Home Insulation

Modern Building Materials Used To Insulate

Building materials are readily available materials for construction. They can be naturally obtained e.g. timber, sand, rocks and clay or manufactured in industries. Building insulation materials are thermal insulation materials used in retrofitting and reduce heat transfer in buildings by various modes; conduction, convection or radiation with a general goal of attaining home thermal comfort and reduced energy consumption.

Choosing building insulation materials

Before choosing the type of building insulation material, a lot of factors are considered. Some of these factors include;

  • Climatic conditions; regional weather conditions
  • Ease of replacement at the end of its life
  • Material flammability; for safety protection against accidental fires
  • Material toxicity;
  • Cost and effectiveness; this is the material affordability
  • Environmental effects and sustainability; whether they are environmental friendly.
  • Material durability; how effective it is in resisting degradation from decomposition, moisture and compression.
  • Ease of installation

Sometimes, when a single building material does notattain desired results, a combination of materials is advised for optimal solutions. Some examples of building insulation materials are explained below;

I. Hebel

For large scale construction projects e.g. warehouses, production centres and facilities, sports halls and events training centres among others, consider the use of hebel products. Building materials are delivered and assembled on site before being used in construction. In terms of efficiency and insulation, Hebel products are inflammable thus protect against fire.

II. Silka

These are calcium silicate blocks used in building slim highly stable walls with extreme sound absorbent properties. Silka, being a good material for storing heat, has over the years been used for thermal insulation in modern buildings. It being environmental friendly is made up of lime, water and sand.

III. Ytong

ClassicYtong building block as a construction material is very reliable and can be obtained at relatively low costs and can be used to attain very high quality construction requirements. The fact that it is easily compatible with other building materials and withstands high pressure makes it effective for use in a wide range of construction and renovation applications for both new and old buildings.
As an insulator, Ytong AAC (from sand, cement, lime and water) exhibits thermal insulation efficiency and its non-inflammable nature makes it offer good protection from accidental fires.

IV. Multipor

Multipor adds to classic Ytong building block. As a more innovative product with special properties, it forms multipor mineral insulation boards and panels for insulating new buildings and old buildings, also commercial and industrial structures and for energy modernization.
Multipor panels are free from harmful substances and contain no fibers; their production is also from environmentally safe raw materials.
Its properties make it to be considered an epitome in thermal insulation as it exhibits structural strength and optimum insulation performance.

Home Being Insulated while Building

V. Structural insulated panels (SIPS)

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are also referred to as stressed skin walls. The concept of foam-core external doors is extended to the entire house i.e. floors, walls, ceilings and roofs.
The panels are made from plywood, oriented strand-boards or drywall glued together and sandwiched with cores of expanded polystyrene or polyurethane, compressed wheat straws or proxy.
Proxy can also be used as an insulator on its own since it has a high R-value of between 7 and 9 and can resist chemicals and moisture. Its only setback is that of higher initial costs.
Materials used in making structured insulated panels (expanded polystyrene, polyurethane wheat straw, or epoxy) enable SIPs insulation properties. The following are other benefits

  • Exhibit true R-values and lower energy costs in the long run
  • No CFCs, HFCFs or formaldehyde substances used in its production
  • Can be assembled on site and offers a faster or quicker construction option
  • Impermeable to moisture and creates a solid insulation shell around the house ensuring an energy efficient home.

Despite their high costs compared to other insulation materials and the fact that thermal bridging may occur at lumber fastening points, their efficiency, effectiveness and R-value makes them desirable home insulation materials for modern houses.

VI. Straw bales

Straw bales usually construct thick walls from rice or wheat straws highly compressed together. They were used in traditional houses but different experimental projects have made them popular and are now embraced in modern structures due to low costs involved and the high R-value exhibited.
Before construction they are allowed to dry to get rid of moisture and then tightly packed to remove air gaps which might lead to reduced energy insulation efficiency.

