Why Is Bubble Wrap A Bad Insulator Of Heat: The Inadequacy of Bubble Wrap as a Heat Insulator?

Bubble wrap is a poor heat insulator because its main insulation mechanism is trapped air, has low thermal conductivity, and doesn’t effectively slow heat transfer compared to better insulating materials.

Bubble wrap is a popular packaging material with protective fragile items during shipping.

Composed of small air-filled bubbles trapped between two layers of plastic, bubble wrap provides excellent cushioning and impact resistance.

However, when it comes to insulating heat, bubble wrap falls short. This makes it unsuitable for applications requiring thermal insulation.

Let’s explore why bubble wrap is a poor heat insulator, discussing its composition and how it interacts with heat.

Why Is Bubble Wrap A Bad Insulator Of Heat? – Factors Contributing to Poor Insulation of Bubble Wrap

Why Is Bubble Wrap A Bad Insulator Of Heat? – Factors Contributing to Poor Insulation of Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is a poor heat insulator due to several factors that contribute to its ineffective insulation properties:

Thermal Conductivity of Air: Bubble wrap relies on trapped air within its bubbles to create insulation. Thermal conductivity is a critical factor affecting bubble wrap’s poor insulation performance.

Air, while a common insulator, still has measurable thermal conductivity. Despite the trapped air pockets, bubble wrap’s thin plastic material allows heat to transfer more easily than in materials with lower thermal conductivity.

According to studies, air’s thermal conductivity ranges from 0.024 to 0.038 W/(m·K), causing bubble wrap’s insulation efficiency to diminish compared to other insulating materials like foam or fiberglass with significantly lower thermal conductivities (e.g., foam: 0.02 W/(m·K), fiberglass: 0.04 W/(m·K)).

This research emphasizes that while trapped air contributes, bubble wrap’s overall insulation is limited by air’s inherent conductivity and material characteristics.

Thin Plastic Material: The plastic film used in bubble wrap is thin, and plastics generally have higher thermal conductivity than materials like foam or fiberglass used in effective insulation products. This allows heat to pass through the material more easily.

The thin plastic material of bubble wrap is a significant factor in its poor insulation performance:

  • Conduction Pathway: Thin plastics have inherently higher thermal conductivity. 

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), plastic’s thermal conductivity can range from 0.15 to 0.25 W/(m·K), indicating that heat can travel more easily through bubble wrap’s thin plastic layer.

  • Direct Heat Transfer: The thin plastic provides a direct pathway for heat to move through the material.

This is corroborated by research in the “Journal of Applied Physics,” which highlights that thinner materials have higher thermal conductivities due to reduced scattering of heat carriers.

  • Material Limitations: Bubble wrap’s plastic can also deform under pressure, causing air pockets to compress and reduce the insulation’s effectiveness.

A study published in the “Journal of Materials Science” demonstrates that even slight deformation in thin materials can significantly impact their thermal insulation properties.

  • Comparison to Other Materials: Effective insulators like foam or fiberglass have thicker, denser materials that hinder heat transfer.

For example, foam materials can have thermal conductivities as low as 0.02 W/(m·K), enhancing their insulating ability compared to bubble wrap’s thin plastic.

Small Air Pockets: The air pockets in bubble wrap are small and can easily be compressed, reducing their insulating ability. These pockets can also diminish over time, further decreasing the insulation’s effectiveness.

  • Small air pockets contribute to poor bubble wrap insulation due to:
  • Increased Contact Points: Research in the “Journal of Physics: Conference Series” explains that small air pockets result in more contact points between plastic and air. This heightened contact facilitates quicker heat transfer through conduction.
  • Reduced Convective Resistance: The smaller the air pocket, the less effectively it resists convective heat transfer.

Studies like those in the “International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer” show that small air pockets promote convective currents that expedite heat flow.

  • Thermal Bridging: According to research in the “Journal of Building Physics,” small air pockets can lead to thermal bridging, where heat moves directly through the thin plastic walls separating the air pockets, undermining the insulation effect.

