Frequently Asked Questions About Cellulose Insulation:



Q.: What is Cel-Pak?

 A.: Cel-Pak is a premium quality cellulose insulation.

Q.: Who makes Cel-Pak?

 A.: Cel-Pak is manufactured by National Fiber of Belchertown, MA.

Q.: What is Cel-Pak made from?

 A.: Cel-Pak is made primarily from over-issue newsprint, along with other high-quality over-issue paper sources, and carefully selected post-consumer newsprint, typically from paper drives. As an example, if a New England newspaper printed 1,000,000 copies yesterday, but only sold 750,000, National Fiber buys the remaining 250,000 in bulk and turns them into insulation.

Q.: So that’s it? Cel-Pak is insulation made out of newspapers?

A.: There’s a little more to it than that. 🙂
The newspaper is first reduced to very small pieces in a machine called a hammermill, pieces just big enough to make out one letter from the original newspaper. In the next step, these tiny pieces are ‘fiberized’, that is, they go through another process that breaks them down to the component fibers of the original tree from which the newsprint was made. At this point, there’s no resemblance to the original newspaper. Then a borate, a naturally occurring mineral, is added for fire, mold and pest control. Lastly, there is a tiny amount of mineral oil added, for dust control. The product is then bagged in 25 lb. bags.


Q.: What makes Cel-Pak ‘premium quality’?

 A.: National Fiber goes to great lengths to ensure that their Cel-Pak cellulose insulation is the highest grade, most consistent product available. They actually hand sort the paper going into their product to remove metal bands, twine, glossy or coated stock (like coupons, etc.) They also don’t use mixed, post-consumer recycled material, which means that the product is dry and doesn’t contain pieces of plastic, metal, or bits of somebody’s leftover foodstuffs.

Q.: Won’t cellulose make my house more likely to burn down if I have a fire?

A.: No, in fact just the opposite. The borate (a naturally occurring mineral) added to the cellulose fiber ensures that cellulose insulation won’t support combustion. In fact, here’s a picture of what happens when cellulose is exposed to flame, in this case from a torch.

The very top layer of the insulation chars instantly, and that char protects everything underneath it, including the hands of our initially reluctant designer, John, who ‘volunteered’ for this picture at the photo shoot. (There is no trick involved in the photo, but we do not recommend you try this at home. And you should never, under any circumstance, try this with fiberglass or foam based insulations – you’ll get badly burnt.)

The simple fact of the matter is that cellulose will perform better and provide better protection in the event of a fire than any other commonly used type of insulation.

Q.: My neighbor’s house, insulated in the ‘80’s, had settling problems. Will Cel-Pak settle?

A.:You’re not going to have that problem with Cel-Pak, because there have been two significant changes since the ‘old days’ of cellulose insulation.First, the way the product is manufactured. Today’s product is fiberized, which allows for increased coverage and lower settled densities.Second, the machines and techniques to install the product have been greatly upgraded. It may sound like a simple job, but it requires a technically sophisticated, truck or trailer mounted machine to properly install Cel-Pak. It also takes specialty training to learn how to correctly install Cel-Pak. So with today’s equipment and techniques, Cel-Pak is ‘dense packed’ in the walls of your building at twice its settled density. In simple terms, that means that the wall or ceiling cavity is filled and is actually under slight pressure from the material. It can’t settle because there is no space left for it to settle into.

Q.: I’m a handy person. Can I install Cel-Pak myself?

 A.: Sorry, no. It takes a very special machine and unique training. Even where Cel-Pak is used to ‘cap’ an attic, i.e., it is blown in loose, there’s a technique to it, and you really need to know what you’re doing. For attics only, you could rent a light-duty machine at the Home Center and install a ‘homeowner grade’ cellulose product, but you won’t get the same result. And that home center or lumberyard rental machine simply isn’t capable of dense packing a wall cavity. Save yourself the hassle and call us!

Q.: Are there other choices in insulation?

 A.:There are basically three widely available choices in insulation products for your home : fiberglass, cellulose and sprayed foam insulation.

Q.: Doesn’t R-Value tell the whole story, i.e., ‘Good R-Value equals good insulation.’?

A.: You’ve hit upon perhaps the single most misunderstood idea about insulation, that R-Value tells the whole story. Not only does R-Value not tell the whole story, it barely scratches the surface.

R-Value is a measure of a material’s thermal conduction, which is fine as far as it goes. Unfortunately, R-Value has taken hold in the consumer’s mind as a universal method for comparing insulations – the higher the R-Value, the better the insulation, end of story. But all R-Values are not created equal, because they measure only one of the factors that determine how an insulation product will perform in the real world.

