Many methods of insulation have been tried and tested over the years to make homes more energy efficient, which has a positive impact on the planet, as energy needs are reduced. The U.S. Department of Energy discusses how insulation can be measured according to R-value, with the value of a material being higher if it is more effective as an insulator. In modern times, there is a huge range of insulating materials available with excellent R-values and eco-friendly properties – so here are some ideas to think about if you want to make your home more heat and cold resistant.
How does eco-friendly insulation work?
To understand insulation, you first need to understand heat flow, which consists of three basic mechanisms – radiation, convection and conduction. Radiation refers to radiant heat, which travels in straight lines, causing anything in its path to absorb energy and heat as a result, whilst convection refers to the way heat circulates through gases and liquids, and conduction refers to the movement of heat through materials. Eco-friendly insulation works the same as other less-planet-friendly options: by interrupting heat flow, dispersal and radiation, reducing radiant heat gain, or slowing conductive and convective heat flow. Many natural materials such as denim, cotton and soy have excellent R-values.
Eco-friendly insulation options
There are many eco-friendly materials that act as great insulators, embodying the principles above. Sheep’s wool is one such option, being naturally fire retardant with a great R-value – it needs to be insulating to keep sheep warm in frigid winter temperatures. Sheep’s wool insulation is made of compressed wool fiber, with millions of tiny air pockets created in the gaps between each individual strand. In addition to being fire retardant, the outer layer of sheep’s wool insulation is naturally water repellent too, whilst the fibers inside absorb moisture, meaning it can effectively warm your home in winter and cool it in summer without generating condensation, as well as being durable and easy to produce.
For a long-term insulation solution, lycnene is another great option, made from castor oil and applied as a spray foam which expands to about 100 times its volume, sealing cracks and leaks, and effectively insulating from noise distractions as well as heat and cold. During the expansion process, many tiny air bubbles are formed, which trap air as the foam cures – in fact, lycnene insulates so well that it requires a ventilation system to be installed alongside it. Whilst this can be expensive initially, the resulting drop in energy costs is so significant that you’ll quickly recoup the cost of your investment. Furthermore, you’ll benefit from reduced distractions from noise outside, as well as limiting the transmission of common airborne noises like snoring, television, shrieking kids and other common household noises.
If using recycled material peaks your interest, then you could consider a cotton denim mix. As a natural and renewable resource, shredded and recycled blue jean scraps that slot into your wall cavities just like fiberglass are remarkably good as an insulator, and being treated with a borate solution, these scraps are inflammable too. The natural insect repelling properties of cotton are a big bonus too – but be prepared to pay for the privilege, as cotton insulation is about twice the price of fiberglass. That said, it provides an enhanced lifestyle over fiberglass, so many people believe it is worth it.
These and many other options provide an effective and sustainable way to heat and cool your home, reducing toxins, and in many cases, naturally combating damp and fire. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to insulate your home, there are plenty of different materials with properties that will fit all requirements and budgets, and offer extremely effective results.