A Brief Guide To The Kinds Of Insulation Installed In Modern Homes

A Brief Guide To The Kinds Of Insulation Installed In Modern Homes

Double And Triple Glazing

Over 85 percent of British modern homes have some kind of double or triple glazing installed. And it’s primarily for insulation purposes. Conventional single pane glass windows are absolutely terrible at preventing heat from escaping a house. Heavy curtains used to be completely necessary during the winter to prevent a home from becoming near impossible to heat without open fires or a constantly running central heating system.

Multi panel windows first became popular during the 1930s, but invented in the late 19th Century. The concept behind double and triple glazing is simple. It involves a sandwich a material that does not conduct heat freely in between two panels of glass and the window will let far less heat through.

The material used to prevent conductivity is usually a see-through gas: Argon. Argon is present in our atmosphere, but only in very small amounts. It is far less conductive of heat than the air we breathe, which makes it a perfect insulating gas.

Although the installation of double glazing is expensive, the UK government has set up several funding schemes that can help pay to get the job done. It is in the interest of the government to promote energy efficient homes, and the funding available for double glazing is part of a push to realize this. Triple glazing is even more insulating. For a quick guide that can help you decide whether you need double or triple glazing click here.

Rock Wool

Rock wool is technically a brand name, but it has become widely used as a colloquial name for all kinds of mineral derived insulation wool. Rock wool is created by melting a volcanic mineral at around 1600 degrees Celsius before combining it with chemicals and binding it into a woollen sheet. The resulting material conducts very little heat, which makes it perfect for insulating.

Unlike other insulating materials it is not prone to mould or degrading over time, which means it keeps its value. Although it typically costs slightly more than fiberglass insulation material, it is also much more fire resistant and costs about the same in terms of installation fees. Several brands of mineral based insulation wool are available. It is popular for use in lofts or wall cavities.

Foam

For small DIY insulation jobs some people use plastic foam, which is easy to acquire from building stockists. It’s great for keeping garages and sheds warm. Plus, this material is far less useful for making sure that an entire house is efficient to heat. Thin strips of polyethene foam board have been proven to be highly effective and far easier to install than fiberglass or rock wool. Unlike those materials, plastic foams are not dangerous to work with for people without specialist safety equipment.

Sprayed Foam

Sprayed foam is rarely used for insulating whole areas of a house, but it is perfect for filling in gaps that threaten to let in breezes or let out heat. Sprayed foam insulation expands to fill space. Crucially, tiny air bubbles form in the expanding foam. This helps to prevent the transfer of sound and heat.

If you are using insulating foam yourself, be sure to keep a solvent on hand to clear away any foam that expands to obscure light fittings or power outlets. Carefully paint on or spray on solvent to remove foam – always making sure to wear a mask to prevent inhalation.

Some kinds of sprayed foam insulation such as Icynene are actually used to insulate entire homes. It’s not a popular method of home insulation due to the potential for extensive and hard to remove mess. However, a good professional will be able to get great results using this kind of material.

Reflective Foil

Reflective foil is very good at preventing heat transfer. Reflective insulation (often referred to as insulation foil) can prevent heat transfer and is often used on the exterior of sensitive areas in hot climates. New multifoil reflective insulation is sometimes also installed on interior surfaces.

Reflective insulation has several benefits. It is often very thin. So it’s more space efficient in tight spaces and it does not degrade over time, so it keeps value very well. Because of how thin the foil insulation can be, it is often used to insulate boilers, meaning that they take less energy to heat.

In terms of disadvantages, reflective insulation can be quite expensive. It is also quite ineffective in cold or seasonal climates. All in all, it  isn’t ideal for modern homes in the United Kingdom. When used outside, any covering of dust or leaves will make reflective insulation far less effective. Keeping foil insulation material clean is very important and not particularly practical for every homeowner.

Paint

Paint is a a very effective reflective insulator. In hot countries, paint used on the exterior of houses can keep them cool. White paint is traditionally used in some areas of Greece as an insulator. Modern day chemists have formulated ceramics-based paints that are incredibly effective insulators. These ceramic paints were allegedly first synthesized by the US space agency NASA for use on spacecraft. At the time of writing, these paints are far too expensive to be considered cost effective in a normal home. However, though prices will decline as insulating ceramic paint becomes more popular. It is wise to wait until thermal insulation paint is more proven and popular. There are currently far too few independent studies on the effectiveness of thermal paints.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation roll is created by heating glass to incredibly high temperatures and then separating it before bonding the strands to a material. This process creates little pockets of gas around the fibres which assist in the prevention of heat transfer. Fiberglass is extremely popular as an insulating material in uninhabited lofts, where it can be used with reckless abandon. A great deal of the heat lost in modern homes rises up and is lost through the roof, so loft insulation can make a very big difference.

Unfortunately, fiberglass is not suitable for use in parts of the home that are regularly used. This is because the fibres, when broken loose, can cause severe irritation in the human respiratory system. Although rumours are often spread that link fiberglass and lung cancer, there has never been any proof that the material causes cancerous cells to grow.

Fiberglass is cheaper to buy than rock wool and is often used in the same places. Popular in the UK for decades, it remains a good option for loft insulation, but is losing appeal for modern homes. Climb into any dusty attic in the United Kingdom and you are likely to encounter rolls of fiberglass insulation laid out on the floor or nailed into the ceiling.

Loose Fill

Loose fill insulation can be made of just about any insulating material. It is typically sold as granules of material that can be fed into a wall cavity in order to improve heat retention. This kind of insulation can incorporate recycled materials.

Recycled newspaper, for instance, is one of the more regularly used materials for cavity filling. Unfortunately, newspaper granules make a perfect home for rodents, so care should be taken to fill any gaps that might lead into walls filled this way. Some insulating wool companies offer granulated versions of their products that can be used to fill cavities. Rock Wool, for instance, offers this material.


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