Home insulation is essential for anyone who wants to keep their energy costs down and protect the planet. If you want to limit your carbon footprint, you have to think of using eco-friendly home insulation options. These materials are primarily made of recycled materials. In comparison, materials like fiberglass may only contain up to 30% recycled material.
When evaluating the different options, you also have to consider the energy used in the production process. Ideally, you should go for materials that aren’t manufactured with a lot of energy. Although you will naturally need to compare the costs of the insulation options, keep in mind that eco-friendly insulation will usually cost more than alternatives like fiberglass.
What is the Point of Home Insulation?
Insulation is a great way of improving energy efficiency in the home. With proper insulation, you will be able to keep the heat in during the winter and the cool air in during the summer. This way, you can lower your heating and cooling costs by over 40%. This is especially noteworthy when you consider the fact that 44% of home energy usage goes towards heating and cooling the house. On average, the insulation pays for itself within six years.
Insulating your home will also make the space more comfortable throughout the year as you will enjoy consistent indoor temperature. In many cases, it will eliminate condensation on the walls and ceilings.
Aside from lowering the costs of heating and cooling the house, insulation will reduce your carbon footprint and will allow you to save on non-renewable energy sources.
Which Eco-Friendly Home Insulation Options Are Available?
There are many eco-friendly home insulation options you can use. In this section, we’ll examine the popular types and find out whether it would be a good idea to add them to your house. Since these are becoming popular, you can easily find them from places like Materials Market.
As we know, sheep can survive long, cold winters on farms and mountains. This is because their warm fluffy fleece is able to keep in the warmth, no matter how cold the outside environment gets.
Traditionally, many communities have also used sheep’s wool to keep warm in the colder seasons. From these illustrations, it is clear that sheep’s wool is an excellent insulation option in the house. The standard sheep’s wool home insulating material is made using 5% to 20% polyester for extra strength. Polyester also makes it possible for manufacturers to mold the material into different shapes for home insulation.
Sheep’s wool is probably the best material as far as the environment goes. It is completely renewable since sheep can be sheared at least once a year. The fleece will always grow back, so the supply of sheep’s wool keeps increasing. You can also recycle this material and clean it for other purposes. As an extra advantage, wool will absorb and release moisture without losing its thermal qualities.
Aerogel isn’t a naturally-occurring material, but that doesn’t mean it is bad for the environment. Developed in the 1930s, it primarily contains air. Insulating your entire house with aerogel has previously been considered a wild idea, but many people are opting for this insulation material today.
Its structural framework is usually composed of silica, but other materials can be used to create aerogels. These include iron oxide, copper, carbon, gold, and organic polymers. These solid materials only make up less than 5% of the volume of the aerogel, and the rest of which is filled with air. The air in the microscopic pores doesn’t have a lot of room for movement, so gas-phase conduction and convection cannot occur. These characteristics make aerogel the lowest-density solid, and they also make it great for thermal insulation.
Aerogel also has high water-repelling capabilities and can prevent corrosion and moisture damage to the insulating components.
Cotton is both renewable and natural, and it can be used to insulate the house. To work as insulation, the fabric is folded into batts like fiberglass. Since this material is made from old denim, it helps to reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfills. You can also recycle the insulation itself, and this is one benefit that separates denim from materials like fiberglass. Denim also doesn’t contain the dangerous gas formaldehyde. Furthermore, it doesn’t cause any respiratory issues and will help to repel insects in the house.
Although denim insulation offers lots of advantages, you should remember that it comes with a hefty price tag. On average, it will cost 10% more than fiberglass. It is also difficult to cut and isn’t malleable. That can make it a little harder to install – check out this video by dirtbag minimal to see how its done:
Cork is 100% natural and is considered one of the most environmentally-friendly materials for construction. Cork is made from oak trees, using only the outer bark, and can be recycled. Once it is completed, the material will have a negative carbon footprint, which is why it is considered the most eco-friendly material. Although cork oaks are native to the Mediterranean and North Africa, this insulation is mostly produced in Portugal, where the trees have been protected and harvested manually for over 100 years.
In addition to insulating the house, cork can prevent the development of mold and moisture. It is also very durable and will never need to be replaced. The main disadvantage of this insulation material is that it is costly.
Polystyrene is a widely-available plastic that is used to make products like toys and packaging. In its expanded form, this plastic has very low thermal conductivity, and that makes it great for home insulation. It has a lot of small pockets of air inside, and the polystyrene itself is highly resistant to heat. Because of these characteristics, this insulator has an excellent R-rating. You should also note that polystyrene is often lined with aluminum foil on at least one side, and this reflects and blocks the radiant heat. The result is that heat gain and heat loss are further reduced.
Polystyrene is quite easy to handle as it does not irritate the skin. It is also nearly odorless, and this has made it a popular choice among professional installers. Although it is eco-friendly, this material often ends up in landfills since there are no biological agents that can break it down. Its manufacturing process can also release harmful pollutants into the environment.
Cellulose is a fairly popular insulation material for the roofs and walls of modern buildings. It is also commonly used on existing buildings since contractors don’t need to remove existing walls to install it. The material is made from recycled newsprint and denim, and it is highly eco-friendly and biodegradable. When using this material for insulation, you will be able to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, and this will, in turn, lower the release of harmful greenhouse gases.
Although cellulose insulation has been around for more than a century, it only started gaining popularity in the 1950s. That was when fire-retardant chemicals were added to the material. Today, cellulose insulation is also treated with non-toxic chemicals such as boric acid and ammonium sulphate, which protect the material from insects, fire, and mold.
This is a spray foam insulation that is made of castor oil. When sprayed on a surface, it expands by 100 times its volume. A benefit of Icynene is that it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals or blowing agents, and this makes it an eco-friendly insulation. This material has a U-value of 0.039, which is in the same ballpark as fiberglass. Since the material is breathable, the timbers will not rot. The formation of mold and condensation will also be prevented with Icynene.
Home insulation is very important as it makes the house more comfortable. It also helps to lower your energy consumption and energy bills significantly. Minimize your carbon footprint by choosing eco-friendly insulation materials such as sheep’s wool, denim, aerogel, cork, polystyrene, cellulose, and Icynene. You should ensure that the products aren’t manufactured in energy-intensive processes. Also, try to go for those that are made from recycled items. Lots of home insulation materials can also be recycled later, reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which are the best construction materials for environmental sustainability?
Some of the building materials are the most eco-friendly and sustainable are concrete, steel, bamboo, wood, recycled plastic, and glass. Check out the full guide to learn about the best options for eco-friendly insulation.
What is the most environmentally friendly home insulation material?
The most environmentally friendly and sustainable home insulation options include sheep’s wool, aerogel, denim, cork, polystyrene, and cellulose. You can significantly lower your carbon footprint by using these insulation options. Check out the full guide to learn more about these eco-friendly home insulation options.
Do I have to use insulation on my house?
According to the UK Building Regulations, and most regions around the world, homeowners have to adhere to certain standards for thermal insulation. Using insulation in your home will also significantly lower your energy bills. Read the full guide to learn more about the benefits of using insulation, and the most sustainable alternatives to conventional insulation materials.
What is the R-value in home insulation?
The R-value measures the ability of the insulation to resist heat traveling through it. A higher R-rating indicates that the material has better performance in insulation. Check out the full guide to learn more about insulation and how it is rated.
References and Useful Resources
Attainable Home: What is Aerogel Insulation
Attainable Home: Pros and Cons of Cellulose Insulation
Home Logic: Pros and Cons of Sheep Wool Insulation
The Spruce: Pros and Cons of Denim Insulation