building a sustainable and resilient community

Bundling up your house

Posted on | March 12, 2010 | No Comments

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about insulation lately.  Part of that is because of HOME STAR, which provides incentives for homeowners if they choose to upgrade the insulation in their house, among other things.  My explanation of HOME STAR inevitably leads to explaining some of the measures available for incentives, and insulation is one of my favorites.

“But why?”, you say.  (Or maybe you don’t, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, ha.)  Well consider this:  although you can’t see it, using a good amount of insulation and installing it properly is one of the greatest differences between having an energy efficient house and having a drafty, cold, money-pit of a house.  Observe:

From the GDC's Green Your Home tool

Now, knowing that you need a lot of insulation is one thing; know what KIND of insulation to get is entirely another.  In my diagram above, the pink part of the wall section is pink because I assumed that a lot of people associate that color with Owens Corning’s Pink Panther, aka “The Historical American Emissary of Insulation.”  And it’s true that Owens Corning has a lot of insulation products that are useful for homes, including a new product called Foamular, which is a rigid and moisture-resistant exterior insulation.  I’ve seen how this stuff is made – at the Owens Corning LEED Gold Manufacturing Plant just outside of Portland, no less – and it’s a heck of a lot easier to use than the old pink fiberglass stuff.  No offense to the Pink Panther, of course.

BUT, there are other, perhaps more sustainable options for insulation, ones that use less manufacturing energy or recycled materials, for instance.  Lloyd Alter over at Treehugger recently posted his thoughts on the debate between spray polyurethane foam insulation and recycled denim insulation.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and since Lloyd covered them already, I won’t repeat him.  But, depending on what the application is, you might find the fact that the spray foam is easy to install and covers up any gaps appealing; or, you may want to avoid VOCs and use the recycled denim, which helps eliminate material from the waste stream.

Obviously, I am not paid to endorse any product here at the GDC, nor do I personally have a preference as to what people use – perhaps one day when I buy a house, I will decide!  In the meantime, I DO encourage people who have homes and the money to renovate to check out the insulation in their homes and maybe consider upgrading … in almost every climate zone in the country, it will help you save energy, which will help you save money.  Hooray for saving money!  🙂



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