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Radiant barriers are a must-have improvement for any homeowner seeking to improve their household’s temperature control and reduce air conditioning energy costs. We understand that “radiant barrier” is not the sexiest term and that a lot of homeowners might not even know these products exist, so we created this useful guide to help everyone choose the best radiant barrier for their needs.
By utilizing a highly reflective surface, radiant barriers block and reflect incoming radiant heat waves. When radiant barriers are installed along the walls of a household, most commonly in the attic, they help to keep the interior of the household noticeably cooler. This effect is particularly useful in the summer months to keep air conditioning costs lower, since it does not need to keep running all day long. Therefore, if saving money on energy bills is something that attracts your attention, now you can use this guide to inform yourself about the different types and efficiencies of the most popular radiant barriers.
After hours of thorough research (through university studies, consumer reviews, and safety standard testing), we have created a list of the top 7 radiant barriers on the market. In our guide we have included a quick-look comparison table and in-depth reviews of several key features of each radiant barrier, such as material, roll width, reflectivity, and affordability, amongst others. Our painstaking work culminates in an all-inclusive buying guide, that will be a trustworthy and vital companion in the search for the best radiant barrier for your needs.
Extra features: non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, fiber-free, blocks 99.06% of RF signals
It’s all in the name. The RadiantGUARD ULTIMA quite literally is the ultimate radiant barrier for households. Much like John Hammond did in Jurassic Park, RadiantGUARD spared no expense with this product.
The ULTIMA boasts an almost perfect reflectivity of 97%, which has reportedly lowered temperatures by up to 40°F. Additionally, this radiant barrier blocks over 99% of RF signals, keeping private information secure. What’s even better is that RadiantGUARD guarantees this product to be tear and puncture proof. The ULTIMA is capable of such a feat by incorporating a woven Mylar scrim in between the heavy-duty aluminum sheeting. Although it sounds like an almighty wall that doesn’t even allow light to pass, it is perfectly breathable, so there is no need to worry about moisture collection and all the creepy critters that come with it.
The ULTIMA weighs in at a spritely 28 pounds per 1000 sq. ft. and is only 6.5 thousandths of an inch (mils) thick, which makes handling and installation a breeze. There is no need to worry about health risks either since this radiant barrier is toxin, carcinogen, and fiber-free – clean enough to be used in hospitals and other sterile facilities. The ULTIMA is, of course, fully ASTM compliant. At only $169 for a 1000 sq. ft. roll, there is no doubt that the RadiantGUARD ULTIMA is the best bang for your buck.
Extra features: 4-month 100% money-back guarantee, non-toxic, doesn’t promote the growth of fungi or bacteria
Seemingly inspired by the ancient Chinese Empire’s defense against plundering Mongolian invaders, NASA TECH delivers an almighty Great Wall of Radiant Heat Shielding with their commercial grade radiant barrier. Used in buildings new and old by construction crews and house moms alike, this radiant barrier only narrowly missed out on our Best All-Around pick due to sporadic out-of-the-box manufacturing issues reported by consumers.
The NASA TECH Commercial Grade radiant barrier boasts an industry-leading and almost unbelievable 99.97% reflectivity, meaning that only 3 parts radiant heat out of every 10,000 get through its 5-ply build. NASA TECH manufactures this product with a seriously-heavy duty Mylar scrim sandwiched between several layers of top-grade aluminum. Therefore, this radiant barrier is tear-proof, puncture-proof, and comes with a 120-day, 100% money-back guarantee.
Unlike some of its competitors, the NASA TECH Commercial radiant barrier is double-sided, which means that it is 99.97% reflective on both sides of the sheet. This useful feature is especially great for households that experience both hot and cold weather extremes. Consumers in these areas will find that it will reflect away unwanted radiant heat in the summer and keep cooling costs lower, while it will also trap existing radiant heat inside the household during the colder months and keep heating costs lower.
The NASATECH Commercial is fully, and in some areas exceedingly, ASTM compliant. This product is also toxin, carcinogen, and fiber-free and does not promote the growth of fungi or bacteria. Thus, consumers do not need to worry about possible health risks. Additionally, for those seeking extra protection, this radiant barrier blocks 99% of RF signals – so even sensitive information will be protected by this exceptional shield.
Extra features: double-sided, blocks 99.06% of RF signals
The USEP Diamond Radiant Barrier is a very affordable choice from the plastic film-family of radiant barrier products. At only $190 for a 2000 sq. ft. roll, its feature-packed and durable build renders it an excellent radiant heat shield for any household.
When radiant barriers were first invented (not by NASA as many people falsely believe, but rather by a New York City entrepreneur), the simple design featured aluminum foil sheeting for reflectivity and plastic fibers for durability. Now, almost a quarter of the way through the 21st century, manufacturing technology, and by default the radiant barrier itself, has vastly improved. The USEP Diamond is a great example of such innovation. While some of its competitors use scrims or loosely woven plastic fibers sandwiched between sheets of aluminum, the USEP Diamond is made by coating a sturdy, tear-and-puncture-proof polyester film with aluminum particles. This new technique allows for a radiant barrier that is noticeably thinner and lighter, but still just as durable and effective as its traditionally-made counterparts.
Just like the NASA TECH Commercial, the USEP Diamond is double-sided. Therefore, this radiant barrier is 95% reflective on both of its aluminized sides, and it can help to reduce energy costs in both summer and winter. The USEP Diamond is also fully ASTM Compliant and toxin, carcinogen, and fiber free. This product is also perforated and breathable; ergo it does not promote for the build-up of fungi or bacteria. The USEP Diamond also blocks 99% of RF signals and protects against the theft of sensitive information.
Extra features: industrial grade, perforated, double sided
ARMA FOIL claims to be “the radiant barrier brand you can trust”, and they definitely deliver on that promise with their High Strength radiant barrier. This radiant barrier is another great choice from the plastic-film family of products. Radiant barriers like these are helping to set new standards throughout the reflectivity and radiation control industry.
ARMA FOIL assembles their High Strength line of radiant barriers by adhering a thick coat of aluminum particles to a polyethylene film. Much like the polyester film used by USEP Diamond, this polyethylene film is also extremely lightweight, tear-proof, and puncture-proof. Furthermore, the polyethylene film protects against the “memory effect” of other radiant barriers, which means that it doesn’t wrinkle of hold bent edges easily. This ability allows the ARMA FOIL to hang evenly and smoothly, maximizing its efficiency – and looking handsomely sleek while doing it.
Although the ARMA FOIL High Strength radiant barrier is industrial grade, it’s household compatible and easy for almost any homeowner to install. In fact, consumers report that it can be easier to install than a lot of its competitors due to its wider frame. Unlike most radiant barrier sheet rolls, which are usually 48” wide, the ARMA FOIL is 51” wide. This extra length makes the ARMA FOIL particularly handy at covering larger areas, such as attic or garage walls.
The ARMA FOIL is also double-sided, and a great insulating tool no matter the season. A strong 95% reflectivity will keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The High Strength is also toxin, carcinogen, and fiber-free. In compliance with ASTM standards, this radiant barrier is also permeable and does not promote the growth of fungi or bacteria.
Extra features: non-toxic, doesn’t promote the growth of fungi or bacteria
Thanks to its durability and affordability, the mighty Houseables Radiant Barrier is a “jack of all trades”, great for shielding almost anything from radiant heat. This radiant barrier can be installed in an attic, around a greenhouse, under the floor of an RV, and even around existing insulation.
Boasting an undoubtedly excellent 97% reflectivity rating, the Houseables Radiant Barrier is a true radiant-heat-shielding workhorse. At only $120 for a 1000 sq. ft. roll, consumers can feel free to go crazy and shield almost everything inside and outside the house from radiant heat. This product can be used inside the roof structure, under existing thermal insulation, under the floor of an RV, over a greenhouse shell, around piping and air ducts, behind appliances, over the walls of external garages, and anywhere else that might require heat shielding. Additionally, the Houseables radiant barrier is built with a sturdy Mylar scrim sandwiched between heavy-duty aluminum sheeting. Therefore, this product will last anywhere consumers install it.
The Houseables Radiant Barrier is ASTM compliant in all areas, including reflectivity, corrosivity, fire resistance, smoke resistance, permeability, and others. The breathability of this radiant barrier protects against the build-up of fungi or bacteria as well. This product is also toxin, carcinogen, and fiber-free, so there is no risk to consumers’ health. Furthermore, the Houseables is not affected by humidity or climate change and does not promote the nesting of insects or rodents, which only adds to its already promising durability.
Extra features: non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, fiber free, blocks 99.06% of RF signals
The NASA TECH Residential is an excellent radiant barrier for weatherproofing an attic, especially because of its efficiency and easiness to install.
NASA TECH is a reflective product specialist that manufactures everything from garage doors to reflective paint coating, so there is no doubt that they can deliver an excellent radiant barrier. Although it is somewhat less reflective and durable than its commercial-grade counterpart, this product still reflects 97% of incoming radiant heat waves. The difference in durability should also be minimal with proper installation.
Since the NASA TECH Residential is a lot lighter than most radiant barriers, it’s a great choice for consumers looking to install the product themselves. All it takes to get the job done is a pair of scissors, regular staples or double-sided tape, and a few hours’ time. Furthermore, the NASA TECH Residential only costs $125 per 1000 sq. ft. (at time of writing), so consumers need not be afraid of making costly mistakes during measuring and installation.
The NASA TECH Residential radiant barrier is toxin, carcinogen, and fiber-free, so there is no need to worry about health risks. This product is fully ASTM compliant, meeting or exceeding all the requirements to be an excellent radiant heat shield for any household. This compliance also means that the NASA TECH Residential is perforated and breathable, so it does not promote the growth of fungi or bacteria.
Extra features: inhibits condensation, doesn’t promote the growth of fungi, mold or mildew
GHR Industrial’s radiant barrier boasts the highest reflectivity out of the three products from the plastic-film family at an impressive 96%. This radiant barrier is also amongst the thinnest we have reviewed at just 5 mils, making it easy to install without sacrificing durability or efficiency.
GHR Industrial uses a process similar to ARMA FOIL’s when manufacturing their radiant barriers. They start by weaving polyethylene strands into a dense, flexible fabric. Then they use a confidential process to adhere a highly reflective metalized coating to both sides. By using this polyethylene fabric instead of traditional scrim, they handsomely increase the radiant barrier’s resistance to tears. Furthermore, since they do not need to apply additional layers, the final product stays very thin and lightweight.
Similar to the ARMA FOIL radiant barrier, this GHR Industrial one is also double-sided, which increases energy savings all year round. It is important to note, however, that double-sided radiant barriers are slightly more efficient during the warmer months. This difference in performance stems from the greater quantity of radiant heat trying to penetrate the household during the summer than the quantity trying to escape the household during the winter. Therefore, radiant barriers are best used in combination with standard thermal insulation for maximum efficiency. That being said, the GHR Industrial is a great choice for hanging under existing insulation due to the low additional stress it creates.
GHR Industrial’s radiant barrier, like all of the others we have reviewed so far, is completely ASTM compliant. This radiant barrier also does not promote the growth of fungi or bacteria or the nesting of insects or rodents. GHR Industrial offers 500 sq. ft. rolls for a fraction of the price of the 1000 sq. ft. and 2000 sq. ft. rolls we have reviewed so far, so this radiant barrier is a great choice for small projects or tight budgets.
Since they represent a low-risk, cost-effective, easy-to-install, and efficient way to lower energy bills, radiant barriers have become popular household improvements as of late. This buying guide, created to assist you in the purchase of your radiant barrier, includes the most important aspects that you’ll need to take into consideration. Absorb and apply this information, and you’ll be enjoying lower energy bills in no time.
Benefits of a top-grade radiant barrier
Installing a top-grade radiant barrier can be a huge improvement over traditional insulation. Radiant heat, one of three types of heat transfer, involves radiation from a warmer surface to a cooler surface via an air space. Radiant barriers minimize the amount of radiant heat that penetrates a household by using a highly reflective surface to bounce the heat waves back into the atmosphere. Traditional insulation targets convectional heat transfer by trapping warm air molecules, and thus offers little to no protection against radiant heat. Additionally, radiant barriers are most commonly light-weight and do not possess enough mass to increase heat transfer through conduction (direct transfer from surface to surface).
Reducing radiant heat penetration can have very noticeable, often drastic effects on internal household temperatures. In some cases, consumers have reported palpable temperature drops of over 10° F. Due to these temperature reductions, households with radiant barriers have less need for air conditioning and therefore reduce their overall energy costs. Furthermore, radiant barriers carry no additional risks because the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established industry standards that all manufacturers must meet before selling their product. Such standards include reflectivity, permeability, fire safety, and corrosivity. Radiant barriers also do not promote the growth of fungi or bacteria and are not affected by humidity.
Features to consider when choosing a radiant barrier
There are many options available when choosing the radiant barrier to install in your household, so make sure to check the following features to ensure you purchase a quality product that will satisfy your needs.
Since radiant barriers depend almost exclusively on the reflectivity of their contact surface for efficiency, this is without a doubt the most important feature. Due to the strictness that the ASTM has woven into their standards, most radiant barriers on the market will have at least 95% reflectivity, meaning that they only allow 5% of radiant heat to pass through. All of the radiant barriers on our list meet this 95% minimum, with the NASATECH Commercial Grade topping the list at a whopping 99.97% reflectivity. There are many options with at least 95% reflectivity, so anything below that benchmark is sub-par and not recommended.