VII. Insulating concrete form

Also called insulated concrete form (ICF), it is basically reinforced concrete unit form with thermal insulation properties for interior and exterior walls and also floors. They are manufactured from any of the below material;

  • Expanded Polystyrene or Polyurethane foam
  • Cement-bonded polystyrene beads or wood fiber
  • Cellular concrete

For flexural strength, concrete is poured onto steel bars erected in forms, it’s then cured and depending on the form material used, it offers thermal and sound insulation, improved interior air quality, backing for drywall, protection against fire and regulated humidity levels that reduce mold growth.
Insulating concrete form are categorized by shape of concrete inside form or by the characteristics they exhibit

Categorization by shape

Examples include

  • Waffle Grid System; concrete shape is obtained from a hybrid of screen grid and flat wall systems
  • Post and Lintel System; concrete contains lintel
  • Flat wall system; the concrete takes the shape of a flat wall
  • Grid system; the concrete takes the shape of the metal in a screen. The solid form material separates channels of reinforced concrete.

Categorization by characteristics

Examples include

  • Blocks; ICF block edges interlock thus no need of bonding material. They are manufactured from materials that exhibit low gravity
  • Panels; panel ICFs are flat and rectangular
  • Plank; have characteristics of both block ICFs and Panel ICFs in terms of dimensions

VIII. Ceramics

Clay manufactures bricks and special tiles used in floors, walls and roofs. All these materials exhibit good insulation properties.

IX. Building Papers and membranes

Building papers and membranes are used for Damp-proofing and water-proofing. Examples include;

  • Red Rosin Paper; used for protecting a job-site during construction and as an underlayment in roofs, floors and exterior walls.
  • Tar paper; invented in the 19th century and used as red rosin paper.

X. Styrofoam

Styrofoam which is 90 percent air is a very light material use in pipe insulation. It has an R-value of five per inch and can be used in road construction to prevent soil disturbances due to thawing. Styrofoam has the following characteristics;

  • High thermal resistance; making it a good material for saving energy
  • Thermal mass; for energy reductions especially when combined with passive solar designs
  • No or minimal air leaks; reduces heat loss and improved home comfort.
  • Strength and Durability; Styrofoam lasts longer and its component materials do not rot even when wet. Compared to wood framed structures, its structures last ten times longer
  • Also has high resistance to forces of nature.

Because of above characteristics and other qualities, Styrofoam has different uses as explained below;
Sound absorption; Styrofoam has low acoustic transmission and sound transmission coefficients (STC) of between 46 and 72 making it good for insulation against noise and unwanted sounds compared to Drywalls and fiberglass with an STC of 36.
Air quality; Styrofoam walls regulate humidity levels reducing the chances of mold growth therefore ensuring more comfortable home interiors
Fire protection; walls from Styrofoam have up to six hours fire resistant rating
Reduced landfills; it can be manufactured from recycled materials hence reduced environmental hazards.

XI. Glass

Glass is manufactured from sand and silicate mixtures subjected to very high temperatures in a kiln. To make it bulletproof, some additives are included in the mixture.
In modern construction, glass is used to cover small building openings allowing light into the building interior at the same time protecting against inclement and sometimes as a ‘curtain wall’ when used in covering the entire wall section of a building.

If you would like to see some great ideas and watch a few videos on this topic, have a look at this You Tube channel which is aimed at those who are looking for eco design ideas but also covers many insulation related topics.

Renovated House with Insulation

Best Ways To Insulate Your Home

According to experts, home insulation has many options to choose from ranging from the most efficient to least efficient. Choosing the right insulation therefore depends on the levels of efficiency required and the budget set aside for the process. Perhaps the degree of efficiency is directly proportional the installation cost of a particular method; expensive insulation methods tend to be more efficient and energy saving. Before insulation a home, one should take into consideration, the R-Value of the insulator. This is the material’s measured ability to resist conduction of heat. Materials with higher R-value act as better insulators since they conduct heat low amounts of heat. The R-value of each material is noted on the package during its manufacture.

