A radiant barrier is an effective and relatively affordable way to decrease your home's cooling costs. Knowing this, you might be wondering how much it costs to add a radiant barrier. In this post, we leverage industry professional knowledge and up-to-date research to thoroughly answer your question.
The cost of adding a radiant barrier usually varies from around $500 to about $3,000. This price varies so widely based on several factors. These factors are:
- Material cost
- Labor cost
- Attic size
- Installation location
- Fan install
Keep reading the rest of this post for details on each of the above bullet points. Through this discussion, we'll offer a full rundown of the material and labor cost for installing a radiant barrier. To conclude, we'll answer several questions related to the topic of this post.
The first issue to consider when pricing out a new radiant barrier is the material cost. To do this, we will consider the cost of the radiant barrier itself and also the price of the staples and tools needed for the installation.
Radiant Barrier Cost
There are single-sided and double-sided radiant barriers. Single-sided radiant barriers only reflect radiant heat on one side while double-sided radiant barriers are reflective on both sides.
Overall, radiant barriers usually cost between $0.10 and $0.50 per square foot. However, for very small quantities you may pay up to $1.00 per square foot. In the same sense, if you buy in very large bulk or wholesale, it is possible to find radiant barriers for cheaper than this range.
Single-Sided Radiant Barrier
Single-sided radiant barriers are the cheaper of the two options. Generally, they only cost between $0.10 and $0.25 per square foot of material.
Double-Sided Radiant Barrier
Double-sided radiant barriers are more expensive and generally run between $0.15 and $0.50 per square foot.
This extra cost is useful because the additional side of radiant heat protection slows the transfer of heat from the material into the space you are trying to protect and helps keep heat in during the winter.
Other Materials and Tools
In addition to the radiant barrier itself, it is also necessary to use some fasteners and other tools on this job. Most of the tools like staple guns, tape measures, and work lights are usually already part of a DIY tool arsenal.
However, the staples required to affix the radiant barrier down are not reusable and must be purchased specially for this project. Generally, you will need about 500 staples per 1,000 square feet of material that you put up. Fortunately, this only adds about $10 to the total expense of most projects.
In addition to the radiant barrier itself, labor is also a large cost for a radiant barrier install. According to the Florida Solar Energy Center of the University of Central Florida, the price for installing a radiant barrier ranges from $0.10 to $1.00 per square foot of space.
However, if you do all of the labor yourself, you can get that price down to $0 per square foot. That being said, The Department of Energy recommends that you hire a professional installer to ensure that the job is done correctly.
Further, installing radiant barriers in attics is a hot and dirty job that requires proper personal protective equipment and an eye towards the weather. In fact, it is common to only work on the job a few hours in the mornings to avoid any sweltering and dangerous heat.
As indicated in the above sections, the price of purchasing and installing a radiant barrier ranges from $0.10 all the way up to $2.00 per square foot. Thus, the final cost will naturally depend on the total size of your attic.
All you have to do is multiply the cost of materials plus labor by the attic size to get the total cost for installing a radiant barrier.
For example, let's assume you have a 1,500 square foot attic and that materials cost $0.15 per square foot and labor costs $0.30 per square foot. Thus, the total cost is 1,500 times $0.45 which equals a grand total of only $675.
Take note that you can install radiant barriers on the underside of the roof (which is the attic ceiling) or on top of the insulation which sits on the attic floor. These two options will have different total square footage and will thus incur different total costs.
Further, installing your radiant barrier on the attic ceiling versus the floor will change the amount and type of labor required for the installation. Thus, the installation location is likely to change the total labor cost.
Finally, it is important to consider whether or not the installation of your radiant barrier will require you to add a fan to your attic space.
One reason a fan is considered is that radiant barriers also often function as vapor barriers. This means that any water vapor or moisture that hits the radiant barrier cannot pass through.
Therefore, the humid indoor air will hit the barrier and condense. Over time, this can lead to dangerous levels of moisture in your attic space. However, a fan that runs regularly and automatically will help remove this moisture and prevent any rot or mold problems.
Further, floor-installed radiant barriers will increase your attic temperature, a side effect that can be mitigated by a fan. Usually, these fans are designed to turn on when the attic gets to a certain temperature to vent the hot air out.
Installing a single fan costs anywhere from $200 to $800 depending on local electrician rates and the type of fan that you purchase. Be sure that only a licensed electrician deals with the dangerous voltage required for this project.
Radiant Barrier Calculators
There are radiant barrier calculators available online that will help you determine how much and what type of radiant barrier to buy. These ask you to enter several specs from your home and what type of climate you live in.
An excellent example of these calculators can be found here, from Energy Efficient Solutions.
How much R-value does a radiant barrier add?
Most radiant barriers add an R-value of zero to your home. That being said, they still can help a lot with keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.
This is because radiant barriers reflect radiant heat. In contrast, materials with R-values are very good at stopping convection and conduction heat transfer.
Take note that it is possible to buy foil-faced bubble wrap or insulation that has an R-value and a radiant barrier in one.
How much does a radiant barrier reduce the temperature in the attic?
Radiant barriers only reduce the temperature in the attic if they are attached to the ceiling rather than on top of the insulation on the attic floor.
If they are installed on the ceiling, it is reported that you can expect the attic temperature to be reduced by up to 40% during sunny days. However, if the radiant barrier is installed on the attic floor, it will function to actually increase the attic temperature.
How much can you save with radiant barrier?
According to the Department of Energy, radiant barriers can save you around 10% on your cooling bills. Other sources suggest you may be able to save up to 17%.
The savings for this install will be much greater in more southerly places that experience more sun exposure and hotter days.
How is a radiant barrier installed?
The directions for installing radiant barriers are different if you install them on the ceiling or floor of your attic. We'll briefly cover both techniques below.
Ceiling Radiant Barrier
Install these barriers so that there is some air space between the roof and the top of the barrier. Usually, this means that they are stapled to the bottom of the rafters.
To accomplish this, simply stretch out the barrier and staple as you go. Cover the entire exterior of the attic for the best final product. Generally, add a staple every 6 or 8 inches. For seams, all that matters is that the two pieces overlap. Consider overlapping by 6 inches for a long-lasting job.
As you go, you may need to cut the barrier to fit around corners and obstructions. You can do this with scissors or a utility knife.
Watch this great YouTube video for visual directions on how to install a radiant barrier:
Floor Radiant Barrier
Floor radiant barriers are set on top of the existing insulation. The goal is to cover the entire attic floor with a radiant barrier.
It is counterintuitive, but if you are using a single-sided radiant barrier, face the reflective side down. This prevents dust from collecting on the reflective material but does not reduce the effectiveness of the material.
For this install, there will be far fewer opportunities to add staples or other fasteners. Thus, simply attach the barrier to framing where you can.
How long does a radiant barrier last?
As long as no pests or wind can enter your attic, you can expect your radiant barrier to last 10 years or more before any damage starts to appear.
In this post, we discussed how much it costs to install a radiant barrier. This includes both the price of materials and labor. To conclude, we answered many questions related to the topic of this post. Good luck!
To learn more about insulating and weatherizing your attic, take a look at these articles: