Radiant Barrier Coating vs. Foil?

Separating fact from fiction to ensure you make the best decision for your home

Radiant Barrier Coating vs. Foil? There are two primary types of radiant barriers that exist on the market today, radiant barrier coatings and radiant barrier foil. With increased attention to energy rates and energy efficiency, false product claims and controversy concerning radiant barriers exist. However, the unbiased truth is that both types of radiant barriers work very well if installed correctly.

Efficient Attic Systems was the first company to pioneer radiant barrier in Texas and the Southern United States. Since 2002, we've installed over 75,000 homes using the most premium retrofit radiant barrier on the market, SolaShield®. The documented effectiveness of SolaShield® radiant barrier has allowed EAS to become the exclusive Texas installer for the worlds largest home improvement chain as well as the exclusive installer for the states largest Retail Electric Provider.

Click on the links below to learn more about the benefits of Installing SolaShield® radiant barrier:
Emissivity and Reflectivity
determines the amount of radiant heat allowed to pass through the material...

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One factor determining performance of a radiant barrier is its emissivity. Emissivity determines the amount of radiant heat allowed to pass through the material, or in other words the amount that is not reflected.

SolaShield® has an emissivity of 0.21 and as a result reflects approximately 80% of the suns radiant heat. Some foil companies may try to cloud the issue by stating that reflective coatings are not radiant barriers. However, providing a barrier to radiant heat is precisely what these coatings do using the same material (aluminum) and a different method of application (spray).

Coverage
coverage from foil radiant barriers is limited to the length of the installers arm...

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Our goal at Efficient Attic Systems is to help homeowners make their existing homes more energy efficient. SolaShield® was designed with retrofitting existing homes in mind. Using high powered application equipment, our Install Technicians can get complete coverage of the roof decking in every home we install. Coverage from foil radiant barriers is limited to the length of the installers arm. This makes high ceilings and small openings dangerous and in some cases impossible.

Some foils may claim a lower emissivity and higher reflectivity, but a 90-95% reflectivity will never be realized with less than 100% coverage. Other foils claim that the rafters should be covered by radiant barrier. If this were true we would simply spray the rafters and charge for the difference in square footage. In fact, little to no radiant heat passes through the thickness of the rafter entering the attic space as documented by thermal imaging.

Ease of Installation and Affordability
properly installed foil radiant barriers will often be significantly more expensive than a coating...

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SolaShield® takes only a couple of hours to install in the average home. Less time spent in your attic translates to less cost for you (the homeowner). This comes in the form of decreased labor costs, less chance for damages, minimal time waiting for completion, and more immediate savings. Foils however can take a full day or sometimes several days to install properly, and often require ladders or scaffolding in your attic. In the instance where ladders or scaffolding are needed, plywood is generally laid down on top of your insulation to provide a platform. This platform will compress your existing insulation and therefore, reduce its thermal effectiveness. It's not uncommon for homeowners to need additional insulation installed after a foil radiant barrier installation. Unfortunately for the homeowner, this cost is usually not discussed before a foil installation.

Properly installed foil radiant barriers will often be significantly more expensive than a coating.

Risks of Foil: Blocked Cell Phone Reception, Mold/Mildew and Roof Leak Damage
many homeowners experience problems with cell phone or antenna reception after installing a foil radiant barrier...

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Many homeowners experience problems with cell phone or antenna reception after installing a foil radiant barrier. This may be a small disruption, or it may cause a significant signal loss or dropped calls. However, with SolaShield® from EAS, this risk can be avoided entirely.

Another risk would be the potential of creating a vapor barrier in your attic leading to mold or mildew. If installing a foil barrier, it is vital to properly ventilate on both sides of the barrier. Foils are typically installed by stapling to rafters and covering the decking "runs" in between rafters. If just one of these "runs" is not ventilated properly from the top to the bottom, it will begin trapping moisture behind it and contributing to moisture problems. SolaShield®, on the other hand, sprays directly on to the roof decking; creating a thin, porous coating that is permeable to moisture and lets your roof decking breathe.

If your home were to develop a roof leak, the water would generally run down the decking and eventually make its way through your insulation and into your walls or ceiling. Since foil radiant barriers can cover your entire roof, locating a roof leak could be incredibly difficult. In most cases, the foil will need to be removed to properly access the water damage on the roof deck and locate the leak. For this reason alone, many home inspectors will not pass a home with foil radiant barrier because they cannot inspect the quality of the roof decking.

Placement
for best results any radiant barrier, coating or foil, should be installed on the roof decking...

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For best results any radiant barrier, coating or foil, should be installed on the roof decking. The purpose of a radiant barrier is to lessen the amount of heat entering your attic space hence lessening the workload for your insulation, duct work and air conditioner. Some companies will install a foil radiant barrier on the floor of your attic on top of the insulation. This may seem an attractive alternative that is easy and inexpensive amounting to less work and quick profit for the installer, however, radiant heat allowed to enter your attic will already be attacking your ductwork and air conditioner. Also, radiant barriers laid on the attic floor will quickly collect dust lessening their effectiveness. The United States Department of Energy studies suggest that dust accumulation will result in losing 50% of effectiveness in one to ten years.

Warranties
We offer both a workmanship warranty as well as a product warranty protecting you and your investment...

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Another false rumor is that radiant barrier coatings must be reapplied after just a few years. SolaShield® warranties their radiant barrier coating for 25 years or the life of the roof. The only thing holding the foil barrier to your roof is a staple, and if it begins to droop or fall it must be repaired. Many installers have only been in business for a short amount of time and might not be familiar with the proper installation procedures. However, Efficient Attic Systems pioneered the retrofit radiant barrier and has more experience and credibility than any other radiant barrier company. We offer both a workmanship warranty as well as a product warranty protecting you and your investment.

We strongly encourage homeowners to perform proper due diligence when selecting a radiant barrier company. Questions such as:

  1. What year was your business created and established?
  2. Are you affiliated with the BBB?
  3. Where is your office or warehouse located (many startups run the business out of their home/garage)?
  4. Will your installers be subcontractors or employees? If they are going to use subcontractors, you should be provided with a copy of the subcontractor's certificate of insurance as well.
  5. Have your employees undergone a recent criminal background check?
  6. Are your employees legal citizens?
  7. Do your employees speak fluent English?
  8. Are your employees protected by Workers Compensation?