Dienstag, 15. November 2011

Performance characteristics and practical applications of common building thermal insulation materials

Performance characteristics and practical applications of common building thermal insulation materials
From reading this article, to achieve a thermal comfort house and achieve significant energy savings the designing of a house is critical at the early design stage. Selecting and integrating building components will contribute to solving energy problems. This will lead to resources being saved and the operating costs associated with producing energy reduced.
The author of this article makes some very good points and gives a lot of useful and very helpful information but will it suit every individual and home, can every one afford it.
Thermal insulating is a major contributor and logical first step in achieving energy efficiency. Insulating a building very well is not enough to achieve a passive house standard, if the building is not airtight it will lead to an uncontrolled air leakage which can occur due to cracks not filled in or repaired, including electrical outlets and light switches.
It is fair to say that a well insulated tight building will reduce costs and provide thermal comfort but it can also lead to a number of problems such as moisture accumulation stale air and air pollutants. This is why it is very important to have a good design when it comes to thermal insulation.
Moisture is one the biggest problems that can occur with lots of insulation or the wrong type. If moisture does penetrate into the thermal insulation it will cause physical damage and affects its performance, increasing its thermal conductivity. The four main conditions for moisture to accumulate and cause problems these are:
1.      Moisture Source
2.      Moisture Route for Travelling
3.      Driving Force
4.      Material Susceptible to Moisture Damage
Once you eliminate one of the four conditions above moisture can be controlled, this is very important so careful design and material selection play the main role in solving moisture problems. Examples of how easily moisture can penetrate into thermal insulation include:
  • Plumbing or rain leaks
  • Water vapour from people, showers, cooking.
  • Liquid water movement from ground up into your basement
Thermal insulating requires a lot more planning and consideration than just getting your building tight and very well insulated, you must take into account a number of factors that contribute to your choice, see table below:
Thermal Resistance
Thermal Bridging
Acoustical performance
Thermal Storage
Air Tightness
Environmental Impact
Ease of Construction
Building Code Requirements

Thermal insulating does not affect all buildings in the same way, factors affecting this are:
·         Building type
·         Component to be insulated
·         Climate conditions
·         Type of insulation
·         Cost of insulating
·         Maintenance cost

I agree that thermal insulation is the best way forward for reducing a lot of energy and resources being used, it requires a lot of planning and detail along with high costs to achieve such thermal insulation buildings, which would be worth it in the long run. Many people now are suffering from the recession and can not afford to insulate homes to this standard, but for any new buildings I would highly recommend it.


  1. Very interesting article and the original author does raise some very good points. If people are to achieve a good thermally insulated home the work carried out to achieve this standard must be done correctly. Once something is done incorrectly that is when the problems will start. A well insulated home wont cause problems with moisture accumulation, stale air or air pollutants as long as the insulation and air tightness details are designed, specified and installed correctly.

    With regards to the cost of insulating a home, well, i'm sure if you sit down with someone and show them the figures of what they can save vs what they will loose (money wise) then they will more then likely invest in insulating their homes correctly regardless of the economic recession.

    Designers and architects should outline the advantages of a well insulated home as opposed to a traditional built building. There is no doubt that the benefits outweigh the initial investment in the correct materials.


  2. Anthony,

    A well structured answer.

    I agree with Jan, There is no doubt that thermal insulation reap real rewards and can make for a much more confortable living space for everyone. Just a query I have in relation to insulation and its installation, are there any licences or documentation that installers have to have before installing the insulation? So house holders can check documentation to make sure that the work is being done properly and that the workers are trained adequately do do the job?

    I also agree with your points on recession and the costs of insulation, Although the cost of insulation may not be a huge amount and the long term benefits out weigh the initial costs, it would be hard to tell that to a young couple with kids who have been let go from work or anybody else who is financially strained at the moment, as many people are.

    Keep up the good work!!

    Kieran McNicholas

  3. i agree that that a well insulated building will elimiate moisture build up, but the question is do all builders go to the extreme measures of sealing every little leak and spend their time trying to find them with pressure test as it can be very time consuming and fustrating along with the fact that plastering to the plastic strips can cause difficulties and it does not always take to the plastics as manufactures state.

    there are two very good points in both comments about affording the insulation i agree if you sit down and are talked through it, it would produce big benifits in the long run but on the other hand all houses are insulated very well during construction now a days and people might still consider the extra costs of insulating their homes and use it for themselfs, running their cars or supporting their children with the difficult times that are approaching.

    there will always be two ways in which people will look at this scenario and the older generation in my opnion will stick to spending the lesser amount as it seems more suitable to them. good comments though and i understand your taughts and opinions

  4. Anthony

    Are we not talking about passive houses here? So of course the builder will take the measures and time to find every air leak because his task is to construct a building to passive standard?

    Also houses aren’t "well insulated now a days." I've been in numerous houses where there was little or no insulation in the ceilings, walls, roof space etc. Ironically these were the houses built during the "good times" when people had huge amounts of disposable income that could be spent on building a well insulated home.

    The reality is that the majority of people don’t know anything about insulation and its the responsibility of the builder to ensure the house was built correctly. This is where best practice comes in.

    In my opinion the argument about people having no money now to build a house doesn’t really float. It wasn’t done when people had the money to do it and luckily most people building now are doing it right because they know that in the long run it will save them money to insulated their homes.