Radiant Barriers | Are They Worth It?

By June 9, 2020Energy
Radiant Barrier Pros & Cons

Radiant Barriers are a reflective foil insulation that reduces heat transfer into attics. This helps improve energy efficiency of the home.

But there are actually many cons to radiant barriers that are not discussed.

So this begs the question, are radiant barriers truly worth it?

How Do Radiant Barriers Work?

A radiant barrier is typically stapled to the bottom truss chords against the deck sheathing. For a picture of this in action, you can check out the product listing on Amazon.

However, radiant barriers can also be installed in other ways, such as having it infused with your roof decking or underneath tiles. This is typically done when you purchase a new roof or when the house is being built.

In essence, the foil barrier reduces convection into the attic from roofing materials that are heated by the sun. If the radiant barrier was not there, the sun would heat the roofing materials and the heat transfer would occur into the air of the attic.

Ultimately, a hotter attic means more work that your attic insulation and ductwork needs to put in. Therefore, if you have a cooler attic your ductwork/home can become more efficient.

Radiant Barrier Cost Savings Breakdown

As mentioned above, a radiant barrier can improve home energy efficiency. In fact, according to Energy.Gov, the radiant barrier can improve energy efficiency of about 5%-10%. This means your A/C bill could reduce by about 5%-10%.

In southern climates where summers are warmer, your cost savings would be closer to the 10% mark. Let’s break down your average cost savings for Florida to give radiant barriers the best possible outcome on savings.

The average Florida household is paying close to $1,900/year on electricity alone. 27% of electricity expenditures in Florida are from Air Conditioning appliances. This means your monthly bill from your A/C in Florida on average would be $42.75/month (($1,900 x .27)/12months)).

The radiant barrier could make your home 10% more efficient. Therefore, your savings would be $4.28/month ($42.75 x .10).

Installation Costs of Radiant Barriers

Radiant barriers are not free, however. The average installation cost from HomeAdvisor is $1,700.

Overall Cost Savings from Radiant Barriers

Therefore, you will need to have your radiant barrier for approximately 33.1 years to have the radiant barrier savings pay for itself!

This is actually absurd when you think about it, and I will explain further below.

Why Radiant Barriers Are Just Not Worth It

Reason #1 – Cost Savings???

The energy efficiency noted above was given the best possible chance for cost savings. We gave radiant barriers a 10% (max) energy cost savings, as well as used the average air conditioning expenditures in Florida (one of the hottest states in the U.S.)

Reason #2 – Lifespan

Radiant barrier actually gets dusty from being in the attic. The dust will reduce the reflective components of the foil and, ultimately, reduce effectiveness.

Lifespan Part 2

The barrier also falls down (from being stapled to the bottom of trusses), A LOT! Ask any home inspector if they see radiant barrier torn or fallen. I guarantee 99% of home inspectors will agree that radiant barrier frequently needs maintenance to stay in place.

Reason #3 – Aftermarket Installation

If you are deciding on getting radiant barrier on your already built home, the only way it can be installed is by climbing in the attic.

Well guess what is easy to kick up and move in your attic? Insulation and dust. So as you are working to make your home more energy efficient, you are kicking dust around that attaches to radiant barrier and possibly ruins the efficiency of blown-in insulation.

Be sure to check with your installer to see how they will install radiant barrier to reduce disturbing your insulation.

Reason #4 – Undetectable Roof Leaks

Your radiant barrier makes the roof deck sheathing invisible from the attic. Also, any water leak will fall onto the backside of the radiant barrier and roll down the slope until it reaches the eaves/soffits.

This basically allows for wood rot to continue and inspectors have a more difficult time finding areas of concern.

But On The Bright Side…

It keeps your attic a little cooler and saves a few bucks a month!

Not to mention, home inspectors love the cooler attics! 😁

Summing Up

I attempted to make this blog as factual as possible to show the real cost and benefits of radiant barrier. This is not just my opinion either.

Many home inspectors agree with me when I asked around before writing this article.

Furthermore, up north, you can tell home inspectors definitely do not like radiant barriers. Just check this out.

If you have any questions or comments, comment below! I would love to hear from you!

Also, you may also want to read up on A/C Lifespan in Florida.

Aaron Shishilla

Author Aaron Shishilla

Aaron Shishilla is the youngest registered professional inspector in Florida. Coming from a family-owned home inspection company and now the marketing manager at Waypoint.

More posts by Aaron Shishilla

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