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How to insulate your property in the most eco-friendly way

Making homes more energy-efficient and reducing carbon emissions is a key part of the government’s target to be net zero by 2050.

But where does that leave homeowners, builders, or landlords whose properties don’t conform?

We examine the facts and highlight some simple steps you can take to insulate your home.

Let’s dive in!

Be aware of your EPC rating

Current legislation stipulates that the minimum EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating for properties in England and Wales is ‘E’.

In other words, if a property doesn’t have at least an ‘E’ rating, it cannot legally be let, and it might be harder to sell in the future. And, with the cost of heating and rising energy bills on everyone’s minds, now is as good a time as ever to know how to insulate your home and be eco-conscious.

EPC bandings A-G.

Why home insulation?

One of the most effective, and often easiest, ways to improve energy efficiency in a property is by way of home insulation. A large proportion of heat is lost through poorly insulated roofs, walls, floors, doors, and windows. The image below, courtesy of the energy comparison site Power to Switch, shows exactly where most heat is lost in our homes.

Home insulation is therefore an obvious step that property owners should seriously consider. Whether the primary motivation is to improve the EPC rating by saving energy and lowering the property’s carbon footprint, or making a property more comfortable to live in and affordable to run, there are many ways that under-insulated properties can be retrofitted with insulation.

Better still, there are plenty of eco-friendly options available to achieve the goal. Using sustainable types of insulation offers a wealth of extra benefits that are well worth having.

They include:

  • Sustainable raw materials that are available without resource depletion and zero waste from offcuts.      
  • Green insulation materials that can be reused, recycled, or composted, keeping waste out of landfill.   
  • Environmentally responsible insulation materials that only require small amounts of energy in their production process.
  • A performance in terms of heat storage and acoustic insulation properties that is as good as conventional insulating materials.
  • Eco-friendly materials that contain far fewer levels of irritants and toxins, or none at all, make them safer to handle.
  • A much lower risk of health issues arises across the lifetime of green insulation products.

What’s the problem with traditional insulation materials?

The UK home insulation market may be worth more than £800 million a year, but only 1% of the market is currently taken up by natural insulation products. Unfortunately, the other 99% consist of conventional materials such as polystyrene and fibreglass insulation which require manufacturing processes that consume ten times more energy than greener alternatives. More than that, they are made from fuel-derived plastics and other chemicals that are not environmentally friendly.

In all areas of your home, think carefully about the materials you choose for building and renovation projects too. If you’re renovating your garage, you might want to invest in an insulated garage door that offers an array of internal benefits such as conserving warmth and additional security. It is important to know that it’s manufactured using materials that are both durable and weatherproof. Some of the chemicals commonly used to produce traditional home insulation materials include flame retardants and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including formaldehyde, isocyanate, and hexabromocyclododecane – in other words, known toxins, carcinogens, and hormonal disruptors that are harmful to human health.

What exactly do we mean by eco-friendly insulation?

By comparison, environmentally friendly home insulation is produced in a much more sustainable way, using fewer and fewer toxic chemicals or indeed no synthetic substances at all, while offering effective heat-preserving properties that are just as good as their traditional counterparts. Here are five of the best green home insulation options available:

Spraying cellulose insulation into an attic.

Cellulose home insulation

Natural cellulose is the basic structural component of plant cell walls. Cellulose insulation is a fibre insulation material made from recycled paper, ground into fine dust, and treated to make it fireproof. It has the highest amount of recycled content compared to any other form of insulation. Blowing cellulose insulation into walls, floors, and roofs is a much greener way to achieve thermal conductivity similar to rock wool. Costing in the region of £12-£18 per square metre, it is also a budget-friendly option.

Loose-fill fibre and sheep wool wall insulation.

Sheep’s wool home insulation

Natural sheep wool has been called nature’s wonder material for the huge amounts of benefits it offers over synthetic insulation materials and with virtually no downsides. An increasingly popular choice for eco-friendly insulation for walls, floors, and roofs, it consists of compressed wool fibres that create microscopic air pockets that give sheep’s wool its excellent insulating and air-purifying properties. It’s vapour permeable and moisture regulating and totally recyclable. The cost is around £18-£22 per square metre, which can be expensive.

Wood fibre wool.

Wood fibre wool home insulation

Wood wool insulation is made from waste wood such as sawdust, timber shavings, or woodchips. The raw material is untreated softwood, biodegradable compressed fibres that can be customised into many shapes and thicknesses including boards and quilts, according to the needs of the space to be insulated. Wood wool is an eco-friendly insulation material for floors, walls, and roofs with a high heat storage capacity and great soundproofing properties. Furthermore, it is damp-proof and non-irritating. It can also be composted when no longer required and costs around £16-£21 per metre.

Cutting hemp wool.

Hemp home insulation

Hemp wool is made from strong, woody fibres derived from the hemp plant and has high thermal mass and low conductivity which provides excellent insulative properties for use in roofs, floors, and walls. Hemp insulation is waterproof and fire-resistant and can be produced in the shape of batts and boards that can be cut to size and it is fully compostable after use. A natural product, hemp is non-irritating and moisture-regulating and it also makes a great acoustic insulator. The £13-£18 per metre price tag is very reasonable.

A roll of cork insulation.

Cork home insulation

Cork comes from the outer layer of the bark of the Quercus Suber oak tree, native to the Mediterranean and North Africa. Available in the shape of granules or corkboard, this is a naturally recyclable and renewable, zero-waste sustainable material that can substantially increase the thermal performance of walls, floors, and roofs. The material also has excellent damp-proofing and acoustic insulation properties and is hypoallergenic. Cork is said to maintain its optimum thermal performance for 50+ years, which may be enough to justify its £16-£22 per metre price tag.

Taking action to improve the energy efficiency of properties through green home insulation has many benefits. With energy costs rising steeply and the need to address the environmental impact of property becoming ever more pressing, home improvements should be high on the list for every homeowner.

Do you have an insulation tip that we’ve missed?

If so, please let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.

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