Insulation is one of the most important aspects to consider when looking at the energy performance and potential savings for your project. Especially on residential projects, the standard code required insulation is quite insufficient and leaves much room for improvement.
When thinking about improved energy improvement and especially the introduction of alternative or renewable energy, insulation is key as most of the energy is lost at the envelope of the building: the roof and the walls. If a building has an energy consumption of 100 units and produces 60 units with alternative energy, there are still 40 units to be paid each month.
Insulation, very high efficient appliances and HVAC as well energy star rated doors and windows can bring the unit use to 50. Not the same 60 units created actually pay back the owner… insulation is the key to make this equation work.
Beyond energy savings, choosing the right insulation may also contribute to better air quality. Even though most of the particles find their way into the air during construction, some insulation, such as batt insulation used for energy or sound barriers, can easily be released through simple repairs or even installation of picture nails and hooks.
There are so many options these days to look at insulation for the building. Bonded logic produces a series called Ultra Touch, which uses post-consumer blue jeans. Not just great insulation, but also bonus points for recycled content. Blow in cellulose insulation is formaldehyde and VOC free while diverting 300 tons of denim per month away form landfills. The R value can go up 30. Not a bad option (www.bondedlogic.com/ultratouch-cotton.htm).
Another fully sustainable alternative would be recycled wool, loose-fill insulation, such as the oregano shepherd line that provides up to r-4 per inch (www.oregonshepher.com).
There are more sustainable alternatives without going all the way to fully recycled or reclaimed materials. Formaldehyde free fiberglass comes in the traditionally familiar batt and roll variety with values from 11-38. Rigid foam panels also come in less toxic options, as does spray in insulation. Johns Manville and Owens Corning now offer environmental lines of product.
Personally I prefer a spray in system such as Icynene, Greenfiber or Certainteed. These systems use soy based or cellulose blows insulation that not just is easy t install and will literally fill the very last crack, but it also lets the access material be recycled on the spot, virtually eliminating any waste during construction.
It is important to seal all cracks, even if they are only a fraction of an inch. A small gap next to the insulation may appear minimal, but consider adding all those little cracks up to one large opening. This hole is typically about 3 square feet. Would you leave a 3 square feet hole in your wall? Probably not, so seal it. Knauf is a good option for these cracks as are other weatherization techniques.
When tackling your next project or upgrade, think of the insulation and realize quick savings in your energy bill. For further questions, contact your design professional. Sebastian Eilert Architecture. 786.556.3118 www.SebastianEilert.com
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