Today many of the most important new trends in home insulation relate to sustainability and the need for us to quite simply find ways to save energy.
It isn’t just about air space in the roof that keeps the house both warm and cool, or methods that we use to insulate water heaters. Similarly, it isn’t just about insulating our wall and floor spaces. It isn’t even just about the ability of being able to ensure that windows don’t throw away heat – windows being a primary energy-losing item in our homes.
What it is though is the ability of good home designers to ensure that we make the best of the energy we have available. It also relates to our ability to maintain insulation efforts.
Without effective insulation in our homes, we WILL waste precious energy. So it is vital that wherever we live in the world – irrespective of the climatic conditions in which we live, and the resources we have at hand – that we do everything possible to make our homes as energy efficient as possible.
The Implications of Insulation Materials
When we insulate buildings – including the homes in which we live – we use these materials to stop electricity, heat, cold and/or sound from either getting into or out of the building. Not only does insulation enable us to save money (essentially because we use less electricity), but it also makes our lives considerably more comfortable. How, you might ask? Well, simply by making our living environment warmer or colder, depending of course on the season, and by cutting out loud (unpleasant) noise from outside.
While our housing insulation efforts are primarily geared towards the structure of the house – more specifically to balance the heat and cold elements via the floor, walls and roof of the building – vacuum insulated windows have become a major factor in terms of sustainability. But we are going to focus on the materials that we add to the structure of the house, to (quite simply) improve insulation.
Materials we Commonly use for Insulation
We have been using a range of different insulation materials for decades. Many of these have become commonplace, although improvements are being made all the time, and some are more popular (and therefore a lot more trendy) than others. Different materials are specified for use in ceilings, walls or under floors, as well as for use around plumbing pipe work and to insulate hot water cylinders. You need to familiarize yourself with these, and then decide which will help you in your quest for a better insulated home.
The full range of insulation materials currently used includes:
- Boards, blankets and precut batts that may be used on both flat and large cylindrical surfaces, including hot water cylinders that we use for bathing, showering and cleaning our belongings.
- Slabs of expanded or extruded material that can be used on pretty well every type of surface. This generic material ranges from fiberglass to natural hemp, which is undoubtedly one of the best new trends in insulation.
- Reflective foil that is backed with various different materials including paper or board.
- Felt that is fairly flexible and may be used around elements that might include big boilers.
- Flexible wired mattresses that are fixed into place using wire mesh. In this instance, loose or granulated material may be used to fill voids.
- Spray foam that is frequently used to insulate large regular surfaces including cavity walls and roof spaces.
- Spray fiber that is now believed to be the most common choice when it comes to insulation of irregular shapes including turbines or elements that require fireproofing.
- Fibrous tape or rope that might be wrapped around pipe work.
- Specially manufactured pipe and cylindrical sections that fit nice and snugly over pipes and cylinders.
How to Decide Which Insulation to Use Where
While there are specific insulation materials that may be used, climatic conditions along with building construction methods and the type of heating and cooling procedures will determine exactly what is chosen.
The fact of the matter is that some types of insulation work better than other types, and sometimes the older products do the job admirably. So before you decide which type of insulation to use, be sure to evaluate the pros and cons (and this doesn’t relate simply to price of product and installation) of the products available to you.
- Reflective foil insulation that stops radiant heat and condensation in its tracks.
- Bulk insulation that prevents the transfer of heat via conduction and convention. There are loads of options here, from good old-fashioned glass fiber, rock fiber, cellulose fiber and polyester fiber. They are all quite different to one another, but all have a similar effect, just like hemp!
But what if you specifically want to go green?
Hemp is a good option. It’s a good plant and insulation qualities are superlative. Generally hemp is used instead of the usual insulation options within dry walls and ceilings.
Not good enough? Well then why not build a straw bale house. While not a new concept, the idea of using a natural material like straw is enough to convince some people.
Soy beans – the great alternative to meat for vegans – is also a brilliant go-green option for insulating homes. Once it has been sprayed, this great natural insulator will swell to more than 100 times its natural size. Amazing!
Recycled cotton is also said to be a new, amazing contemporary material that creates really cool insulation. In the insulation industry, what they are doing is grabbing old jeans and similar items; cleaning and stripping the fabric, and then coating it with boric acid to make it soft and pliable. Sounds good since they say this form of home insulation material is resistant to mold, insect infestation and lots more.
All-natural sheep wool is another insulation material. Well I suppose we all have our favorite heavy jumpers – so why not try wool in your home?