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Eco-Friendly Insulation Options: Sustainable Choices for Your Home

Prehistoric humans began learning about the science of insulation when they began losing their body hair. The oldest building insulation materials date back at least 9,000 years when mud bricks protected Middle Eastern desert dwellers from the hot days and cold nights. Today we have many more choices including eco-friendly insulation protecting the environment.

How Does Insulation Work?

Insulation blocks the flow of heat, sound, electricity, or shock from one area to another. Understanding what contains and redirects thermal energy will enable you to control the temperature in your home.

What Should Good Insulation Do?

Choosing the best insulation material involves planning. The ideal selection not only maintains your home's interior comfort, but resists moisture, fire, mold, pest infestation, and temperature extremes. It won't discharge particles, gases, or irritants. Other considerations include local availability, cost, and ease of installation. The best materials are sustainable and readily replenished, recycled, or reused. Finally, the production process should be inexpensive, safe, and labor-effective.

Insulation Forms

The products are manufactured in a variety of forms, blends, layers, and densities depending on where they'll be used:

  • Fiber felting
  • Loose-fill (blown-in) granules
  • Spray foams
  • Rigid boards
  • Reflective foils and coatings
  • Facings such as kraft paper, plastic film, and aluminum foil

The Most Sustainable Insulation Options

Many different insulators are commonly used, but eco-friendly insulation options are increasingly popular:

  • Cellulose: Made from recycled wood, paper, and even corncobs
  • Cork: Made from a type of oak bark
  • Cotton: Made from recycled fabric; recycled denim is a "thing" now; little energy is used in production; naturally repels insects
  • Fiberglass: Mostly made from recycled glass, a natural material; environmentally stable
  • Hemp: Watch this up-and-comer!
  • Icynene: Pronounced "ICE-sin-een;" made from castor oil into a spray foam expanding 100 times its original volume; very strong
  • Mineral wool: Fibers processed from molten naturally occurring minerals; fire-resistant; deters pests
  • Perlite: Heated volcanic glass that expands like popcorn; lightweight; easy to install
  • Sheep's wool: Fire-retardant; prevents condensation
  • Straw: Reprocessed into boards and panels
  • Vermiculite: Similar to perlite

Glossary of Common Insulation Terms

Batt: A pad of natural or synthetic fibers

K-value: The ability of a material to transmit heat

R-value: Resistance of a material to heat conduction; higher R-values indicate greater insulating capacity

U-value: The amount of heat transmission through the layers of a building part such as a wall or window; lower U-values indicate less heat transfer and better insulation

DIY or Hire a Pro?

Doing it yourself is cost-effective when you know what you're doing, and it makes you feel proud. However, if the job is difficult, dangerous, time-consuming, involves local building permits, depends on reliable helpers, or requires special tools, then consider contracting a professional insulation service. Trained experts working in the business often provide free consultations, offer recommendations tailored to your unique situation, and guarantee their work.

Your Insulation Solution Recap

Eco-friendly insulation choices are a worthwhile investment that will keep your home comfy and safe for years - good for you and good for the planet!

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