New Zealanders have woken up to the benefits of warmer, drier homes. They’re better for the health of the people living within, better for their energy budget, and better for the planet.
But what are the pros and cons of the various kinds of insulation? Are some types of thermal insulation greener than others?
The first thing to note is that any form of insulation is better than none. Simply by installing ceiling insulation or underfloor insulation, you’ll be reducing your energy usage (and your carbon footprint). A fully insulated house only needs about half the heating of an uninsulated house.This is because the insulation fibres create a web to trap air, and create thermal resistance, which stop heat flowing out of your home in winter, and into your home in summer.
Then take a look at the substance the insulation is made from. Not all insulation is the same!
Some insulation products are made of fibreglass and use chemicals such as formaldehyde to bond fibres together. Others use alternative fibres, such as wool, and promote their products as ‘green insulation.’ And yet others take another approach to the eco goal, and manufacture insulation from recycled products such as plastic drinks bottles, which when un-recycled take four hundred and fifty years to decompose! Insulation can also be made using tiny fibres of recycled glass bottles.to form a synthetic fleece with fire resistant properties.
There’s a nice irony about taking a waste product that would otherwise be dumped, and transforming it into insulation that keeps people warm and helps stop greenhouse emissions. The polyester used in this type of insulation is non-irritant and non-toxic. The fibres are bonded together using heat, not chemicals like formaldehyde. All in all, it’s a smart way to kill several birds with one stone.
The final thing to think about when you’re looking at eco-friendly insulation is the lifetime impact of the product. The most environmentally sensitive option in the world won’t look too flash if you have to rip it out after a decade or so and install new insulation from scratch.
This is where a stable, long-lasting fibre like polyester starts to earn its keep. Backed by a 70-year product warranty, it radiates the assurance of long life and minimal risk of premature disposal. That’s enough to give you an extra warm glow inside.