Choosing the right insulation

Choosing the right insulation for your building can have a big impact on energy consumption and comfort. In this guide, we will look at insulation by function, material, type, location and technical performance.

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  • How do I choose the right insulation?

    JOHNS MANVILLE Thermal Insulation

    JOHNS MANVILLE Thermal Insulation

    Correctly insulating a building helps save energy and improve thermal comfort for the occupants. The type of insulation you should choose will depend on a number of elements such as the surface to be insulated, the space available and the type required (thermal, acoustic or both).

    The key criteria to consider include:

    • The type and technical performance required
    • Where the insulation will be installed
    • The formats and materials available
  • What do I need to know about the performance of insulation?

    ETERNO IVICA Acoustic insulation panel

    ETERNO IVICA Acoustic Insulation Panel

    The overall performance of the insulation will depend on a number of factors such as thermal resistance, acoustic properties, proper installation and sealing. It is also important to make sure that the insulation respects local building regulations such as fire ratings. Listed below are some of the key criteria to take into account:

    • The λ-value is the thermal conductivity of the insulation, measured in W/mK (Watts per meter-Kelvin). The lower the value the better.
    • The R-value is the thermal resistance of the insulation, calculated by the thickness(in metres) / thermal conductivity, measured in K.m2/W (Kelvin square meters per Watt). The higher the R-value the more resistant the insulation is against heat loss.
    • The U-value is the calculation of thermal transmittance – how much heat is lost through the building material. The lower the U-value the better. The overall U-value of a building envelope is calculated taking into consideration the thermal transmittance of each layer.
    • Be sure to check which fire standards your building materials need to comply with. For example, in the EU the standard EN13501-1 uses the Euroclass rating system to class the combustibility and smoke emissions of materials.
    • The sound insulation, measured in dB Dw, describes the difference of noise level transmitted from the source room to the receiving room. The overall sound reduction from one space to another will depend on the assembly of the elements that make up the floor, wall or partition, as well as the sound absorption capacity of each material.

    It is important to make sure that other products used in the building envelope (such as vapor barriers, waterproofing etc.) are compatible with the insulation you choose and correctly installed, as this will have an impact on the overall effectiveness and longevity of your insulation.

  • Where can insulation be installed?

    There are four main types of insulation: roof, facade, wall and floor. While roof insulation might be considered the most important, as a roof can loose heat at a higher percentage, all four areas of insulation need to be properly done.

    IKO - Flat Roof Insulation

    IKO – Warm Flat Roof Insulation

    Roof insulation – Uninsulated roofing can result in a 25% heat loss in a building. The type of insulation to choose and installation method to implement will depend on factors such as the construction technique, roof pitch, local climate and building regulations. Ensure that the insulation chosen is compatible for the type of roof system and building envelope. Always consult a professional in case of doubt.

    Here are a few examples of installation methods:

    • Cold pitched roof installation: The insulation is installed in between and above the ceiling joists with a ventilation gap. The area under the roof pitch will remain uninsulated, so water tanks and plumbing in this area might need to be insulated to protect them from freezing.
    • Warm pitched roof installation: The insulation is fixed between the roof covering and the roof rafters as well as on gable walls. It is protected by a waterproof membrane. While this method is more expensive than a cold installation, the space under the pitched roof is insulated and can be finished with plasterboard to convert into a living space.
    • Cold flat roof installations: The insulation is placed between the joists above the ceiling. This method of insulating is less efficient than warm flat roof installations because it is more prone to incorrect installation, which could lead to cold bridging, condensation problems or even roof damage.
    • Warm flat roof installations: The insulation is installed over the roof support below the waterproof layer. Rigid insulation boards are sometimes used in this type of installation.
    • Inverted flat roof installation: The insulation is installed over the waterproof layer of the roof.

     

    MITTEN Facade Insulation Panel

    MITTEN Facade Insulation Panel

    Facade insulation – Insulating from the exterior is generally more effective than the interior, as it is easier to avoid cold bridging or dew points, and also helps maximize interior space. However, it can be up to 50% more expensive to install than interior wall and floor insulation, and it might not even be permitted if the existing facade needs to be preserved, such as in protected historical areas.

    Wall insulation The type of installation chosen will depend on the state and location of the wall – for example the level of dampness and evenness. Very damp walls may require a stud wall with a cavity to allow for proper ventilation.

    Floor insulation – There are many different types and formats of floor insulation. One type can be installed between wooden floor joists in traditional wood constructions for thermal insulation.  There are also rolls and panels of insulation which can be installed over the sub floor and under floor finishes such as carpets, parquets or tiling to reduce resonance. Additionally, some insulation boards are specifically designed for underfloor heating to faciliate installation and avoid heat loss.

  • What insulation formats and materials are available?

    KRAIBURG RELASTEC Rubber Sound Insulation

    KRAIBURG RELASTEC Rubber Sound Insulation

    Make sure you choose the formats of insulation that are best adapted to your project, as this can have a big impact on the ease of installation as well as performance. We’ve listed the main format options here with the most common applications and materials used.

    Loose or blown insulation is good for awkwardly shaped areas as well as floor and wall cavities where roll insulation can’t provide even coverage. It is easy to install, but the insulation may settle over time. Common materials for this type include mineral wool, cellulose, wood fiber and polyurethane.

    Roll insulation is popular for the thermal insulation of walls, floors, ceilings, roofs and ducting. Roll insulation materials such as mineral wool and fiberglass insulation are naturally non-combustible as well as uv and mold resistant with good thermal acoustic properties. They are often available in standard sizes for easy installation between framing, joists and rafters. Rubber and EPDM are often used for acoustic insulation under flooring because of their high level of sound and vibration absorption.

    Panel insulation can be costly but tends to be fast and easy to install. It is important to ensure that edges and obstacles are properly finished to avoid gaps which could cause cold bridging, sound transmission or dew points. Some products might include multiple material layers to improve the overall performance of sound insulation, breathability or reflectivity.
    Vacuum insulated panels (VIPs) are insulated using a vacuum system. Air is removed from the inside of the panel to create a vacuum. While vacuum insulation panels are very expensive, they have a high thermal resistance and are much thinner than other forms of insulation.

  • What natural insulation options are there?

    SIG PLC sheep's wool insulation

    NATUREPRO Sheep’s Wool Insulation

    Using natural insulation materials rather than synthetic materials can have a number of advantages such as biodegradability and breathability as well as avoiding the use of toxic chemicals and VOCs. Some natural products require less energy to produce than synthetic equivalents, such as hemp. Some natural options such as straw bales are even waste products from other markets.

    However, many natural materials are more expensive than synthetic ones and might need supplementary treatments against insects or moisture. Examples of popular natural insulation materials include hemp, sheep’s wool, wood fiber, cotton and straw bales. If you do decide to use a natural insulation material, make sure that it is adapted for your use, that it meets local regulations and that the building contractor is qualified to install it properly. While hemp batts can often be installed in a similar way to mineral wool between rafters and joists, some natural insulation materials such as straw bales might require special installation techniques and careful planning to avoid problems with humidity.

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