Depending on the shape of your attic, there are a couple of different ways to measure the area you need to cover: the most accurate way is to measure the length and width of the separate panels, but you can also use the square footage of the attic floor and the slope of the roof to calculate a rough estimate. The square footage of radiant barrier that you need to purchase is equivalent to the area that you need to cover. Most manufacturers sell radiant barriers in rolls of 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 square feet, so in the likely case that you are unable to purchase the exact amount needed, remember to round up and risk having excess material, instead of not enough.
Although most radiant barrier rolls come in the standard 48” length, other options, such as the 51” length of the ARMA FOIL, are available for special applications. Radiant barrier foil is usually easy to cut with scissors, so installing it in those weird corners should be fairly simple
The American Society for Testing and Materials, which now goes by the name ASTM International, was founded in 1898 to regulate the quality of steel used in railroad track construction. The ASTM has since evolved to include tens of thousands of industry standards. Governments around the world use those standards as benchmarks for building codes and protocols to ensure public safety.
Radiant barriers must comply with ASTM standard C1313, which has guidelines for everything from reflectivity and tensile strength to corrosivity and permeability. Purchasing a radiant barrier that is ASTM compliant is imperative to ensure maximum insulating efficiency and minimal health hazards. If possible, purchase a radiant barrier that not only meets but rather exceeds certain ASTM standards, such as the Radiant Barrier Ultima we listed above.
Thanks to the ASTM, consumers can have peace of mind when it comes to toxicity in radiant barrier products. The ASTM D3310 standard ensures that compliant products pass a corrosivity test. Manufacturers also need to abstain from using materials that may be hazardous to human health. Therefore, most radiant barriers, certainly including all of the ones on our list, are toxin, carcinogen, and fiber free.
The ASTM standards for permeability measure how likely radiant barriers are to retain humidity. As a result, perforating radiant barrier sheets is now the industry standard. Since humidity is not an issue, there is no need to worry about the possible build-up of fungi or bacteria. This radiant barrier ability does not guarantee the same for other components of your attic wall, however, so it would be wise to check your attic for moisture related issues before adding a radiant barrier layer.
Most radiant barriers are composed of the same materials, but different blends and compositions give them different weights. For the most part, however, weights do not differ much across the board, so this one is up to personal preference. Some people prefer the lighter radiant barriers that are easier to install and put less stress on existing insulation, while others prefer the heavier ones for added sturdiness.
Type of material
The greatest difference in the type of material used to build radiant barriers is the sheet core. Some radiant barriers, such as the NASATECH Commercial Grade, use woven Mylar scrims to strengthen the sheet. Other radiant barriers, such as the ARMA FOIL, employ polyethylene sheets for protection against tears and punctures. Both have similar durability, so the best choice will vary depending upon which method your chosen manufacturer specializes in. Another possible difference is the reflective coating itself. While most manufacturers simply adhere aluminum foil to the core, some prefer to adhere aluminum particle coatings instead of foil. We have chosen the foil method since it is tried and true, but the newer particle coating production method promises to be the new benchmark for durability and effectiveness, and would also be a sound investment.
Warranty or money-back guarantee
As with any purchase, the assurance of a warranty or money-back guarantee provides consumers with peace of mind. The NASATECH Commercial Grade, for example, has a fantastic 120-day money-back guarantee that allows consumers to try the product without incurring any risks.
Several manufacturers state that their radiant barriers can block 99% of RF signals, which helps to protect against the theft of sensitive information. This effect is due to the metallic composition of the radiant barrier. RF signal and cell phone signal are different, however, so no need to worry about losing service inside your household.
Radiant barriers are designed to reflect heat no matter where the source is. Therefore, the same radiant barrier that reflects heat away in the summer can trap heat inside during the winter. In this case, we recommend a double-sided radiant barrier, such as the NASATECH Commercial Grade.
Radiant barriers are incredibly easy to maintain, and only seldom require a light dusting in poorly ventilated attic spaces.
After browsing through hundreds of consumer reviews, reading ASTM standard testing results, and reviewing the reputability of the different radiant barrier manufacturers, we have finally reached a conclusion. Due to its incredible durability, impressive reflectivity, and consumer-reported efficiency, the RadiantGUARD ULTIMA radiant barrier is definitely the best bang for your buck. The NASATECH Commercial Grade Radiant Barrier is another excellent choice that shines brightest in heavy-duty, commercial applications. The USEP Diamond Radiant Barrier is another great choice that features the newer metalized plastic film technology. Regardless of which radiant barrier best fits your needs, it is an undeniable certainty that your household will benefit from it. They are an affordable one-time expense that is easy to install and, best of all, will help you to save on your energy bill. Add a radiant barrier to your shopping list, grab our handy buying guide, and you will be saving in no time.