Insulation are materials that act as a barrier to heat flow; much like a blanket that keeps your home warm in the summer and cool in the winter. Installing the right insulation in your home is essential to ensure year-round comfort and to cut your power bills.
In this blog, we guide Aussie homeowners in choosing good quality insulation for their walls, ceilings, and floors. Here’s everything that you need to know so you can choose the right type of insulation for your home:
Insulation is key to thermal comfort
Thermal comfort improves your quality of life. It makes your home wonderful to live in.
In Australia, we enjoy a lovely temperate environment. However, it is a challenge to maintain the ideal 24°C indoor temperature inside our home from morning to evening all year-round. Insulation helps us even out the indoor temperature variations without overworking the artificial heating and cooling.
Choosing an insulation is not as fun as shopping for furniture, choosing paint, or picking tiles. It is one of the most valuable things to get right in during the planning stage. Therefore, you and your designer should take this matter seriously.
Insulation is good for the environment and your wallet
A well-insulated home is not only comfortable to live in, it also has environmental and economic benefits.
Installing the right insulation seals air leaks in your home which prevents heat loss during winter and heat gain during the summer. Because of that, you don’t need to run your heater and air-conditioner for a very long time. You conserve energy and cut electricity costs. You also reduce your home’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Good insulation also blocks outdoor noise and reduces drafts in the building.
How much will it cost?
Insulation generally costs less than one per cent of the overall cost of building a new or renovating a home. Never skimp on this investment — it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Renovators have plenty of cost-effective options that deliver immediate results. You will recoup the costs and you will notice the difference on the indoor temperature once you install a better insulation.
Expert tip: Look at the insulation’s R-Value when choosing your home’s insulation. R-Value refers to the absolute thermal resistance of an insulation barrier; the ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance.
Where to install insulation
To maximise your insulation, install it on the parts of the house that is most vulnerable to heat gain and heat loss.
It is highly recommended to install insulation on the ceiling. The roof is directly exposed to the sun’s rays and the cold night skies.
Consider insulating the raised floors. These are more prone to temperature fluctuations than a slab on the ground.
Homes also lose and gain heat through leaky walls, windows, and doors. To avoid this, insulate your walls and invest in better-quality windows and doors.
The different types of insulation
There are two main types of insulation: reflective and bulk. The two work in very different ways; you should have a combination of the two in your home to keep it comfy during the chilly and hot seasons.
Reflective foil has a highly reflective surface and it is used to insulate the roof and reduce the heat entering the home in the summer.
On the other hand, bulk insulation reduces the heat flow through your wall, floor, or ceiling. It is the blanket that keeps the warmth from escaping during winter.
Bulk insulation comes in different styles namely:
- Rolled blankets
- Spray foam
- Blockwork, composite insulated wall, or roof panels
Here’s an overview of each:
Batts & Rolled Blankets are puffy, fibrous, and made from polyester, glass wool, mineral wool, or sheep wool. These are cost-effective and easy to install. Your builders only need to cut the materials to size and wedge pieces between the structural framework of the house. (e.g. accessible ceiling cavities, wall cavities during construction, and under suspended floors)
Here are a few things you should know about this type of insulation:
- Mineral wool batts are firm and offer great acoustic properties
- Wear gloves and dust masks when installing glass wool and mineral wool. You don’t want to expose yourself to irritating dust particles.
- Wool and polyester bats produce less harmful dust particles.
- When glass wool insulation gets wet because of water leaks, you need to replace it.
- Wool insulation has a slightly higher R-Value when compared to other batts with the same thickness.
- Wool and polyester batts retain their thickness even after a long period of time, therefore they have a greater R-Value than glass or mineral wool batts.
- Wool is the most expensive.
- Fibreglass batts are fire-resistant
Loose-fill insulation happens when professional insulation contractors blow small insulating materials into roof and wall cavities using a flexible hose. This type of insulation fills all the small openings and narrow spaces. It provides your home with a gap-free layer of insulation.
Loose-fill insulation is usually made from mineral wool, glass wool, and cellulose fibre. Cellulose fibre insulation is made from a mash of recycled newspaper, borax, and boric acid. This type of insulation is vermin resistant.
A little warning, be careful when renovating homes built earlier than 1990. The loose-fill insulation used in those houses might contain asbestos, a dangerous building material. To be safe, call home inspectors and removalists before you demolish the structure.
Also, cross-check this type of insulation with your licensed electrician to ensure that it is at a safe distance from electrical wires.
Nevertheless, this is great for homes with skillion roofs or cathedral ceilings. You can use it to insulate existing cavity walls without removing the plasterboard. It provides full coverage and high thermal performance.
Foam insulation come in two forms: as a rigid board or in spray form. Professional contractors install the rigid board in the same way as batts. The spray foam can go inside walls, under the floors, and beneath the roof. It can seal small holes and cracks, which makes it the most excellent and most effective insulation in places with cold climates.
There are two types of spray foam insulation. The first one is a closed-cell foam, which has smaller bubbles and is more rigid once dry. This has a higher R-Value and is also more water-resistant, which makes it perfect for your home’s sub-floors.
The second one is open-cell foam. This type is best applied on your walls because it doesn’t expand much. It also offers better sound insulation when compared to the other.
Here are more things you should know about spray foam insulation:
- It produces less dust during installation
- It is a bit expensive to install, but it is highly effective and can help make your home more energy-efficient.
- Spray foam insulation is a long-term investment and commitment too because it’s hard to remove.
It is also recommended to use building materials that have insulating properties. Doing so can speed up the construction and can give you a comfortable and energy-efficient home.
One product to consider is structural insulating panels (SIPs). These are durable and modular prefabricated panels with a thick foam sandwiched between two rigid sheets. You can use this as your wall, floor, or ceiling. These are self-supporting, so no additional framing is required.
Another option to consider is insulated concrete forms (ICFs). These interlocking rigid foam panels have a hollow core where you can pour concrete. It is more durable and offers better thermal performance than SIPs.
You can also look into aerated autoclaved concrete (AAC), a light concrete block with tiny bubbles. This insulation material is great for floor, roof, and interior and exterior walls.
If you’re looking for a sustainable insulation material, try hempcrete. This walling product is a mixture of water, lime, and shredded hemp stems. It is non-toxic, it doesn’t off-gas, and it offers excellent acoustic and thermal insulation.
Choose the best and right insulation material for your home
The minimum insulation levels required by the BCA varies depending on the area. It’s best to get the advice of your designer and builders.
Also, you will reap the best benefits when you allow professionals to help you pick the best one and install it in your home.