at the R-value of the insulation type you are purchasing and what R-values are recommended for your home based on its climate. The R-value in insulation simply reflects its ability to resist heat flow, effectively measuring the insulation’s thermal resistance.

Of course, cost and installation will also influence which type of insulation makes the most sense for your circumstances. 

This guide will explore the best types of insulation for your home based on their R-value, cost, and installation difficulty. 

How Does R-Value Work?

Insulation R-value measures how efficient insulation is at resisting thermal transfer. Thus, the higher the R-value, the more efficient the product. 

When determining the proper insulation for your home, it’s important to understand what efficiency requirements are recommended based on your climate. The following R-values are recommended for homes in Pennsylvania by EnergyStar.

Part of Home

R-Value (Non-Insulated)

R-Value (Previously Insulated)





R-5 to R-10 (Sheathing)

R-10 (Sheathing




Basement/Crawl Space

R-15 (Sheathing) to R-19 (Batts)

R-15 (Sheathing) to R-19 (Batts)


Using this chart, you can determine what type of insulation is best for your home based on your recommended thermal performance. 

Insulation Material

Average R-Value per Inch

Closed-Cell Foam

6 – 7

Rigid Foam Board

4.5 – 5

Open Cell Foam

3.9 – 3.9


3.1 – 3.8

Fiberglass Batts

2.9 – 3.8

Blown-In Fiberglass

2.2 – 2.9


Then, using these numbers, you can calculate an insulation material’s efficiency based on its thickness level after application. 

For example, 8 inches of closed-cell foam would have an R-value of roughly 48-56, making it an excellent choice for attics. On the other hand, based on recommended values, you would only need a 6.25” R19 fiberglass batt to insulate a basement crawl space properly. 

Types of Insulation

First, it’s important to explore what types of insulation are available, including each type’s pros and cons. We will also compare the overall cost and efficiency.

Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass insulation is one of the most popular and versatile choices for home insulation. Fiberglass insulation consists of tiny glass fibers and comes in two main forms: batts (pre-cut panels) and blown-in (loose fill). 

Fiberglass batts are considered more old-school and less efficient than other types of insulation, though highly capable. Blown-in fiberglass offers higher efficiency and is very very good to install in hard-to-reach places, such as existing wall cavities.


  • Cost-Effective: Fiberglass insulation is budget-friendly, making it a cost-effective choice for many homeowners.
  • Easy to Install: Installation is relatively simple, making it suitable for both DIY projects and professional installations.
  • Fire-Resistant: Fiberglass is naturally fire-resistant, enhancing home safety.
  • No Settling Over Time: Unlike some other insulation types, fiberglass insulation maintains its effectiveness over time without settling.


  • Irritation Risk: During installation, fiberglass may cause skin irritation and respiratory discomfort.
  • Installation Sensitivity: Effectiveness depends on proper installation; mistakes can lead to reduced performance.
  • Moisture Risk: Fiberglass batts may collect moisture and mold over time if not properly ventilated. 

Verdict: Affordable, easy-to-install.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is a modern and highly efficient insulation material that is often considered the best insulation for cold weather. It is applied as a liquid that expands to fill any gaps and solidifies to create a seamless and airtight barrier. 

Spray foam insulation is praised for its high R-value, excellent air-sealing properties, and water resistance.

Spray foam insulation comes in two main types: closed cell and open cell. Closed cell offers higher R-value and is highly moisture-resistant. Open Cell spray foam, known for its flexibility and cost-effectiveness, is more suitable for interior applications but is not recommended for spaces with high moisture levels.


  • High R-Value: Spray foam insulation provides excellent thermal resistance, ensuring superior energy efficiency.
  • Air Sealing Properties: Spray foam acts as an effective air barrier, preventing drafts and heat loss.
  • Water-resistant: Spray foam naturally resists moisture, reducing the risk of mold and mildew growth.


