The primary function of insulation is to prevent heat migration. This means keeping heat inside your home in winter and keeping it out during the summer. Heat can escape or enter your home via conduction, radiation, convection and air leaks. 

1. Conduction is the transfer of thermal energy between neighboring molecules in a substance due to a temperature gradient. Metals are very good conductors. Anyone who has touched a hot saucepan knows that metals conduct heat quite efficiently. In your home, heat can be conducted through walls, floors, ceilings, windows, and doors. 

2. Radiation is how heat jumps between two separate objects. This is how heat from the Sun crosses space to reach us here on Earth. The Sun heats your roof, which then radiates heat across your attic and heats your ceiling. Some of that heat then radiates to objects in your living spaces

3. Convection is the movement of heat in a gas or liquid. As air gets warmer it gets lighter (technically it becomes less dense) and rises. Hot-air balloons demonstrate this effect nicely – the hot, low density air in the balloon provides a lifting force. In your home, warmer air carries heat upwards, leaving lower levels cool and upper levels overly warm.

4. Air leaks allow heat to hitch a ride on air which can sneak in or out of your home through gaps, cracks and crevices. A common culprit is gaps around door and window frames which may not fit snugly into their cutouts.

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All this heat migration costs you money because it's wasting energy that you have paid for. Winter heat loss results in your furnace working harder and burning more fuel in order to keep you warm, while in summer, your air-conditioner slogs away to keep you comfortable.

Insulation drastically slows the migration of heat with thermal barriers and air seals. A thermal barrier prevents heat from traveling through walls and ceilings, often using materials that trap air to resist heat conduction. This resistance to conduction is known as R or R-Value. A higher number indicates better resistance. 

Air sealing prevents the movement of air though gaps and crevices. Air sealing is particularly important around doors and windows where gaps may exist between frames and wall structures, but the structures of homes and buildings are rife with small openings. Such gaps allow air to leak in and out of your home, carrying heat along with it.

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