Insulation can save you money on your energy bills, keep your home comfortable year round and reduce your carbon footprint. By slowing down the transfer of energy to and from your house, insulation keeps winter warmth in and summer heat out.
There are plenty of options when it comes to insulating your home, including the materials you use. Clearly the best time to insulate is during a build. However, it can also be retrofitted – as part of a renovation or as a standalone project. Just make sure you always consult an expert before you carry out any work.
The three main areas to think about insulating are:
- Ceiling and roof
- Wall cavities
- Windows and doors.
1. Ceiling and roof
Between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of heat loss or gain is through the roof, so ceiling insulation is very effective in keeping you comfortable. The two main forms of ceiling insulation are reflective and bulk.
Reflective insulation is mainly laminated foil sheets. Reflective foil sheets can be installed under the roof, where they reflect heat away from the house. Double-sided foil also keeps heat in the ceiling space, preventing heat loss in winter. Note that if dust settles on these sheets it will greatly reduce their performance.
Bulk insulation includes:
- Batts and blankets (made from polyester, natural wool, glass wool and rockwool, either in batts or rolls)
- Loose-fill (made from cellulose fibre, polyester, natural wool and granulated rockwool).
Bulk insulation works by trapping air in millions of tiny pockets in the material thus slowing down the flow of heat. Batts can be relatively easy to install in most houses and are available in DIY packs. You should only attempt to install them, however, if you’re confident about working in roof spaces as there may be exposed electrical wiring. In addition, be aware that the material used in batts can irritate the skin and respiratory tract, so make sure you wear protective clothing.
Loose-fill is suitable for houses with flat or shallow-pitched roofs as it’s blown into place. As a result, it can be more effective in filling cavities than batts, but needs to be spread evenly to provide proper insulation. Loose-fill cellulose is one of the most environmentally friendly insulation choice as it is made up of recycled paper fibre and a fire retardant.
- Wall cavities
Wall cavities can be insulated with reflective foil or batts when a house is being built. During renovations, insulation can also be retrofitted to cladding walls when weatherboard or interior plasterboard is being replaced.
If you’re not planning a major renovation but still want insulation, loose-fill can be pumped into existing cavity walls if they can be sealed at the bottom (so they are not open to the subfloor).
- Windows and doors
Windows account for 10 per cent to 20 per cent of heat loss in winter and 25 per cent to 35 per cent of heat gain in summer.
Double-glazed windows provide effective insulation if you’re building a new home or replacing windows in a renovation. Curtains slow winter heat loss, while blinds are a great way to block heat in summer – especially if they are external and keep the sun from directly hitting the glass.
Draughts can cause up to 25 per cent of winter heat loss so it’s a good idea to seal around windows and doors. Adhesive weather strips can be a cheap and easy way to eliminate draughts, while in older houses you might also consider using an old-fashioned padded draught stopper.
Insulating ceilings, walls, windows and doors can help to keep your house comfortable, and when you use less heating and cooling you’ll have a lower energy spend and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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