There are fewer scenarios worse than living-out the chilly winter months in a poorly-insulated home. The function of thermal insulation is to reduce heat loss and gain by separating environments that differ in temperature using effective materials such as glass mineral wool. A well-insulated property is a cost-effective property, since the levels of heat escape are vastly lessened and so energy bills can be cut down.
In the summer months and in warmer climates, equally, insulation can help prevent a home from overheating, by ensuring that less heat from outside is able to enter the building envelope and the cool air within stays inside (reducing air leakage.) With more and more emphasis being placed on energy efficient properties, having a properly insulated property is crucial in keeping energy bills to a minimum.
How Does Property Insulation Work?
The reason glass and stone wool is often used and is a good material for insulation is because it contains many tiny pockets of air. Air, which itself carries heat or thermal energy is trapped and held in these tiny pockets and therefore cannot travel easily through the walls, ceilings and floors of a property if they are insulated in this way. The air from outside and the air from inside are therefore kept separate, and room temperature is controlled (this is an important factor for air tightness testing.)
Conduction and Convection
Conductive heat flow is when heat moves through materials. Convection is the way in which heat circulates through liquids and gases. Convection causes heat to rise, for example, when liquids and gases expand and become less dense when they are heated; rising into the colder areas of the room. When the previously warmer particles then get colder and denser, they fall again and fall back into the warm areas, creating a ‘convection current.’
Insulation is necessary in order to prevent outside air from being conducted through walls, ceilings and floors and infiltrating the convection currents inside.
Homeowners, landlords and property owners are able to apply for the UK government’s Green Homes Grant which provides the necessary funding for as much as £10,000-worth of property insulation. This is all part of the government’s drive to get properties; houses and flats across the UK a lot more energy efficient.
One of the primary benefits of this scheme is that savings are experienced immediately. Typically when it comes to insulation and energy-saving measures, savings will take many years to be felt by homeowners, having invested in energy efficient measures such as insulation and otherwise. Thus, by having new and effective insulation fully funded, once installed the savings and benefits are all there to be had.
Materials Used for Property Insulation
Insulation is necessary in order to prevent heat from being conducted through walls, ceilings and floors. Metal is a good conductor of heat, which is why houses are often built from poor conductors such as brick.
Materials suitable for insulation include:
- Stone mineral wool
- Glass mineral wool
- Foam boards
- Reflective foils
- Spray foam
- Blown Cellulose
The denser a material is, the better a thermal conductor it is. Air is a very poor conductor of heat and therefore is a good insulator. This is why we use materials with air pockets in order to insulate our homes and buildings. Mineral wool, spray foam insulation, fibreglass and rigid foam boards are among the many materials that are used to insulate properties.
Where to Insulate
There are many ways to insulate a building, but the usual places in which insulation is applied is between walls, in ceilings and floors, and in roofs.
Roof and Attic Insulation – Approximately 25% of heat in a property is lost through the roof or attic. Roof and attic insulation remains effective for over 40 years, and is bound to save you heaps on energy bills. Mineral wool insulation is a good way to insulate an attic or loft. Layers of the material are positioned in between any joists or beams that comprise the loft’s structure.
If you don’t want to insulate the floor of the loft (perhaps you are using it as an added living space), you may also insulate the roof itself. Line the roof with foam insulation boards, or if the roof is inaccessible, hire in a professional to install blown insulation.
Cavity Wall Insulation – The majority of heat is lost through the walls of a property, so to maintain the heat of a home or building, it is very important that the walls are well-insulated.
A normal wall is simply one solid wall, usually made out of brick. The cavity in a cavity wall is a gap between two walls. Cavity walls were initially built to prevent dampness from seeping through outer walls inside the house. However, cavity walls are responsible for a huge amount of heat loss in a property.
A cavity wall insulation is when you fill the cavity between two walls with insulating material, in order to prevent warm air particles from being conducted into the cavity in its plight to replace cool particles.
The process of filling a cavity wall usually comprises of drilling a small hole into the brick of a solid wall, and spraying foam insulation through the whole in order to fill the gap.
Floor Insulation – The amount of heat typically lost through the floor of a property is less than through the roof and walls, but still lies at a considerable 15%. Insulating your floors can save you up to £80 a year, so it is a worthwhile endeavour to undertake.
The best way to insulate floorboards where possible, is to insulate them from underneath. Suspended floorboards which rest on floor joints lose the most heat as they are levelled above an empty area, which will require filling. An option in these cases is to lay glass mineral wool rolls underneath the floorboards. It is also important to fix draughts in floorboards, which can be done at home using sealant or caulking.
UK Property Insulation Regulations
If you wish to make significant changes to a property when insulating, Building Regulations approval may be required. Walls, roofs and floors are defined by UK regulations as ‘thermal elements’, and may be rightfully insulated.
The quality of the insulating procedure must be in keeping with the energy efficiency values stated in the Approved Documents. Usually planning permission is not required for fitting insulation into a property, unless it is a listed or protected building.