Insulation is one of the most important renovations for almost any old home. As gorgeous as these houses are, they were built before modern insulation technology was invented, and they can lose a lot of heat in the winter and put a real drag on your air conditioning system in the summer.
To make our houses more eco-friendly, and to help lower our buyers’ utility bills, I’m always looking for really great ways to add insulation and improve the energy efficiency of the homes that Andy and I renovate. In my research lately, I came upon some pretty cool ideas for more sustainable insulation. Check these out.
Cotton or Wool Insulation
While fiberglass is the most common material used for insulation today, it’s not the only option. You can find cotton and wool fiber insulation that’s much better than fiberglass for a few reasons. Cotton insulation comes in a few different types, but the coolest one I found was made from recycled jeans. That means, not only would your insulation be formaldehyde-free (which you can’t say if you have fiberglass insulation), but it would also be recycled!
Then there’s wool insulation, which is super sustainable since it’s harvested by shearing sheep every year. It takes less energy to produce than fiberglass insulation, and it has a higher R-value, meaning it will insulate your space better. Plus, both cotton and wool insulation are safe to handle with your bare hands. If you’re like me, and you’ve accidentally run your hand over fiberglass insulation, you know what a huge benefit this can be.
Recycled Plastic Insulation
A few different companies are now making insulation that’s composed of 90% recycled plastic bottles. Like recycled denim insulation, this stuff is better for the environment than fiberglass insulation and keeps plastic bottles out of landfills. And, like wool and cotton, it’s safe to handle and won’t leave you feeling itchy all over the way that fiberglass does.
Aerogel sounds like something straight out of science fiction! It’s made by taking liquid out of silica without reducing its volume, which creates a really light and fluffy material that’s almost entirely made of trapped air. You can buy Aerogel in large sheets that either have adhesive backing to pull-and-stick onto the interior of walls, or that can be easily tacked to the studs.
A spray-on insulation, Icynene is a really cool option that’s made from organic chemical compounds and castor oil. It sprays on like a paint, but then it expands to become a spongy layer that seals walls and has been known to make homes 30–50% more energy efficient. While it traps air in, Icynene allows water vapor to evaporate, so it’ll prevent mold and mildew from forming.
Of all of these, I think I like the cotton and wool options the best, but the other options are really eco-friendly and energy efficient, too. And the best part is, most of these are really cost effective, too.
These aren’t the only sustainable kinds of insulation I’ve found in my search, but they’re my favorites so far. I love the idea of insulating a house against cold or heat without doing damage to the environment. It’s a great selling point for buyers, and you can rest assured that you’re doing your part to leave behind a better world for your kids. How cool is that?