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Radiant Barrier & Installation

How Radiant Barriers Work

There are two basic properties on which radiant barriers work: Reflectivity and Emissivity. First, the aluminum is reflective on the hot side, reflecting some of the heat back from where it came. Second, and most importantly, aluminum has a low emissivity of around 0.03. This means that only 3% of the heat is emitted to the air on the cold side. In order to benefit from both of these properties, the radiant barrier must be double sided and installed so that there is an air space or low density material (like insulation) on both sides. However, even if your installation only allows for an airspace on one side of the material, it will be extremely effective in both summer and winter.

Bare aluminum radiant barrier will oxidize over time increasing the emissivity to around 0.20 and lowering the reflectivity to 80%. Some materials made from aluminum alloys can even be as high as 0.40 once heavily oxidized. The best radiant barrier materials are sprayed with a specialized coating to prevent oxidation. This coating lowers the initial values slightly (e=0.05 and reflectivity=95%), however it prevents oxidation from destroying the reflectivity over time.

In an attic without radiant barrier, radiant heat from the hot roof travels down through the open space and is absorbed by solid objects including: ceiling joists, attic insulation, ductwork, and air handlers.

Radiant Heat: Heat transferred by radiation in the form of waves which travels through open space and is absorbed and reflected by the first solid object it encounters.

Radiant Barrier: a material which blocks/reflects at least 90% (higher is better) of the radiant heat.

Emissivity: the amount of heat which is "emitted" or radiated off of a surface to the surrounding air (lower is better).

Illustration showing summer savings

Radiant Barrier Keeps Heat Out During the Summer

In the summer, the single largest source of heat gained by your home or building is in the form of radiant heat. A large amount of this heat comes through the roof and ceiling. If you have spent any time in an attic on a summer day you understand this completely. The roof and walls of your home absorb the radiant heat coming from the sun. This heat moves by conduction towards the interior until it reaches an air space such as the attic or drainage plane behind your outer veneer. At this point it radiates across that space. If you have Radiant Barrier installed next to that air space, most of this radiated heat is reflected back towards the outside. Without Radiant Barrier installed, this radiated heat is absorbed by the interior surfaces of your home.

In fact, regular insulation does little to reflect radiated heat; it just absorbs and holds this heat. In addition, HVAC equipment located in an attic will absorb attic heat and transfer it into the house. A proper installed Radiant Barrier can block up to 95% of this radiant heat, saving you money year after year.

Illustration showing winter savings

Radiant Barrier Keeps Heat In During the Winter

In the winter, heat conducts through your ceiling, walls and floor and is lost by radiation and convection. Radiant Barrier installed in the attic will reflect much of the radiant heat back towards the source. Radiant Barrier used as a house wrap can reduce radiant and convective heat losses through the walls. When heat is lost through the ceiling, walls and floor, your home's heater works to reheat the space. Properly installed Radiant Barrier can reduce this wasted energy by reflecting much of the heat back towards the interior of the building, keeping your home warmer and reducing your heating bills. As the cost of natural gas and electricity continues to increase, payback times decrease. If you are able to install Radiant Barrier yourself, payback times can be less then one year.


Is there a top or bottom, are both sides the same?
For the double-sided product, both sides are the same.
For the single-sided products, the foil side faces the air space/gap.

What is the advantage of using a heavyweight radiant barrier foil?
Both the lightweight and the heavyweight radiant barrier foils have the same reflectivity quality; the difference is the lightweight products can tear easily. Alpine Radiant Construction only installs the heavyweight foil because it is virtually tear-proof and will never rip or sag in your attic. One loose critter in your attic can easily knock down all the foil if you use a lightweight product.

Will the aluminum radiant barrier oxidize & show signs of corrosion over time?
In short, NO. When aluminum reacts with oxygen in the air, it produces an organic aluminum-oxide barrier via a process called passivation. This layer protects the metal's surface from oxidizing and therefore the product will resist corrosion. Additionally, this protective layer does nothing to diminish the foil's ability to reflect radiant heat so you have a superior heat barrier that will stand the test of time. Additionally, we have several samples of product in testing that has been exposed outside to the elements, undisturbed for 4+ years and none have shown signs of corrosion or a decrease in reflectivity. If those are results from pieces outside and unprotected, you can be confident that inside an attic or a wall the conditions are even better. More info here:

Can I really save 50% on my electric bill with this product?
Probably not. Radiant Barrier is a great product, however the benefits are often over-sold. Realistic savings are probably in the 15%-35% range.

Can I buy this stuff at Home Depot or Lowes? They sell bubble foil, is it better?
The product you see at major home improvement stores is often the lightweight product. We have had many customers buy from us after they bought from a large home improvement store and learned the hard way that the product wasn't tear-proof.

