Building Materials for Insulation

Table of Contents

Insulation
Different Types of Insulation
Materials Used in Insulation
     Fiberglass
     Mineral Wool Insulation Materials
     Cellulose Insulation Material
     Plastic Fiber Insulation Material
     Natural Fiber Insulation Materials
     Polystyrene Insulation Materials
     Polyurethane Insulation Materials
     Other Insulation Materials
Building Insulation Material Manufacturers
Regulations

Insulation

Heat flow in homes can be controlled using insulation, and heating and cooling expenses can be considerably reduced if the heat flow resistance provided by an insulation material is high. Effective insulation also significantly improves the comfort level.

Heat flows by conduction, radiation, and convection, and the most commonly used insulating materials perform by reducing the rate of conductive heat flow.

The resistance to conductive heat flow of an insulating material is rated or quantified in terms of its thermal resistance (R-value). The insulating effectiveness of an insulating material will be high if it has a higher R-value, and the R-value depends on the type of insulation, its density, and its thickness.

In addition to R-value, indoor air quality effects, embodied energy, recycled content, life cycle costs, and ease of installation are other factors that should be considered to select the best insulation.

Different Types of Insulation

Many types of insulation are available, which include the following:

Blanket insulation is the most widely used type of insulation, and it is typically available in the form of rolls or batts. They are used in floors and ceilings, and unfinished walls, such as foundation walls.

Concrete block insulation is another type of insulation where concrete blocks used for walls and home foundation are insulated with different insulating materials. They can be used in walls, unfinished walls, and for new construction or major renovations.

Foam board or rigid foam can be employed to insulate any portion of a home, from the foundation to roof. It is an effective insulation method in interior sheathing for basement walls, exterior wall sheathing, and special applications like attic hatches.

Insulating concrete forms (ICFs) are primarily forms for poured concrete walls with a very high thermal resistance, typically around R-20. They are used in unfinished walls and in foundation walls for new construction.

Loose-fill and blown-in insulation involves using small particles of foam, fiber, or other materials to form an insulation material capable of conforming to any space without causing disturbance to finishes or structures.

The use of radiant barriers and reflective insulation systems reflects the radiant heat away from homes. Radiant barriers are typically used in attics, and reflective insulation integrates radiant barriers into insulation systems. These insulation systems are used in floors, ceilings, and unfinished walls.

Rigid fiber or fibrous board insulation is composed of mineral wool material or fiberglass and is predominantly used to insulate air ducts in buildings and in places that requires insulation that is capable of withstanding elevated temperatures.

Sprayed-foam and foamed-in-place insulation are liquid foam insulation materials that can be poured, injected, sprayed or foamed-in-place. They are used in unfinished attic floors, open new wall cavities, and enclosed existing wall.

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) offer superior and homogeneous insulation compared to conventional construction techniques. These prefabricated insulated structural elements are widely used in roofs, floors, ceilings, and building walls.

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Materials Used in Insulation

A wide range of insulation materials are available, including fiberglass, mineral wool insulation materials, cellulose insulation material, natural fiber insulation materials, and much more.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is the most widely used insulation material in loose-fill and blanket insulation. It is also used in duct insulation and rigid boards.

Manufacturers are now involved in the production of medium- and high-density fiberglass batt insulation products, which exhibit R-values slightly higher than the standard batts.

Mineral Wool Insulation Materials

Mineral wool consists of 75% post-industrial recycled content on an average. Additional chemicals are not required to make this insulation material fire resistant.

Mineral wool is widely used in loose-fill and blanket insulation. The two types of mineral wool include rock wool and slag wool.

Cellulose Insulation Material

Cellulose insulation uses recycled paper products, predominantly newsprint. It is employed in both existing and new structures, as dense packed in building cavities like cathedral ceilings and walls and as loose-fill insulation in open attic installations.