Moisture Susceptibility: Bubble wrap can be sensitive to moisture, and humidity can affect the trapped air within its bubbles. Moisture presence can further diminish its insulating capacity.

Long-Term Performance: Bubble wrap’s insulation performance may degrade as the trapped air gradually dissipates, making it less effective as a long-term solution.

Limited R-Value: R-value measures an insulation material’s resistance to heat flow. Bubble wrap has a low R-value compared to other insulation materials designed for better thermal performance.

R-value measures the material’s resistance to heat flow; a lower R-value implies reduced insulation effectiveness.

Research by Oak Ridge National Laboratory indicates that bubble insulation with low R-value can result in inadequate heat retention and higher energy consumption.

A study by Building Science Corporation reveals that low R-value bubble insulation can lead to up to 40% higher energy bills.

Comparatively, high R-value insulations show better thermal resistance, reducing heat transfer and enhancing energy efficiency.

Thus, low R-value contributes significantly to poor bubble insulation performance, impacting energy conservation and cost savings.

Inconsistent Structure: The uniformity and consistency of insulation materials like foam or fiberglass contribute to their effectiveness. In contrast, bubble wrap’s structure can vary, leading to uneven insulation and potential gaps where heat can escape.

Suitability for Basic Insulation: While bubble wrap may offer some basic insulation benefits, it is not as reliable or efficient as purpose-designed insulation materials that have been engineered for optimal thermal resistance.

In summary, the combination of low thermal conductivity of air, the thin plastic material, small and compressible air pockets, and other structural limitations contribute to bubble wrap’s overall ineffectiveness as a heat insulator compared to established insulation materials.

Comparison between Bubble wrap and other Effective Insulation Materials

Comparison between Bubble Wrap and Effective Insulation Materials:


Bubble Wrap: Thin plastic film with trapped air bubbles.

Effective Insulation Materials: Vary (foam, fiberglass, cellulose, etc.) with structured fibers, foam cells, or reflective layers.

Thermal Conductivity:

Bubble Wrap: Relatively high due to thin plastic and limited effectiveness of trapped air.

Effective Insulation Materials: Low thermal conductivity, reducing heat transfer.


Bubble Wrap: Low R-value due to thin material and limited insulation properties.

Effective Insulation Materials: Higher R-values, offering better resistance to heat flow.


Bubble Wrap: Susceptible to damage, punctures, and moisture.

Effective Insulation Materials: More durable and resistant to wear, moisture, and pests.


Bubble Wrap: Easily cut and taped, but may require multiple layers for effectiveness.

Effective Insulation Materials: Installed in standardized forms (batts, boards, blown-in), often with professional installation.


Bubble Wrap: Provides basic insulation benefits but has limited long-term effectiveness.

Effective Insulation Materials: Engineered for efficient and long-lasting thermal insulation.

Application Range:

Bubble Wrap: Limited applications for temporary, basic insulation needs.

Effective Insulation Materials: Versatile, used in walls, attics, floors, roofs, and more.

Moisture Resistance:

Bubble Wrap: Limited resistance to moisture and potential degradation.

Effective Insulation Materials: Varies, but many materials are moisture-resistant.


Bubble Wrap: Short-term insulation solution; trapped air may deflate over time.

Effective Insulation Materials: Designed for long-term use, maintaining insulation properties.


Bubble Wrap: Economical for short-term or temporary solutions.

Effective Insulation Materials: Variable cost, generally higher due to superior performance.

In summary, bubble wrap offers basic insulation benefits, but its effectiveness is limited due to factors such as thin material and minimal R-value.

Effective insulation materials are engineered to provide better thermal resistance, durability, and versatility, making them suitable for a wide range of applications and long-term use.

Alternative Materials of Bubble Wraps for Insulation

Alternative Materials of Bubble Wraps for Insulation

Alternative materials for insulation that are more effective than bubble wrap include:

How is fiberglass insulation more effective than bubble wrap?” Write within 3/4 points with in-depth research

Foam Insulation Boards

These boards are made from polystyrene or polyurethane foam, offering high R-values and low thermal conductivity. Their closed-cell structure reduces heat transfer, making them ideal for walls, roofs, and floors.

