For Immediate Release:
SAINT PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources and the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota have issued an alert to consumers who are considering the purchase of radiant barriers in their attics. Both Commerce and the BBB have received numerous reports of salespeople pitching the radiant barrier product at free dinners throughout Minnesota.
“We want consumers to know that radiant barriers are not a cost-effective way to reduce heating or cooling loads in Minnesota,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Radiant barriers in attics may be valid for homes in southern states, but they save very little energy in Minnesota homes. They are a dubious energy investment—a bad deal for Minnesota homeowners.”
Radiant barriers consist of a reflective film, usually aluminum, laid over the top of attic insulation in existing homes. They are sold as an energy-saving product, with claims of significant reductions in both heating and cooling costs. However, their potential benefit is primarily in reducing air-conditioning cooling loads in warm or hot climates and in buildings with little or no insulation.
A Radiant Barrier Fact Sheet compiled by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy shows that the benefits of radiant barriers decrease significantly as one travels north. In southern cities like Miami, Fla., or Austin, Texas, radiant barriers could reduce one’s utility bill by as much as $150 per year using average residential electricity prices. But by the time you reach colder climate states such as Minnesota, where air-conditioning loads are considerably less, savings drop to only $10 to $40 a year. If there are no ducts or air handlers in the attic, the savings are much less.
If the price to install the radiant barrier is $2,500 or more and the consumer only saves $25 per year, it would take at least 100 years to pay back the investment. It’s also important to note that radiant barrier products have negligible benefit in reducing heating costs. It is unlikely that most Minnesota consumers would realize any measurable energy savings from radiant barriers in attics.
Buyers beware, know what you’re getting
“We strongly urge all consumers to be cautious, conduct due diligence, and explore other proven means to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient,” said Rothman. “Don’t be misled by ‘deals’ or ‘pilot programs’ available for a limited time only. Get input and bids from at least three contractors, and make sure those contractors are reputable.”
The U.S. Department of Energy and Minnesota Department of Commerce agree that, in Minnesota, implementing air sealing and adding conventional attic insulation would be considerably cheaper and much more effective for saving energy than installing a radiant barrier. In fact, as attic insulation levels increase, the potential benefits from a radiant barrier decrease. Getting a home energy assessment through your gas or electric utility is encouraged as a first step to identifying cost-effective energy improvements. Consumers can contact their utility to arrange an energy audit.
Before purchasing any energy-saving product, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota advise you to:
The BBB also offers the following tips to consider before attending a free luncheon seminar:
For more information on insulation and other energy-efficient measures to improve your home, contact the Division of Energy Resources at 800-657-3710 or 651-539-1886 or visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce - Energy Division site. The website offers home energy guides, including the “Home Envelope” (.pdf) consumer guide that includes information on a wide range of energy efficiency topics (including air sealing and insulation) and choosing a contractor.