It is also used in new constructions by damp-spraying or installing dry behind netting. The R-value of cellulose insulation is in the range of 3.6 -3.8 per inch.

Plastic Fiber Insulation Material

The main raw material for the manufacture of plastic fiber insulation material is recycled plastic milk bottles. Like high-density fiberglass, the fibers are produced into batt insulation.

Treatment with fire retardant imparts fire resistance to the insulation, but the insulation does melt upon exposure to flame. The R-values differ with the density of batts that vary between R-3.8 per inch at 1.0 lb/ft3 density and R-4.3 per inch at 3.0 lb/ft3 density.

Natural Fiber Insulation Materials

Natural fibers, such as hemp, straw, sheep’s wool and cotton, can also be used for insulation. Cotton insulation is nontoxic, but involves high insulation costs compared to fiberglass batt insulation.

The R-values of cotton and sheep’s wool is R-3.4 and R-3.5 per inch, respectively. The boards made from straw can also be used as sound-absorbing panels while making interior partitions.

Polystyrene Insulation Materials

Polystyrene is widely used to produce concrete block insulation, beadboard or foam board insulation, and a kind of loose-fill insulation composed of small polystyrene beads.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), Molded expanded polystyrene (MEPS), and extruded polystyrene (XPS) are some of the polystyrene insulation materials available on the market. The R-values relies on the density of the material, and is in the range of R-3.8 to R-5.0 per inch.

Polyurethane Insulation Materials

Polyurethane is a type of foam insulation material consisting of a low-conductivity gas within its cells. The R-value of this insulation material is in the range of R-5.5 to R-6.5 per inch due to the gas’ high thermal resistance. It is supplied in closed-cell and open-cell formulas.

Open-cell foam cells have a low density and contain air, which imparts the insulation material a spongy texture and a lower R-value. Conversely, the closed-cell type has a high density and contains a gas, which allows the foam to expand to fill the surrounding space.

Polyurethane insulation is supplied as a rigid foam board and liquid sprayed foam. It is also available as laminated insulation panels with different facings.

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Other Insulation Materials

Other insulation materials include:

  • Polyisocyanurate insulation materials
  • Vermiculite and perlite insulation materials
  • Urea-formaldehyde foam
  • Cementitious foam
  • Urea-formaldehyde foam
  • Phenolic foam
  • Insulation facings

Building Insulation Material Manufacturers

BASF is a major company producing a wide range of insulation products, including Styrodur® C XPS, Neopor® EPS, and Elastopor® H and Elastopir® rigid polyurethane foams.

Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, manufactures intelligent insulating materials, including Baymer® and the Desmodur® products. Insulating panels, spray foam insulation, and floor insulation are some of the products offered by Covestro.

Demilec is one of the largest spray foam insulation manufacturers in North America, supplying both open-cell spray foam insulation products, such as Demilec APX, Agribalance, and Sealection 500, and closed-cell spray foam insulation products, such as Heatlok Soy 200 Plus, Geolok, and Barnseal.

Saint-Gobain provides an extensive range of insulation products, including fiberglass blow-in insulation, reinforcements and HVAC products, innovative vapor retarder technology, fiberglass insulation batts and rolls, and reinforcements and HVAC products.

Dow Corning supplies high-performance insulation products, such as Dow Corning® Architectural Insulation Modules and Dow Corning® Building Insulation Blanket.

Other major players operating in the global building insulation materials market include Building Materials Corporation of America, Inc., Glassrock Insulation Co., GAF AG, PPG Industries, Inc., Rockwool International A/S, Knauf Insulation, Lloyd Insulations (India) Limited.

Regulations

Insulation should be applied in compliance with the associated building regulations, both when applied retrospectively and when deployed during construction. Building regulations should be followed for all types of insulation, including loft insulation, cavity walls, solid walls, and floor insulation.

Building services compliance guides are also available for insulating vessels and pipe ducts. Planning permission is generally not needed for fitting insulation if there is no modification in external appearance.

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