Ways of insulation

The following are some of the best ways of insulating your home;

I. Blanket: Batt and roll insulation

Blanket is the most frequent insulation method. It utilizes materials such as natural and plastic fibers, mineral rock or fiberglass. Just as the name suggests, it consists of rolls and batts. Rolls are made of long, rolled-up strips of material and work best when casing a large open area while batts are cut into standard lengths and are more efficient in wrapping exteriors or interiors of walls. Fiberglass is the commonly used material due to its easy nature of installation; it can be done without the necessity of hiring a professional. The fiberglass is integrated in between beams, joists and studs. On the other hand, plastic and natural fibers are placed in floors or ceilings and have an easy installation procedure that saves on costs. They tend to be relatively cheap since they are mostly made of recycled material.

II. Concrete block and foam insulation

During building, a poor heat conductor is incorporated into concrete to add insulating properties to the walls. These materials are placed either on the exterior or interior of the walls to limit heat conduction. Materials such as form boards are placed inside or outside walls. They are also placed in unfinished walls or foundations to increase their R-value. In spite of their effectiveness in insulation, they do require specialized expertise to do the installation. Other materials such as concrete block are also used for new constructions and are done by insulating the outside of concrete blocks with an insulator that tends to control indoor temperatures. They are then dry stacked and surface bonded during building resulting in a high thermal resistant walls. Sometimes, beads or air particles are incorporated into the concrete mix used in making walls to increase its ability to resist heat conduction.
Concrete foam insulation is also an effective insulation method that involves installation of foam boards or blocks as part of structure of the building by interlocking hollow foam blocks. These materials are effective insulators due to their high warm air endurance

III. Blow-in or loose-fill

This type of insulation consists of materials loose enough to be blown into a wall cavity or hidden positions such as corners and edges using a blowing machine. These materials include loose cellulose, fibreglass which are generally cheap, easy to install and can easily be blown into position by drilling of holes into exterior of houses. They are mostly used in wall cavities, attic floors and other hard to reach areas such as non-conforming spaces and around framing. They are appropriate in insulating areas with obstructions or irregular shapes as well as already finished areas.

IV. Reflective systems

This type of insulation has a facing made of foil or Kraft attached to it for vapor and moisture control. The foils are incorporated between wooden frames, joints and even beams giving them the ability to reflect heat from the outside; which in turn reduces costs associated with cooling. Reflective systems can also be made of materials such as plastic film, polyethylene bubbles or cardboard. These materials are relatively cheap and help conserve energy. They are easy to install and don’t require specialized expertise and can be fitted in floors, ceilings or even unfinished walls. They are very applicable in areas with several blockades and crooked framing due to their high dynamism. They are mostly used to prevent vertical flow of heat such as roofs.

V. Sprayed foam

This type of insulation utilizes materials such as polyurethane, polyisocyanurate, cementitious phenolic to impede the transfer of either heat or cold. Spray foams are majorly of two types.The two-pound closed-cell foam inhibits the transfer of both air and vapor. It is usually applied on ceilings and roofs or in tight areas due to its high R-value. The half-pound open-cell foam is primarily installed in addition to the presence of a vapor inhibitor and usually used in vapor-free regions and walls. They are both effective in insulating irregularly shaped areas that may have several barriers. They are applied using specialized spray containers which then harden and take the shape of the cavity forming a barrier that inhibits moisture.

VI. Structural insulated panels (SIPs)

SIPs are made up of materials such as straws, form boards or liquid forms. Incorporation of these materials is done by fitting them together to form the floors, walls ceilings, and roofs of a house. They are more energy efficient in that, they are very good insulators that also offer noise proof abilities to a house. SIPs when used to build a house therefore offer the ability to build and insulate at the same time. They have high R-values enabling them be an ideal home insulators. Building of houses using SIPs takes a shorter time since the construction involves fitting together of pre-manufactured panels that make the walls and roofs of a house. Houses made with SIPs have been known to offer the highest insulation properties.

VII. Rigid foam and rigid fiber board

The rigid fiber board uses materials such as fiberglass or mineral wool to offer insulation properties. These materials are able to withstand very temperatures making them applicable in insulating very hot surfaces. The rigid foam board method uses materials such as polystyrene, polyisocyanurate and polyuthane that are installed in walls, floors, ceilings and roofs. They are thin but offer have very effective insulation properties. They lower conduction of heat due to their high thermal resistance ability