The bubble foil is a good product and has many uses; the most common use is in metal buildings to prevent condensation. However, bubble foil insulation is often overused in residential attics. It does work, however it is the foil doing the work and not the bubbles in a ventilated attic. And, the bubble products cost a lot more. In addition, bubble foil products do not allow water vapor through, often creating an unintended vapor barrier

My attic has tricky parts. Is it OK to staple radiant barrier up in some areas and lay it on the floor in others?
Yes, this will work fine. Remember, your main concern is to reflect the heat coming off the roof; therefore, it does not really matter where the reflector is placed or if is mixed in placement. Just cover as much as you can for the best results.

Will a radiant barrier still help if I can't get it under my whole roof?
Yes. Think of radiant barrier as shade for your home, the more the better. If you have a big tree over just part of your home it still helps right? Installing radiant barrier has a cumulative effect and most people end up getting between 70-90% of their attic covered. Just install as much as you can as fast as you can, and don't kill yourself on the last little bit unless that's just how you are.

I'm getting a new roof installed. Can I install radiant barrier between my shingles and my roof deck?
NO! NO! NO! It will not work. You must have an air gap to have a radiant barrier that works.

Do you sell the foil tape? Should I tape the seams?
No, we do not sell the tape.

You should not tape the seams, unless you really want to. It does not help/hurt the effectiveness of the foil, it just makes the foil installation look prettier. Plus, since there is really nothing to press the tape on to, taping the seams is more difficult than you think.

Is this the same stuff that was developed by NASA?
NASA did develop radiant barrier technology; however it has been a public domain technology since the 1970's. Radiant Barrier Technology is used in thousands of products like candy wrappers, potato chip bags, oil rig fire fighting suits, thermos bottles, emergency fire shelters, and construction and insulation materials. Yes, NASA technology is used in all radiant barriers, but this is not the actual stuff used by NASA.

Wouldn't the foil be more effective if I cut it and installed it in between the rafters, directly on the roof deck?
No, if you cut the foil and put it between the rafters, you will still allow thermal bypass through the rafters. Heat will pass through the rafters and will re-radiant below the foil decreasing the overall effectiveness of the foil. When you staple the foil below and across the rafters, it will eliminate the rafters from emitting heat as well as reflecting heat from the deck. Plus, it is a lot easier to install to the bottom of the rafters since you do not need to cut the foil or deal with thousands of nails sticking through. The bottom line is that installing it that way is more work to get less benefit: bad choice.

What size staples do you use to staple the foil up?
1/4" or 5/16" is all you need. Estimate about 500 staples for every 1,000 square feet of foil installed.

Will the foil affect my TV antenna mounted in the attic?
Maybe. The best way is to install as normal. If there is a problem with reception, remove a small section of foil over the antenna. This will usually fix any problems with TV reception.

Will the foil affect my cell phone reception?
Typically a modern-day cell phone won't be effected by radiant barrier foil. An easy way to test is to use your free sample and cover your cell phone with it. Then, using a different phone, call the cell phone. If it rings, then the phone should work find after installing foil insulation in your attic.

Can drywall be applied on top of the foil?
Yes, but only if there is an air gap in the assembly; typically the air gap would be between the outer layer and the foil layer. If you are placing the drywall directly on top of the foil, then the other side of the foil must be open to an air gap, not insulation or some other material.

Can I use radiant barrier foil in place of traditional insulation?
Radiant barrier does not take the place of traditional insulation (fiberglass, cellulose, etc.). Traditional attic insulation has R-value; this works to slow conductive heat. Radiant barriers reflect radiant heat. both types of heat are trying to enter your home on a hot, summer day. The sun heats up the roof and then the heat is transferred by radiant heat across the attic space until it hits the attic insulation. Then, the heat transfer method switches from radiant heat to conductive heat to move through the attic insulation and into your home. This is why you need BOTH Types of insulation. Traditional attic insulation and radiant barrier work together and each do their part. Radiant barrier is your first line of defense (against radiant heat) and traditional attic insulation (fiberglass or cellulose) is the second line of defense against conductive heat gain.

Is there an advantage to installing this material in a crawl space?
Using radiant barrier foil in the crawlspace is only beneficial if you are losing heat in the wintertime through the floor of the house into this crawlspace; if the heat is radiating across the air gap from the flooring to the ground outside, then Radiant Barrier can help stop that heat loss. The foil should be stapled across the bottom of the joists; ideally you would have about a half inch to an inch between the insulation and the foil.

Other than heat retention, there really is no added benefit to using a radiant barrier in a space that does not have a regular source of radiant heat.

