So, what type of insulation?

Question: THERE are a huge number of options out there, so where does one begin to compare different types of insulation, not least a form that hits a ‘sweet spot’ of performance, environmental responsibility, fire safety and affordability? 

Answer one: Researching the performance characteristics of most building materials, such as insulation, is relatively straightforward. 

Of course, it helps to know where to begin looking, and two good sources for insulation are the sustainable building materials database operated by Architecture & Design Scotland (here) and the ‘green buildings resource’, GreenSpec (here).

That’s step one. The next step is validating the authority and robustness of any information one finds. 

That involves interrogating the technical specifications and ‘datasheets’ that are a mandatory requirement of all construction materials sold in the UK. 

That’s not to say it won’t be fairly time-consuming, comparing several products being offered by different suppliers, not least because, when it comes to insulation, there is a clear divide between natural materials and synthetic ones. 

But, to stress, check carefully the technical specifications and datasheets.

Dr Jon Stinson is co-founder of Building Research Solutions Ltd,

Answer two: We carry quite a lot of advice about insulation on our website, here, including information about different types of insulation and how much money and carbon emissions might be saved.

For information about cavity wall insulation, in particular, page seven of our guide, Warm Home Hacks (here), might be additionally helpful.

We would always advise speaking to a professional installer for more detailed information about different insulation materials and which might be the best option for your property. Your installer should be a member of either the National Insulation Association (here), the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (here) or the British Board of Agrément (here).

Energy Saving Trust

Answer three: There are a wide range of insulation options out there and we understand that it can be very difficult for the average consumer to choose between them.

Some of the key factors to consider when comparing insulation materials are: 

  • Thermal resistance;
  • Cost;
  • Energy intensity (how much energy it takes to produce);
  • Compressive strength; and
  • Water / vapour permeability.

Two helpful sources where you can find more detailed information on insulation materials are GreenSpec and the US Department of Energy website. At the National Insulation Association, our website also contains useful information about different types of insulation measures, such as cavity wall and external wall insulation. 

However, every home is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to insulation.

As such, the most appropriate material very much depends on the property and the measure being installed.

Before deciding on the best type of insulation material or measure for your property, we would strongly recommend organising for a qualified retrofit co-ordinator or other retrofit professional to visit your home and talk you through the best insulation options tailored for your property.

At the NIA, we would stress that the quality of installation is just as important as the material used.

Installing insulation is a complex process that can have damaging unintended consequences if not done correctly. Therefore, we would advise customers to actively seek out installers who are members of an industry-recognised quality standards regime, such as Trustmark.

If customers are looking for high-quality insulation installers in their area, the postcode locator (here) on our website is a great place to start.

It is an accessible, easy-to-use tool that allows consumers to find an accredited, reputable installer near them.

We and our members are committed to maintaining and raising quality standards across the industry.

To this end, many of our members are PAS 2035/2030 accredited – this is a recognised quality standard for insulation installs and is a requirement to work on most public energy efficiency schemes.

For more information and advice, visit our website, or give one of our team a call on 0121 716 4558.

Matt Rudd, policy adviser, National Insulation Association

Pictured: External insulation being applied to properties in Edinburgh, Picture credit: Place Design Scotland

Next time, we ask: THERE are several companies offering communal TV and satellite installation (so that a single source serves several homes – meaning no need for individual satellite dishes).

What key questions should architects and planners be asking, to ensure a comprehensive and efficient service is provided?

Do send your answer (as per our ‘politeness’ T&Cs), along with your name, job title and any organisation you might represent, via our Contact Us link.

And ditto, if you have an answer to join those above.