Back in the early ’80s, when I started building houses, choosing insulation was as easy as picking your favorite color: Pink, white, or yellow? It was understood that the word “insulation” referred to fiberglass batts. Super-insulation — the buzzword of the era — meant stuffing thicker walls full of thicker batts. Back then, it was all about R-value. Today we know that no insulation scheme can be successful unless it addresses air infiltration, moisture transport, and thermal bridging as well as heat transfer — and it must do so without breaking the bank. Often what’s called for is a systemic approach, in which the best qualities of two or more products are combined for maximum cost-effectiveness.

Recently some insulation companies have come out with so-called “hybrid systems” that purport to take the guesswork out of insulation planning. Others have introduced improved — or more environmentally friendly — versions of old stalwarts that can be used by themselves or as building blocks to assemble a superior insulation system.

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