Letters: March/April 2014

March/April 2014
A version of this article appears in the March/April 2014 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Click here to read more letters.

A Radiant Barrier in Winter?

Thanks for the informative article (“Reflective-Insulation and Radiant-Barrier Systems,” HE Jan/Feb ’14, web only). I have a question. I live in Palm Springs and would like this for our house, obviously to reduce cooling costs in the summer. But in the winter (right now), the house is chilly already (approximately 60–65°F) without the heater. Would a system like this lower the home’s indoor temperature in the winter? Tucson Jie [online commentator] noted that radiant barriers would lower winter season heating costs. But right now, we don’t generally use the heater. We just put on warmer clothes. Any colder and we would definitely use our heater.

Kat Donnelly
online comment

An example of the use of a radiant barrier in a home. (Luke Rogers)

Author Luke Rogers replies:

You have a good question, and I’ll answer it as best as I can. The simple answer is, If you still get plenty of sunshine during the winter and you don’t want to have to use your heater, then a radiant barrier might not be a good winter solution. However, if the sky is typically cloudy and you don’t get much heat from the sun, then a radiant barrier will certainly do more good than harm by preventing heat losses. It depends entirely on the amount of solar heat gain during the day. However, all insulation products are designed to reduce the transfer of heat; it’s just that a radiant barrier goes about it a different way than other insulation types.

For allowing in a lot of solar heat gain during the winter, technically you would want as little insulation as possible so the incoming heat isn’t resisted at all; but of course, you want to prevent that same radiant heat from entering during the summer. It is going to have to be a trade-off, and I would say that in a climate like Palm Springs, your utility bills are highest in the summer. So I guess the bottom line is that the radiant barrier may or may not work for you in the winter, depending on how much sun you get, but it would still probably be worth the investment, even if only for the savings in the summer.

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