5 Most Common Insulation Options
There are plenty of cheap and common insulation materials available on the market today. Many of these have been around for quite some time. Each of these insulations have their own ups and downs. As a result, when deciding which insulation material you should use, you should be sure to be aware of which material would work the best in your situation.
Recently, materials like aerogel (used by NASA for the construction of heat resistant tiles, capable of withstanding heat up to approximately 2000 degrees Fahrenheit with little or no heat transfer), have become affordable and available. One in particular is Pyrogel XT. Pyrogel is one of the most efficient industrial insulations in the world. Its required thicknesses are 50% – 80% less than other insulation materials. Although a little more expensive than some of the other insulation materials, Pyrogel is being used more and more for specific applications.
However, there are many useful insulation materials that are cheap enough to be affordable and useful in bulk. Here are the 5 most common types of insulation materials:
Fiberglass is the most common insulation used in modern times. Because of how it is made, by effectively weaving fine strands of glass into an insulation material, fiberglass is able to minimize heat transfer. The main downside of fiberglass is the danger of handling it. Since fiberglass is made out of finely woven silicon, glass powder and tiny shards of glass are formed. These can cause damage to the eyes, lungs, and even skin, if the proper safety equipment isn’t worn. Nevertheless, when the proper safety equipment is used, fiberglass installation can be performed without incident. Fiberglass is an excellent insulation material, with ratings as high as R-38. If you are seeking a cheap insulation, this is definitely the way to go, though installing it definitely requires safety precautions. Be sure to use eye protection, masks, and gloves when handling this product.
2. Mineral Wool
Mineral wool actually refers to several different types of insulation. First, it may refer to glass wool, which is fiberglass manufactured from recycled glass. Second, it may refer to rock wool, which is a type of insulation made from basalt. Finally, it may refer to slag wool, which is produced from the slag from steel mills. The majority of mineral wool in the United States is actually slag wool. The majority of mineral wool does not have additives to make it fire resistant, making it poor for use in situation where extreme heat is present. When used in conjunction with other, more fire resistant forms of insulation, mineral wool can definitely be an effective way of insulating large areas.
Cellulose insulation is perhaps one of the most eco-friendly forms of insulation. Cellulose is made from recycled cardboard, paper, and other similar materials. Some recent studies on cellulose have shown that it might be an excellent product for use in minimizing fire damage. Because of the compactness of the material, cellulose contains next to no oxygen within it. Without oxygen within the material, this helps to minimize the amount of damage that a fire can cause. So not only is cellulose perhaps one of the most eco-friendly forms of insulation, but it is also one of the most fire resistant forms of insulation. However, there are certain downsides to this material as well, such as the allergies that some people may have to newspaper dust. Also, finding individuals skilled in using this type of insulation is relatively hard compared to, say, fiberglass. Still, cellulose is a cheap and effective means of insulating.
4. Polypolyurethane Foam
While not the most abundant of insulations, polyurethane foams are an excellent form of insulation. Nowadays, polyurethane foams use non-chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gas for use as a blowing agent. This helps to decrease the amount of damage to the ozone layer. They are relatively light, weighing approximately two pounds per cubic foot (2 lb/ft^3). They have an R-value of approximately R-6.5 per inch of thickness. There are also low density foams that can be sprayed into areas that have no insulation. These types of polyurethane insulation tend to have approximately R-3.6 rating per inch of thickness. Another advantage of this type of insulation is that it is fire resistant.
5. Straw Bales
And finally, straw bales. While you might not expect straw bales to be of interest in this world of modern synthetic insulations, you might be surprised at the ratings that straw bales have received. Recent testing made by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory showed that straw bales had as high as R-3 per inch of thickness. While straw itself is not fire resistant, it can still be used in many situations where insulation is needed with fire perhaps being of little or no concern. Also, when used in conjunction with other more fire resistant insulations, straw bales can become an efficient and cheap way to insulate an area.
There are many forms of insulation available, each with their own set of properties. Only by researching each kind thoroughly can you discover which will be the right kind for your particular needs. As a quick overview:
- Aerogel is more expensive, but definitely the best type of insulation.
- Fiberglass is cheap, but requires careful handling.
- Mineral wool is effective, but not fire resistant.
- Cellulose is fire resistant, eco-friendly, and effective, but hard to apply.
- Polyurethane is an all around good insulation product, though not particularly eco-friendly.
- Straw bales are effective and eco-friendly, though not fire resistant.
Hopefully, this will help you in your attempt to find the right insulation for your needs.
William Jones has been in the heating and cooling industry for the past 37 years. Starting out in 1972 in the plumbing and heating industry, he obtained his Journeyman Plumbers license, then his Master Plumbers license and in Connecticut the P-1 unlimited Plumbing and Piping license. William studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Haven.
Being extremely interested in boilers and steam he then spent several years as a sales engineer concentrating on