Insulating the home well is important to reduce energy consumption. Insulators make it possible to save heating in winter and air conditioning in summer.
But why use ecological insulation in new construction or renovations? Because they improve the quality of the interior air of the house; because they are more sustainable and they are more breathable, for example.
Since their arrival, thermal insulators based on petroleum derivatives have been used in facade insulation chambers due to their effectiveness and low cost. Whether as a panel, sprayed, or as a filler granule, polystyrene-based plastic insulation is highly sustainable, as it does not biodegrade.
Insulators such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS) can take between 500 and 1000 years to photodegrade. By itself, this is already a good reason for you to bet on ecological insulation in your home. In addition, the materials that we are going to see next are not plastics and do not emit volatile organic compounds.
In a world surrounded by plastic, where there is more and more knowledge about endocrine disruptors, it is to be expected that we will give more and more important to the origin of the construction materials that we put in our homes. And thermal insulators are no exception.
Indeed, betting on natural materials to reform or build your home is yet another way to go against plastic. Many companies already offer thermal insulation made with ecological criteria of sustainability and with raw materials that are less harmful than those derived from petroleum.
So let’s list the most common ecological insulators!
Cork is among the most used and demanded ecological insulators. The cork sheet, a rigid panel with a thickness of 3-10 cm, is one of the most common formats. Cork is suitable for insulating interior walls, facades, and roofs.
Due to its color and texture, cork insulation has a high aesthetic value and some people choose to leave it exposed indoors. However, outdoors it must be protected to prevent it from getting wet.
Therefore, it is usual to cover it with a tile or a green cover when it is used on roofs. On facades, it can be plastered with water-repellent mortars. In addition, some of these mortars are also insulating, for example, those made with lime. This further reduces heat transmission.
On the other hand, with cork shavings, a projectable insulator applicable to facades is manufactured. It is the projected cork. This cork is projected with a machine on the building and does not need additional coatings: it supports the weather by itself. In addition, it is produced in various colors.
In short, cork is a natural, recyclable, and renewable ecological insulator; it is essential to ecological architecture.
Another interesting ecological insulator is cellulose. It can be used, for example, as a filler for air chambers in facades. Unusable attics can also be filled with it.
Cellulose is not presented as a cork in panels, buy in bulk, in the form of pearls or granules. It is injected into the gaps and cavities by opening holes in the walls and ceilings, or by depositing it on the attic floor.
Cellulose insulators can replace polystyrene beads, widely used in the cases mentioned.
Known since ancient times, linen, like cork, is used to make insulating panels. It is a completely natural insulator that is produced with the textile fibers of the Linum usitatissimum plant. With these fibers, yarn and fabrics are also made.
By the way, pressing flax seeds produces linseed oil, a drying oil that is used to protect the wood.
Just as sawdust and wood chips are reused to make chipboard, insulating panels can be made with wood fibers. Mixed with a binder and formed into a sheet form, they offer sufficient mechanical resistance for installation.
Ecological wood fiber insulation works, like almost all, thanks to the air that is trapped in its tangled structure. This, less than any other, must not get wet or lose its properties.
Straw is more of a building material than an insulator (see: Straw Building Net). The bales of straw resulting from the wheat harvest are used in their different sizes to build very thick walls.
Depending on the project, straw bale constructions can be self-supporting, or used as an enclosure. In this case, they are arranged as if they were a brick factory between the gaps formed by the metal or wood structure that supports the roof and the floors of the building.
Straw is a wonderful thermal insulator. Those who have had the opportunity to enter a straw house in a hot summer know it well: its interior remains cool.
The temperature inside the straw houses is pleasant all year round. They produce an effect similar to that of buried houses or caves. And without spending much energy.
Cut into smaller bullets and duly plastered, it is also used as insulation, in the so-called SATE system. SATE stands for External Thermal Insulation System.
Like linen, hemp is also used to make insulating panels. Hemp textile fibers are resistant and are sometimes combined with other textiles to make ecological clothing, for example, organic cotton and hemp t-shirts.
The plant from which hemp fibers are extracted is Cannabis. With it, hemp oil, rope, and tow for plumbing are also made.
Arlita is a commercial brand of expanded clay. Like Kleenex or Tipp-Ex or Maicena, Arlita is a brand that has become popular.
Expanded clay is made by subjecting clay to an industrial process that makes it porous. In this way, it stores a large amount of air inside. It is this occluded air that gives it insulating properties.
Due to its appearance, the Arlita is reminiscent of puffed chocolate breakfast cereals. These light and insulating balls are used, for example, as screeds and fillers in old houses whose wooden structure does not support high overloads. With it, lightened slabs are built that are at the same time insulating.
By mixing cotton and coconut textile fibers, ecological insulators similar to those of wood, hemp, or linen fiber are achieved.
Be careful, most of the cotton is grown in developing countries where working conditions are undignified for farmers and workers. In addition, it requires the use of toxic pesticides.
For this reason, coconut and cotton insulators are considered ecological only if their manufacturer certifies the ecological and sustainable cultivation of cotton, and accredits ethical working conditions for workers.
As we have seen, ecological insulation is natural, recyclable, recycled, and sustainable. Also, most of them are breathable. That the house breathe is important to avoid condensation, mold, and unsightly environments
In addition, ecological insulation does not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), unlike plastics such as polyurethane foam and extruded (XPS) and expanded (EPS) polystyrenes.