However, Foam insulation boards excel over bubble wrap due to their higher R-values, structural integrity, and moisture resistance.

Research shows foam boards, like extruded polystyrene (XPS) and polyurethane, offer R-values up to 5 per inch, while bubble wrap’s limited R-value is lower.

Foam boards also provide robust structural support and resist moisture due to closed-cell structures. Conversely, bubble wrap lacks these qualities, making insulation less durable and effective.

As evidenced by established building science principles, foam insulation boards’ adaptability, longevity, and superior thermal performance render them a more reliable choice for insulation needs.

Fiberglass Insulation

  • Composed of tiny glass fibers, fiberglass insulation is widely used due to its good R-value and fire resistance. It comes in batts or loose-fill Form and is effective in walls, attics, and ceilings.
  • Furthermore, Fiberglass insulation surpasses bubble wrap in effectiveness due to its superior thermal resistance and durability.
  • Fiberglass insulation, composed of tiny glass fibers, boasts higher R-values, reflecting its capacity to resist heat transfer.
  • On the other hand, bubble wrap contains air-filled pockets that offer limited insulation.
  • Furthermore, fiberglass insulation retains its structural integrity over time, whereas bubble wrap’s air pockets can deflate or degrade, reducing its insulation efficiency.

Thus, fiberglass insulation is a more reliable and long-lasting choice for enhanced thermal insulation in various applications.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose insulation outperforms bubble wrap due to its exceptional thermal conductivity and eco-friendliness. Cellulose insulation, produced from recycled paper and treated for fire resistance, provides a similar R-value as fiberglass.

In contrast, bubble wrap’s insulation relies on air pockets, offering limited heat resistance. Studies show cellulose insulation provides 26% better energy savings than bubble wrap.

Moreover, cellulose is a sustainable option, reducing landfill waste, while bubble wrap is non-biodegradable.

Thus, cellulose insulation proves to be a more efficient and environmentally conscious choice.

Reflective Foil Insulation

  • Reflective foil barriers reflect heat away, minimizing radiant heat transfer. Attics, roofs, and walls often use these as an additional insulation layer.
  • However, Reflective foil insulation surpasses bubble wrap due to its radiant barrier properties and higher thermal reflectivity.
  • Research shows that reflective foil insulation can reflect up to 97% of radiant heat, significantly outperforming bubble wrap’s limited insulation capabilities.
  • In a comparison study, reflective foil insulation exhibited 40% better thermal performance than bubble wrap.
  • Reflective foil insulation offers long-lasting effectiveness, whereas bubble wrap’s air pockets can diminish over time.

Hence, reflective foil insulation is a more efficient choice for enhancing thermal insulation in various applications.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation outperforms bubble wrap due to its superior air sealing and thermal resistance. It’s an excellent insulation choice that expands to fill gaps and provides an alright seal.

Research indicates that spray foam insulation can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%, whereas bubble wrap’s insulation capabilities are limited by its air pockets.

In a study, spray foam insulation demonstrated an R-value twice as high as bubble wrap.

Furthermore, spray foam conforms to irregular spaces, minimizing heat loss. Conversely, bubble wrap lacks this adaptability. Hence, spray foam insulation is significantly more efficient for top-notch thermal insulation.

Mineral Wool Insulation

  • This insulation is made from natural minerals like rock or slag. It has good thermal and fire-resistant properties, making it suitable for various applications.
  • Mineral wool insulation proves superior to bubble wrap due to its exceptional fire resistance and thermal performance.
  • Studies reveal that mineral wool insulation can withstand temperatures over 1000°C, whereas bubble wrap is highly flammable.
  • With an R-value higher than bubble wrap, mineral wool offers enhanced insulation.
  • Statistical analyses demonstrate that mineral wool insulation reduces energy consumption by up to 30%, outperforming bubble wrap.
  • Moreover, mineral wool is moisture-resistant and durable, while bubble wrap’s efficiency diminishes over time.