Do I need to push the existing insulation down (compress it) before I lay the foil on top?
No, do not push the foil onto the insulation - just lay it over the top, like a blanket. If it peaks and falls in certain areas, that's fine & ideal.

What is the R-value of a radiant barrier?
Radiant barrier on its own has NO R-value; it works to block radiant heat (97%) coming in to the attic by stapling it to the rafters, but it has no R-value.

If I lay the foil on the floor can I then blow more insulation on top of it?
No, this application will not work because the radiant barrier requires an air space for it to work properly. If you cover it with blown in insulation (or anything for that matter) then you have eliminated the necessary air gap that must be present for the foil to work as a radiant barrier. See the video at the top of this page for more information.

I already have the radiant barrier paint on my roof deck, can I also add this foil?
Overall, painted barriers are not effective because even in best-case testing conditions, they only achieve a reflectivity of 75%, whereas aluminum foil achieves a 97% reflectivity, assuming there is an air space on at least one side. So that being said, we don't really promote them.

You can definitely add a foil barrier on the bottom of the rafters with no problem at all. The space will be vented, so the hot air will find a way out of the attic.

I thought a radiant barrier needed air on both sides, is that true?
No, a double sided radiant barrier does not need an airspace on both sides of it, just one. You can have an airspace on both sides, but it doesn't change the effectiveness of the foil, just the options for airflow/ventilation.

I'm adding decking to my attic floor to make a walking area. Does that alter where I place the foil?
If you are putting flooring down, you will need to install the foil OVER the flooring. Simply lay the foil directly over the plywood and staple it down - the foil is strong and durable and can handle light to moderate traffic.

The only thing you can NOT do is to put the foil on the plywood and then cover it with stuff. This will not work. Radiant heat only exists in an air space (or vacuum) so if you eliminate the air gap above the foil you are essentially eliminating the effectiveness of your reflector/barrier. Again, see the video at the top of the page.

How thick is AtticFoil® Radiant Barrier Foil Insulation?
It has two layers of pure aluminum that are adhered to an internal layer of heavyweight woven polyethylene; this is what makes it tear-proof. The total assembly is 5 mils thick; this is about the thickness of a typical business card.

How to Hire the Right Radiant Barrier Provider in Texas

Alpine Radiant Construction understands that our customers need energy efficient solutions in their homes. Our main focus is to keep heat out of your home, not to keep it in. Whatever the problems are with your home or office, Alpine Radiant Construction can solve them.

Problems such as:
  • Uncomfortable Home or Office
  • High Energy Bills
  • Inefficient Windows
  • Moisture Problems in Attic
  • Drafty Rooms and Light Fixtures
  • Leaky Duct Work

There are many misconceptions pertaining to our industry that need to be clarified so you can become educated and informed. For years, people have thought it too expensive to have a radiant barrier installed in their home. This was true 8-9 years ago, however, the price has drastically come down from around $2 per square foot to around less than half than of that.

The Physics & Science of Radiant Barrier Protection Works to Keep Heat Out of Your Home!

The Alpine Radiant Construction provides a lifetime warranty with the installation of Radiant Barrier Foil. Unlike most companies, we allow payment upon completion of the project after your approval of the work. Alpine Radiant Construction will provide recent references of satisfied customers upon request, so please ask for them.

When searching for a company to hire, be sure and pay close attention to the special offer. There are offers in throughout Texas (particularly in Dallas / Fort Worth) that really do sound too good to be true. That’s because they are! The harsh reality is that when you hear unbelievably low pricing for radiant barrier systems, the other company has typically inflated the cost on one aspect of the project while artificially “reducing” the price on another. In addition, you may be hearing an advertisement for what is known as radiant barrier paint, which is slightly less expensive, but doesn’t provide the same barrier protection as does foil. For example, Radiant Barrier Paint takes longer to earn back your investment, by a factor of 6 years compared with only 4 with Radiant Barrier Foil.

Alpine Radiant Construction is Texas’ premier source for installation of energy conserving and efficient products. We are family owned and operated covering the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Professional service, combined with a showroom quality installation that saves you money while conserving your energy, is what we pride ourselves on. It’s imperative now, more than ever, to control your expenses as a result of the uncertainty involved with energy prices and the state of the economy.

By investing in energy efficient products for your home and/or business, you can potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars every single month. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to save green while becoming green!

We Provide Services to the Following Cities and Towns in TX:
  • Dallas, TX
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Irving, TX
  • Carrollton, TX
  • Grapevine, TX
  • Arlington, TX
  • Garland, TX
  • Plano, TX
  • Lewisville, TX
  • McKinney, TX