Using bubble wrap as insulation has gone from a “Poor Mans’” method of insulating to an established method of reducing energy costs. Graduating from packing material to useful energy savings material has resulted in manufacturing changes to address the new concept. Let’s look at this new and booming field and see if it’s a real savings thing or a fad thing.
Bubble wrap for Duct work:
Relatively new in design bubble wrap insulation looks like a sheet of bubble wrap sandwiched between two panels of reflective material similar in texture and feel of tin foil. The theory of this type of insulation product is the reflective surface provides heat transfer resistance, keeping the heat flow inside the duct work, not leaking into unattended areas. This is the first area of argument as some experts maintain the insulation works, while others say it’s a waste of time and money. Let’s continue on the assumption, which I believe, that insulation wrap works.
Advantages of using Bubble Wrap as Insulation:
- Heating costs can be reduced
- Helps ensure consistent temperatures
- Itch and fiber free material
- Lightweight and clean
- Inhibits condensation
- Requires less space than fiberglass insulation
- Class A/Class 1 Fire Rating-W
- Resist growth of fungi, mold and mildew
- Does not require protective equipment or respirators to install
- Lowers heating bills year around
Proper Installation is critical for success:
Perhaps just as important as the insulating material is proper installation. Take the time to check these items before insulation installation.
Visually inspect all duct work, especially that which runs through unconditioned spaces such as attic, crawlspace or unfinished basement. Incorrect installation, aged material or house shifting could cause joints to come loose or separate.
If you discover a problem either replace or repair the joints, depending on how critical the issue is.
Seal joints by spreading a nickle-thick layer of mastic sealant around the whole joint, or HVAC specified duct tape. It’s imperative to stop all air leaks.
What to Choose?
Using bubble wrap for insulation still poses choices. You can use Foil-backed self adhesive foam which works very well for irregularly shaped duct work. Simply wrap the insulation around the duct and press it into place. Be sure that all the wrap is pressed tightly against the duct work.
Foil-backed bubble wrap is of higher-quality than self-adhesive and affords better insulation factors. However, spacers must be used to prevent the insulation from directly touching the ducts. These spacers create a layer of air between the duct work and insulation greatly enhancing the energy saving benefits.
Using bubble wrap as insulation is a cost effective, easily installed method of helping save energy costs. Be sure to adhere to the manufacturer’s installation instructions for whatever specific brand you decide to use.