Environmentally Friendly Choices For Loft Insulation

Home & Garden Blog

Installing loft insulation in your home has a range of significant benefits — it dramatically reduces your air-conditioning bills in summer by trapping cool air in your house, and does the same for warm air in winter, knocking down your heating bills too. It also fills acoustic spaces to reduce unwanted ambient noise, and keeps out draughts and wind-blown sand and dust.

However, environmentally-conscious homeowners may have misgivings about the materials used to make most loft insulation, such as rock wool, plastic and fibreglass. These materials require a lot of energy and material to create, and are non-biodegradable. Some may also cause skin irritation or even trigger nasty allergic reactions. With that in mind, the insulation market now offers a range of greener alternatives made from sustainable materials; here are a few of the most popular.

Sheep's wool insulation

What works for sheep works for homes too, and sheep's wool can be a tremendously effective heat barrier when installed properly. Generally available in compressed rolls that appear very similar to ordinary rock wool loft insulation, wool insulation can be installed yourself over the course of a day, saving yourself the cost of professional installation. There are other advantages too - sheep's wool is very breathable and does not absorb much ambient moisture, retarding the spread of mould (anti-fungal agents are often added to the wool before sale to bolster this effect), and while not fireproof like some man-made materials, it does not catch fire easily.

The main drawback of sheep's wool insulation is cost. Wool insulation is among the most expensive kinds of insulation available, especially when purchased in pre-rolled blanket form. It can also be relatively difficult to find, and you may have to seek out a specialist insulation merchant to find it easily. Wool also has a shorter service life than most insulation materials, although many brands now treat their wool with preservatives to extend its useful life.

Cellulose insulation

Cellulose is actually a kind of sugar, and is the substance present in the walls of plant cells that gives plants strength and structure. Cellulose insulation is therefore made from recycled plant products, usually recycled newsprint and paper products, and can provide a cheap and effective way to insulate your home. Cellulose insulation is available in two main forms, although various specialised derivatives are available:

  • Dry cellulose: This is loose material blown into wall and ceiling cavities with a high pressure hose, and packed tightly to provide an insulating barrier.
  • Spray cellulose: This is the same material as dry cellulose, but with water added, along with an anti-mould agent such as chlorine, to create a thick paste. This is sprayed into wall cavities, where it provides even more effective insulation than dry cellulose. It also creates a vapour barrier if installed correctly, preventing condensation and mould buildup in adjacent rooms.

Both of these options are among the most inexpensive forms of insulation available, and can be easily retrofitted to older homes. Boric acid or other fire retardants are added to eliminate any potential fire hazard, and also provide an effective defense against attacks by termites or other burrowing insects. In terms of actual performance, cellulose insulation is comparable to other, more conventional materials when it comes to providing insulation, although it cannot match high-end polyurethane insulation.

Unfortunately, using cellulose comes with a few disadvantages, chief among which is the sheer weight of the stuff. Because densely packed cellulose is so much heavier than other materials, you may have to pay for a structural inspection to make sure your walls and ceilings are strong enough to bear the weight, particularly if you live in an older house. Adding to the cost is the necessity of hiring professional insulation installers, as improper application will cause the cellulose to settle unevenly and leave gaps through which heat or cold can escape.

Hemp insulation

Hemp has been used as building materials for centuries, and they are undergoing something of a renaissance for use as insulation materials. Combined with binding materials, such as potato starch, and a suitable fire retardant, hemp insulation is available in blankets and batts, and can be installed quickly and easily. Naturally insect-resistant, and low in dust, it's among the greenest insulation materials you can find, with extremely low embodied energy.

However, finding it is the main problem. While it is now popular and widely available in Europe, it has yet to make it to Australia in any big way, and you may have trouble tracking down a supplier. Hemp insulation is also more susceptible to fire than traditional insulation materials, and relatively heavy. You should also make sure you know what you're buying, as some hemp blankets contain polyester, a plastic, to give them strength — this may make your insulation unrecyclable once it has reached the end of its service life.

Talk to professionals like WA Direct Plasterboard & Building Supplies to see if they can accommodate alternative insulation methods.


30 June 2015

Creating An Organised And Functional Kitchen

The kitchen is the most used room in my home, and in the past, I found it could get messy and chaotic very quickly. Trying to cook dinner when you can't find an essential appliance or see past the clutter on the counter is no fun. I realised I enjoyed my time in the kitchen more and was more productive when my kitchen was organised and laid out in a way that optimised functionality. I changed my kitchen cleaning and organising routine, decluttered, got rid of appliances I don't use and moved things around to ensure frequently used items were easy to reach. I started this blog to share my tips for creating a kitchen that's enjoyable to use, and I post about ways you can optimise the space you have. I hope you find my posts useful.