by Keith Dmytryck
Insulation is a means to reduce energy costs spent on heating and cooling. The right kind of insulation lets you save on your energy bills by as much as 30%.
Traditional insulation materials are, however, not very friendly to the environment. Eco-friendly insulation options are those which are made from natural and recycled materials and those which do not give off gases that could harm your health or the environment.
Nothing beats the spray-on foam insulation called icynene in completely sealing your house and therefore keeping your heating and cooling expenses down. Made from castor oil, icynene assumes the thickness of paint once it is sprayed on the wall.
Icynene has a fluffy, sponge cake-like texture which expands in volume nearly 100 times once it makes contact to the surface. It thoroughly blankets and seals air leaks to stop drafts and muffle noise. Foam insulation seals a house so thoroughly that builders need to create a ventilation system to allow for fresh air to enter and stale air to exit your home. It is more expensive that fiberglass, but the air tightness of the insulation helps to recoup the extra expense.
A scientist decided to replace the liquid in a jelly with air to create a superb insulation material called aerogel. Boasting an R-value of 10.3 per inch of thickness, aerogel is one of the most efficient insulation materials around.
Aerogel is now made by removing liquid from silica under conditions of extreme temperature and pressure. The resulting material is 90% air, is very light and consists of a molecular structure that is almost impenetrable by heat, making it a superb insulation material. It is very expensive, though and can cost $2 per foot.
Polystyrene may be plastic but it is considered by the US Department of Energy as an eco-friendly insulation material because its high R-value of 3.8 to 4.4 per inch of thickness enables homeowners to reduce their energy costs considerably. Plus it is easily recycled so it has little impact on the environment.
Cotton is a rapidly renewable resource that has also been tapped for home insulation. It is comparable to fiberglass insulation in that cotton has relatively the same R-value as fiberglass – anywhere from 3.2 to 3.7 per inch.
The foremost advantage of cotton over fiberglass insulation is that unlike the latter, cotton does not contain the carcinogen formaldehyde. Cotton is excellent at absorbing moisture and can be rendered fire-retardant when added with boric acid. The drawback, though, is that cotton insulation is twice as expensive as fiberglass.
The wool of a sheep is what enables this a sheep to withstand the unforgiving cold of the Arctic. Today, scientists have used the amazing insulating powers of sheep’s wool to create natural insulation material for homes.
It has been found that sheep’s wool, when compressed, regulates temperature by way of trapping air in its millions of tiny pockets. This essentially keeps the sheep (and your home) warm in winter and cool in summer. Moreover, sheep’s wool is more fire-resistant than other types of insulation.
If you are planning on a building project and are interested in learning more about how to build green, please feel free to contact us. We’ve been serving the South Shore communities of Massachusetts since 1980 and we will be glad to answer any questions you have and even give you some estimates based on materials used.