  • Higher Upfront Cost: Installation costs are relatively high compared to other insulation types.
  • Professional Installation: Achieving optimal results often requires professional expertise.
  • Requires Proper Ventilation: Greater work may be required to install spray foam. insulation in older homes as installers may run the risk of locking in moisture between walls and attic roofs. 

Verdict: Highest efficiency, most expensive.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose insulation is an eco-friendly option made from recycled paper and other natural fibers. 

Treated with flame retardants, it provides effective insulation against both temperature and sound. Cellulose insulation is known for its sustainability and pest-resistant properties.


  • Eco-Friendly: Made from recycled paper and other natural fibers, cellulose is environmentally sustainable.
  • Noise Reduction: Effective at reducing sound transmission and providing acoustic insulation.
  • Pest-Resistant: Discourages pests due to its composition.


  • Settling Over Time: May settle within the walls over an extended period.
  • Moisture Absorption: Can absorb moisture, potentially leading to issues if not properly installed or protected.

Verdict: Eco-friendly and flexible installation. 

Rigid Foam Board Insulation

Foam board insulation, also known as rigid foam, is a durable and versatile option commonly used in various applications, including walls and roofs. It is known for its high R-value and ability to resist wear and tear, providing long-lasting insulation.


  • High R-Value: Offers excellent thermal resistance.
  • Versatility: Can be used in various applications, including walls and roofs.
  • Durability: Resistant to wear and tear, providing long-lasting insulation.


  • Higher Cost: Initial expenses can be relatively high.
  • Professional Installation: Achieving optimal results often requires professional expertise.

Verdict: Efficient but not flexible. 

Factoring in Cost

Of course, efficiency must be balanced with cost, as insulating products, such as closed-cell foam, can be thousands of dollars more expensive to install than fiberglass batts.

However, the cost-savings from closed-cell foam and the added value to your home’s equity may offset the cost of installing this insulation, so that must also be kept in mind. 

What Is the Best Type of Insulation for Attics?

Based on recommended values EnergyStar, closed-cell foam, and rigid board insulation would be the two best insulating materials for attics in Pennsylvania. For new or non-insulated attics, the choice clearly goes to closed-cell foam.

However, this is not to say that you won’t experience some benefit from installing any type of insulation in your attic. 

What Is the Best Insulation for Existing Homes?

Choosing insulation for existing homes involves considerations like ease of installation and retrofitting capabilities. Fiberglass insulation is a popular choice for existing homes due to its cost-effectiveness and relatively straightforward installation process. However, if budget permits, spray foam insulation can provide superior performance in terms of both R-value and air sealing.

What is the Best Insulation for New Homes?

New construction allows for more flexibility in insulation choices. Foam board insulation is often favored for new homes due to its high R-value, versatility, and durability. 

While the initial investment may be higher, the long-term benefits of energy efficiency and home comfort make it an attractive option.

What is the Best Insulation for My Home?

Selecting the best insulation for your home involves a thorough analysis of factors like R-value, cost, and specific requirements for different areas of your house. 

Understanding the pros and cons of each insulation type empowers you to make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and long-term efficiency goals. 

Whether you’re insulating an attic, an existing home, or a new construction, the key is finding the optimal balance that suits your unique needs and climate conditions.


1. Is a higher R-value always better?

While a higher R-value generally indicates better insulation performance, it’s essential to consider the specific needs of your home and climate. Sometimes, a moderate R-value with cost-effective installation may be sufficient for your requirements.

2. Can I install insulation myself?

While some insulation types, like fiberglass batts, are DIY-friendly, others, such as spray foam, will require professional installation to ensure proper effectiveness and safety.

3. What insulation type is best for noise reduction?

Cellulose insulation is known for its effectiveness in reducing noise. It is often used in walls and floors to dampen sound.

4. How often should insulation be replaced?

Insulation typically has a long lifespan, but factors like settling, damage, or changes in building codes may necessitate replacement. Regular inspections can help assess the condition of your insulation.

5. Are there government incentives for upgrading insulation?

Many governments offer incentives, rebates, or tax credits for homeowners who upgrade their insulation to improve energy efficiency. Check with local authorities for available programs.