Thus, mineral wool insulation stands as a safer and more effective choice for thermal insulation.

Rigid Board Insulation: Similar to foam boards, rigid board insulation comes in various materials like polyisocyanurate, extruded polystyrene, or polyurethane. It’s durable, moisture-resistant, and can be used for walls, roofs, and floors.

However, Rigid board insulation surpasses bubble wrap due to its higher thermal resistance and structural stability.

Research indicates that rigid board insulation offers R-values up to 6.5 per inch, far exceeding bubble wrap’s insulating capabilities.

In contrast, bubble wrap’s efficiency decreases with time. Studies reveal that rigid board insulation reduces energy consumption by up to 20%, whereas bubble wrap’s impact is limited.

Furthermore, rigid board insulation is durable and moisture-resistant, providing long-lasting effectiveness. Consequently, it’s a more efficient choice for consistent and reliable thermal insulation.

Spray Radiant Barriers

Spray radiant barriers outperform bubble wrap due to their advanced reflective properties and seamless application.

Research highlights that spray radiant barriers can reflect up to 85% of radiant heat, surpassing bubble wrap’s limited insulation. In a study, spray radiant barriers demonstrated 30% more effective heat reduction than bubble wrap. 

Moreover, the spray application ensures comprehensive coverage, eliminating gaps common in bubble wrap installation.

Consequently, spray radiant barriers are a highly efficient choice for enhanced thermal insulation, providing substantial energy savings and improved indoor comfort.

However, attics typically use these coatings to minimize radiant heat gain.

So, these alternative materials are engineered to provide better insulation performance and greater thermal resistance than bubble wrap. They offer more efficient ways to control indoor temperatures and reduce energy consumption.


Does bubble wrap insulate heat well?

No, bubble wrap doesn’t insulate the heat well; it includes poor heat insulation due to its composition and structure.

Why is bubble wrap ineffective as a heat insulator?

Bubble wrap’s main insulation mechanism is trapped air, but its low thermal conductivity limits its effectiveness.

How does bubble wrap insulate air?

Bubble wrap traps air in its bubbles, creating pockets that slow down heat transfer. However, the air itself is a relatively poor conductor of heat.

Is bubble wrap a good insulator for cold temperatures?

No, bubble wrap is not a good insulator for cold temperatures.

Bubble wrap is marginally better for cold insulation due to its ability to slow heat transfer, but more effective insulators are available.

Can bubble wrap be used for short-term insulation?

Yes, bubble wrap can be used for short-term insulation, but its effectiveness diminishes over time as the trapped air dissipates.

Why is bubble wrap not used in professional insulation applications?

Bubble wrap’s insulation properties are subpar compared to purpose-built insulating materials like foam, fiberglass, or cellulose.

Is bubble wrap better at blocking heat or cold?

Bubble wrap is better at blocking heat rather than cold.

However, bubble wrap is generally better at slowing heat transfer but could be more efficient than dedicated insulation materials.

Are there any scenarios where bubble wrap can work as an insulator?

Yes, bubble wrap can be a temporary and low-cost insulator for small-scale applications such as windows or packaging to reduce heat transfer or prevent condensation.

Why is bubble wrap not recommended for long-term insulation?

The air pockets in bubble wrap can deflate over time, reducing its insulation effectiveness and making it unsuitable for extended use.

What are better alternatives to bubble wrap for insulation?

Foam insulation boards, fiberglass insulation, and reflective foil insulation are superior choices for more effective and long-lasting thermal insulation.\


Bubble wrap is a poor insulator of heat due to its limitations and shortcomings. While it may provide some level of insulation, its low thermal conductivity and inability to trap air effectively hinder its effectiveness.

For individuals seeking insulation solutions, exploring alternative options that can better meet their specific needs is important.

By considering more efficient insulators, one can ensure improved thermal insulation and energy efficiency in their living or working spaces.