Saturday, September 28, 2013

Green Insulation Products

People look to different factors to determine what is the most ecologically friendly choice in insulation. You may look to reduce exposure to chemicals, prioritize waste reduction by recycling materials, or prefer using renewable natural materials. Since heating and cooling accounts for such a large percentage of a home's energy expenditures, high quality insulation is green with respect to energy conservation no matter what.

I had the peculiar experience of getting very excited about home insulation products at the Frederick County Fair. There was a small exhibit displaying sheep's wool in use as home insulation. It's a natural, renewable fiber and one of its appealing properties is that it is flame retardant. Wool requires treatment to be safe from insect damage, usually with boron, which is also a natural element and doesn't have known health risks. Other "cloth" fibers such as hemp and manufacturers' scrap denim can be used as well, but they need to be treated with flame retardant chemicals.

Cellulose insulation is made from about 80% recycled newspaper, and requires a fraction of the energy to produce it compared to traditional fiberglass material. It comes in loose fill that is blown in, and it also needs to be treated with boron like wool does.

Foam insulation is now available--both spray foam and rigid foam--in a soy based product that doesn't have any toxic gas emissions and is non ozone-depleting. Foam insulation is also an excellent sound barrier. You may also wish to consider acoustical properties when choosing an insulation product.

Mineral wool is made from molten rock that is spun like cotton candy. It has excellent fire retardant properties as well as being unattractive to insects and pests. It comes in batt, loose fill and board form. It is a great choice for those who are looking to avoid chemical toxins.

The U.S. Green Building Council offers this buyer's guide for green insulation products if you are interested in more information.

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