As the first snowflakes get ready to make their debut for the 2012 winter season, there’s never been a better time to make sure that your business is well insulated and ready to take on the cold. While insulation is complicated to say the least, here’s a quick look at the different types of insulation available, in order to make your establishment as energy-efficient as possible.

Understanding the ins and outs of insulation

When it comes to understanding insulation, there are two aspects that every retailer, industrial business owner, hotel and foodservice operator need to take into consideration; the first is the type of insulation and the second is the material being used.

With information taken from the website of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Caelus Green Room provides a nicely summarized list outlining the different types of insulation. These include:

  • Blanket Insulation: Blanket insulation includes Batts or rolls of either fiber glass, rock wool or cotton.
  • Loose-fill or Spray-applied: This type of insulation is normally blown-in or sprayed-in using professional equipment and is available using material like rock wool, loose fibreglass, cellulose or polyurethane foam.
  • Rigid Insulation:  It is available in formed or extruded sheets of varying sizes, which are made from polystyrene or polyurethane. This material helps to improve the energy efficiency of a home by keeping cold or hot air from penetrating the walls.
  • Reflective barriers: These are foil-faced materials and are effective in preventing heat transfer through radiation.

Which insulation materials are most energy-efficient?

There are many materials that can be used for insulation, all of which are giving a rating depending on its R-value; the higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Here’s a list of the most commonly used (as well as the most environmentally friendly) materials used for insulation along a brief description to prepare you for choosing the right one when outfitting your shop, hotel, home or industrial facility this winter season:

Fibre Glass: Fibre glass essentially consists of extremely fine glass fibers melted in a fossil fuel burning furnace and is probably the most commonly used insulation material. Fiber glass loose-fill insulation is made from molten glass that is spun or blown into fibers. Most manufacturers of fiber glass loose-fill use between 20% and 30% recycled glass content. Fibre glass blankets and batts have an approximate R-value of 3.0 to 3.8 per inch while fibre glass loose-fill insulation has an R-value between 2.0 and 4.0.

Mineral Wool Insulation Materials: The term “mineral wood” normally means either Rock Wool, a man-made material made of natural minerals, or Slag Wood, a man-made material made from blast furnace slag. This material is normally made of 75% post-industrial recycled content and doesn’t require additional chemicals to make it fire resistant. Mineral wood also doesn’t require flame retardants and is moisture resistant. Rock wool blankets and batts have an approximate R-value of 3.0-3.8, while rock wool loose-fill has an R-value of 3.1.

Cellulose Insulation Material: Cellulose is made from recycled paper products and has a very high recycled material content of between 82% and 85%. After paper is reduced to small pieces and made into fiber, it packs very tightly into building cavities, preventing airflow and providing a high R-value per inch. Loose-fill cellulose has an R-value of between 2.8 to 3.7 while sprayed cellulose has an R-value of 3.0 to 4.0.

Natural Fibre Insulation Materials: This grouping consists of various materials such as cotton, sheep’s wool, straw and hemp. Cotton consists of 85% recycled cotton and around 15% plastic fibres that are treated with borate, flame-retardant and rodent repellent, used in cellulose insulation. Cotton, with an R-value of 3.4 per inch does cost more than fiber glass batt insulation, however it is also nontoxic, thus allowing it to be installed without using respiratory or skin exposure protection. New to this grouping is Denim insulation. According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, denim insulation coupled with a borate solution is as resistant as fiberglass to mold, fungi, bacteria, pests and fire.

For more information on insulation materials, check out the DOE website. If you’re a retailer, hotel operator, restaurant owner or industrial business owner, check out Natural Resources Canada’s ecoEnergy Efficiency for Buildings Program for tools and information to improve the energy performance of new and existing commercial and institutional buildings. Beat the cold and increase energy-efficiency this winter season with proper insulation.

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