When Insulating Inside the Box, Try Thinking Outside the Box!

Friday, 20th May 2011 | by: Peter Barry

Over the past 12 months, I have seen a huge variety of buildings ranging from residential to commercial, with their structures built from brick, steel and in some cases even glass. Despite all of this variety there in one thing that these building have in common… They have all been insulated.

Insulation1If you’re planning a loft conversion, rear or side extension or perhaps just want an easy way to save a bit a money and keep your home warmer, insulation will no doubt be something that you would have given thought to.

Insulation is an effective and widely used building material that can save energy and money.

The insulation market is hugely overcrowded, there are numerous variations based on different materials, styles and products, the benefits of insulation include:

  • Keeping room temperatures at their best (reducing the loss of heat through the walls and roof).
  • A relatively low cost and easy to install method of reducing the bills within your home.

Conventional insulation is made from fibreglass, and is notoriously difficult to handle with the fragments quickly becoming airborne and causing great discomfit to those that are installing it; the manufacturers go as far to recommend that safety clothing, masks and goggles be worn during the handling of the material.

If you have had the pleasure of handling this type of insulation, you will no doubt be dreading the thought of having to do it again! Why not consider some of the less conventional forms that exist on the market such as Sheep’s Wool or Straw Bales. These not only offer all of the benefits of the conventional type, but in many cases can enable you to support local business, are cost effective and give your property the sustainable credentials that even the most sustainable savvy, such as Mr Cameron or Mr Clegg would gloat at!

Insulation2Sheep’s wool insulation: this is made up of the ‘off cuts’ when shearing sheep; with current standards in retail being so high, there is only so much wool per sheep that passes screening and goes on to mainstream production.

The wool that is “not fit” for purpose, in most cases being matted or  course would otherwise be a waste product. It is this waste that is combined with recycled polyester, thereby creating a highly effective insulation.

Wool naturally absorbs air pollutants and controls humidity levels, this is an excellent characteristic within a domestic situation, and enables the wool insulation to regulate the temperatures of the home naturally.

Another added benefit is that it is safe to handle, there is no need for any protective eyewear or clothing, making it simple and care free to install and cut.

Finally, in most cases being 100% British sheep’s wool, this type of insulation has a minimal carbon footprint as unlike much of the other insulation available on the market, it isn’t manufactured abroad and then shipped to the UK, meaning it naturally has a large carbon footprint.

If you’re looking for an alternative, environmentally friendly insulation or perhaps just a quirky selling feature, then Sheep’s Wool Insulation could be for you.

Straw insulation: Another form of insulation and perhaps more of a ‘green’ approach are straw bales. This sounds like a bizarre idea, however in practice it is actually highly effective and very cheap.

As a loose product, straw is highly flammable, however when packed into bales it is held tightly together and when packed between your walls or between the roof joists it becomes dense and therefore naturally fire resistant.

The straw bales themselves are obviously a very malleable material, the thickness can be adjusted to suit the space, making it suitable for most to all houses, however it should be noted that straw insulation only truly rivals conventional when it is thick for example the width of the bale.

Insulation3Straw itself is cheap and highly available material, the UK produces in excess of 4 million tonnes per year, and on average a bale can costs as little as £4.00. If you are willing to get your hands dirty and put in a bit of hard work, straw bale insulation could be a perfect insulation material for your home.

If your planning on doing building work to your home and want to ensure its sustainable credentials will be the envy of your neighbours’, why not think outside of the box when it comes to keeping your households heat within the box.


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