We’ve talked about the importance of insulating your home to save energy and money. While you’re at it, why not go a step further—for the good of the environment and your health—with environmentally friendly insulation? There are a lot of options available right now. Here are a few.
Recycled. Keep waste out of the landfill and stay warm by opting for recycled insulation. Recycled insulation may be made from a number of materials, including melted minerals and sand or recycled glass (fiberglass), recycled newspaper (cellulose, paper), recycled steel slag (rockwool), and mill waste and low-grade and recycled cotton (cotton). Learn about the pluses and minuses of each at Greenyour.com.
One recycled-content insulation that has received quite a lot of press lately is UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation, produced by Bonded Logic. This insulation is made from 85 percent post-industrial cotton (think denim manufacturing scraps). It’s treated with a natural fire retardant, is 100 percent recyclable, and is VOC-free.
Hemp. HempFlax insulation mats are made from natural hemp fibers with some polyester fiber for reinforcing. They are available in several thicknesses for insulating roofs, walls, and floors. Hemp processing is clean and low on dust.
Sheep’s Wool. Thermafleece sheep’s wool insulation is produced by Second Nature. Sheep’s wool is safe and easy to handle and, unlike traditional insulation, won’t cause itching and skin irritation. Plus, wool captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which, according to the company website, gives Thermafleece a negative global warming potential.
Spray-In Foam. Spray-in foam starts out as a liquid and, once it is sprayed, expands and solidifies, working as an air barrier to stop more than 90 percent of air infiltration and minimizing allergens and pollution in your house. Some spray-in foam is loaded with chemicals, but others, like Icynene, are water-blown and don’t offgas nasty chemicals. (Icynene is free of formaldehyde too.)
Soy. Another spray-in option: soy-based polyurethane, produced by BioBased Insulation. It’s made with soybean oil, so there aren’t any petrochemicals, and you won’t have to worry about mold growth (or pests eating it). Soy-based polyurethane is also free of CFCs and VOCs. BioBased Insulation was the first polyurethane spray foam insulation to earn GREENGUARD certification. Learn more about it from this Fine Homebuilding video.
Mushrooms. OK. This insulation isn’t made solely from mushrooms. But Greensulate is made from agricultural waste products—think rice and buckwheat hulls—combined with mycelium, which is a fibrous network created by mushrooms. The petroleum-free insulation is priced similar to standard rigid board insulation (like Styrofoam) and has a comparable R-value. And, perhaps best of all, when you’re done with it, Greensulate will rapidly break down, enriching the soil and even helping nearby waste breakdown too. The only catch? You’ll have to wait a while to try it out—it probably won’t be available as insulation until the end of 2010 (although you can buy other Greensulate products, such as coolers, now).
What great green insulation options did I miss? Let me know!
The Home Know-It-All