Environmentally friendly Home Insulation Options

Loose insulation in the attic

Heating and cooling of the home accounts for more that 50% of the average energy bills in the home so insulation choice is important if you are serious about reducing your overall energy consumption. Home insulation helps keep your home cool in the summer, warm and free of drafts in the winter and works as a vapor barrier, absorbing and releasing moisture when required.

The problem with standard home insulation has been air quality during installation and removal and reactions with skin and irritability. These problems are being addressed in the industry which has led to several new, environmentally friendly, non toxic options coming to the marketplace.

These products include recycled paper insulation, recycled fibre and cotton insulation, eco friendly foam insulation, wool based insulation and even mushroom insulation.

Environmentally Friendly Loose Insulation Options

Loose insulation or loft insulation is used to insulate attics, roofs and areas that require coverage but do not need to be inside a cavity like traditional Batt Insulation. The latest in environmentally friendly choices for loose insulation are recycled newspaper insulation and loose natural fibre and cotton insulation. Both of these products have high levels of fire retardant and contain no formaldehyde, are non toxic and non irritant. These loose environmentally friendly insulations are more than suitable replacements for mineral fibre insulations and the fire retardants used are natural (Borates) and repel rodents. These loose insulation options also consume less energy in their manufacture than standard fiberglass insulation.

Environmentally Friendly Cavity Insulation Options

The options normally associated with insulation for walls, studs and ceilings has been Fiberglass, rock and wool slag insulation or foam sprayed insulation. There are now 3 viable replacements for insulating walls and cavities that are environmentally sound. Natural Fibre, Wool and Environmentally friendly foam.

Natural fibre insulation is made from at least 85% recycled post industrial denim and cotton fibres instead of traditional fiberglass This natural fibre Batt insulation is safe to the touch, contains no chemical irritants, contains active mold inhibitors and is fire retardant. Bonded Logic is producing 3 great natural fibre products (Cavity, Cellulose and Radiant insulation) for use as insulation and can be applied towards LEED points. If you are choosing these natural fibre insulations for your home, some do not have a vapor barrier and it is recommended that one is installed prior if it is required by your local building codes.

Wool based insulation is made from 100% sheep’s wool and is safe to handle, does not have any VOC emissions, uses 14% of the energy required to manufacture fiberglass insulation, uses no pesticides as it naturally repels rodents and due to it being hygroscopic, it absorbs and release moisture without losing any of its thermal process. This is particularly helpful in very hot and cold climates as it will retain heat in the winter and release moisture in the summer, aiding in the cooling of the home. It has a long life expectancy; it is derived from a 100% renewable resource and is completely recyclable. It unfortunately is a more expensive option but in terms of environmental stewardship, it is a product that cannot be beat.

Foam insulation is now being produced that replaces the petroleum based polycol with natural oils, usually Castor Oil in the insulation process. It is also 100% water applied so there are no residual contaminants released, Because of the spread of the foam within the stud cavities, it acts as a great air band sound barrier, reducing home energy consumption and green house gas emissions. This process of spray insulation is also being used with recycled paper. Even though these spray insulation products are considered environmentally friendly, it is still important to wear adequate protection and swallowing these products can be toxic.

The future of Environmentally Friendly Home Insulation

There is continued research to produce more energy efficient and environmentally sound insulation. There has been a breakthrough in organic insulation, as two young inventors have produced insulation derived from flour, water, minerals and mushrooms. This process is still in the infancy stages but they are working on techniques to manufacture larger, organically based insulation to be used in homes.

A note on Fiberglass insulation

Fiberglass insulation, which has been the traditional insulation used in homes, has developed a bad rap lately with air quality and toxicity questions arising about greening our homes, but did you know that fiberglass insulation is also one of the largest consumers of recycled glass anywhere making it somewhat environmentally friendly. The down side to this product is that fiberglass insulation can be hazardous if inhaled and skin irritant if exposed. If this is an insulation option for your home, consider protection during installation and ensure there is adequate ventilation and you use a certified air respirator.

The Sexy Green Home Opinion:

Although we wouldn't classify insulation as particularly sexy, we would suggest that conserving energy, using recycled materials in your home and considering the air quality for your families a noble pursuit. Choosing the right insulation will add value to your home, reduce your energy bills, reduce VOC emissions and vastly improve your greenhouse gas emissions making the greening of your home much easier when you've taken care of the insides first.

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