Good insulation is often cited as the single most important factor in residential energy conservation but there are concerns about the health effects of the most common form of insulation, fiberglass batts.
Luckily there are plenty of eco friendly alternatives to fiberglass insulation. Here we list our top 7 insulation options for a healthy eco home.
1. Spray foam
Spray foam insulation products such has Icynene have supurb insulation ratings. In fact they can seal a house so tightly that it may be necessary to install a ventilation system in order to retain natural air quality!
Spray foam insulation works by spraying a special chemical onto surfaces, which then reacts with air to expand into a blanket of insulation foam that seals air leaks and also muffles noise.
The excellent insulation properties of spray foam don't come cheaply however; You can expect to pay more for this form of insulation, but you can also expect to have a quiet, healthy, well insulated home.
2. Rigid Polystyrene
Although polystyrene doesn't sound like an environmentally friendly product, it has excellent insulation properties by means of allowing very little air to pass through surfaces. When placed between sheets of strand board polystyrene forms a super insulating structure.
Polystyrene is moderately priced compared with some other eco insulation products.
Aerogels are a class of space-age insualtors that are produced by removing the liquid from silica or certain other materials under high pressure, resulting in an extremely light material that is strong and highly insulating. The R-value of most aerogels is higher than any other type of insulation that is available for residential property.
An exciting application of aerogels is their use in windows. Since most aerogels are translucent it is possible to fill them in between two layers of glass, thus making windows that are stronger and much better insulated than classic windows, while still being transparent.
Really the only drawback to aerogels is their relatively high price, though with their increased popularity of late the price of aerogels is becoming a little more affordable.
What could be more eco-friendly than the idea of recycling unused scraps of denim jeans into natural warm insulating batts for use in walls and ceilings?
Cotton is natural, renewable, and causes very few (if any) respiratory problems compared to other insulation products. Cotton batts have to be treated with fire retardant before being installed in houses but are still much more natural than fibreglass batts and they're also good at absorbing moisture.
The downside? There are generally a lot of pesticides used in the production of cotton so although it's a natural product it is not without an environmental footprint.
Like cotton, wool is natural and renewable. It is also biodegradable. Wool can be used to insulate homes without putting anyone's health at risk.
Sheep wool is naturally flame resistent so doesn't need to be treated with fire retardents, however it is often treated with boron to make it less volneratble to insect damage.
In New Zealand, wool insulation is often produced from waste wool left over from the production of carpets and textiles.
A special feature of wool insulation is that it reduces the need to adjust heating and cooling of the insulated room.
6. Cellulose insulation
Very popular due to its high use of recycled materials, cellulose insulation offers an affordable eco friendly way to insulate homes.
Cellulose insulation is made of plant fibre - often recycled newspaper, cardboard or sawdust - mixed with fire-retardent, and held together with chemicals that do not use formaldehyde. Cellulose makes very high use of recycled material (often 80%+) yet it provides very good thermal insulation. In addition, cellulose insulation uses borates that help to protect against mold.
7. Rammed earth
Based on an ancient building method, rammed-earth walls are natural and sustainable, noncumbustible, and offer good insulation. Rammed earth insulation is built using natural raw materials - earth, gravel, clay, chalk and lime.
Although they can be fairly labour intensive to construct without the use of specialist machinery, rammed earth walls are incredibly popular in some parts of the world, mostly due to their raw materials being economical and readily available.
Another advantage of rammed earth is that it reduces the need for air conditioning due to its property of absorbing heat during the day and releasing it during the night.