Insulation is, first and foremost, meant to stop the movement of heat. The problem with using R-Value as the sole yardstick of an insulation’s effectiveness is that heat moves in and out of your home or office in four ways: by conduction (which R-Value measures), and by convection, radiation and air infiltration (none of which R-Value measures). But let’s stick with the concept of R-Value for the moment.

The R-Value’s of insulation materials are measured in a lab. That would work great – if your home was inside a lab! But your home was built outdoors, and that means there are other factors like wind, humidity and temperature changes in play. These factors create pressure differences between the interior and the exterior of the building due to things like hot air rising, air pressure, and mechanical systems forcing air through every tiny little opening and making its way to the interior.

Your home or commercial building may look solid, but there are thousands of tiny gaps, cracks and penetrations between building materials. For example, when we apply the air pressure of a 20 MPH wind on a 20 deg. F day to a building, the typical R-19, fiberglass insulated wall often performs no better than the wood studs (R-6) – because of air infiltration, with heat being transported around (bypassing) the fiberglass batts through convection. In very low density materials like loose blown fiberglass, heat will actually radiate right through the insulation, and this, along with convection, significantly reduces fiberglass’ installed performance and your comfort.

A superior insulation system will have good R-Value (prevent heat loss via conduction), will be pneumatically or spray applied, fully filling the building cavity (prevent heat loss via convection), and will be densely packed (prevent heat loss via air infiltration and radiation). Fiberglass meets the first criteria, but not the other three. Cellulose meets all four of these critical performance criteria! In addition, you want your insulation to do more than just insulate. Besides insulating, cellulose can help prevent the spread of flames in the event of a fire, deters mold and pests and blocks the transmission of sound much more effectively than fiberglass. The insulation in your walls, ceilings, attic, etc., has a lot of jobs to do besides insulating – and cellulose is up to all those jobs!

Don’t choose your insulation because some brightly colored cartoon cat with a catchy theme song says it’s good. Choose it because it can do all the things you need your insulation to do !

Q.: But which one costs the least? I’m on a budget!

A.: First, we have to define the terms. If you’re talking about price at the time of installation, well, that would be fiberglass, followed by cellulose, then comes foam. But cost isn’t the same as price. Cost = price plus cost over time. And in that equation, cellulose beats fiberglass by a mile. Here’s an example.Let’s say you’re building a new home, and the price of fiberglass insulation is $2,000. Let’s say insulating the same home with cellulose has a price of $4,000. So if we stop there, fiberglass wins and you ‘saved’ $2,000. But you were planning on living in your new home, right? Which means you have to heat it and cool it.Because cellulose will save you (on average) 40% of your energy costs versus fiberglass, if your energy bill each year in the fiberglass house is $3,000, then the energy bill in the same house insulated with cellulose will be $1,800, a savings of $1,200 each and every year. So if we run that out ten years, assuming stable energy prices, the fiberglass house costs $2,000 + $30,000 = $32,000. The cellulose insulated house costs $4,000 + $18,000 = $22,000.So the answer to your question is, cellulose costs a lot less than fiberglass over time, even before you take into account the fact that insulating with cellulose does such a good job at preventing air infiltration that you may very well be able to install a smaller furnace and a smaller AC unit – another savings! It’s also quieter, safer in the event of a fire, resists pests such as carpenter ants and termites – the advantages of cellulose just go on and on.

Q.: Where can I learn more about cellulose insulation?

 A.: Try National Fiber’s website or the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturer’s Association website.

Q.: What’s the difference between cellulose, fiberglass and foam insulations?

A.: There are many differences. Here is a link to a simple chart that outlines some of them:
Updated Cellulose Comparison 7:09
+++++++As you can see in the chart, Cel-Pak cellulose insulation offers some distinct advantages over fiberglass and sprayed foam. Cel-Pak offers:
– Excellent insulation value
– Excellent resistance to air movement through the wall or ceiling
– No gaps or voids
– The best resistance to noise transmission
– In the event of a fire, Cel-Pak works to help prevent its spread
– Active protection from moisture, mold, and pests like carpenter ants
– The highest recycled content, by far and
– The least embodied energy
In short, Cel-Pak cellulose insulation represents an outstanding value and is the ‘greenest’ choice you can make in insulation for most applications.

Q.: Embodied energy? What’s that?

 A.: One measure of embodied energy is simply the amount of energy it takes to manufacture something. In the case of Cel-Pak, it takes 750 BTU’s (British Thermal Units) of energy to make 1 lb. of it. By comparison, it takes 12,000 BTU’s to make a pound of fiberglass and more than 30,000 BTU’s to make a pound of sprayed foam insulation. To the consumer, the lower the embodied energy of a product, the less pollution generated when the product was made.