Thermal insulation products such as loft, cavity wall and floor insulation are covered in a very comprehensive manner. We have plenty of listings for Acoustic / Sound insulation and these are from both the large manufacturer and some smaller more specialist suppliers....more
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What is insulation?
No-one likes being cold – or too hot for that matter – and no-one likes being faced with huge energy bills for keeping a building’s occupants happy and productive. Enter the knight in shining armour known as insulation.
Taken literally, to insulate means to protect from heat, cold or noise. For a building, this involves adding layers of materials that will improve its ability to hold warm or cool air and increase the thermal or acoustic comfort of the occupants. The rate of heat transference of a given product is measured as U values – the lower the better – and Building Regulations set a maximum U value for various construction elements. For the technically minded, these sites have useful sheets of U-values : Energy Saving Experts and Local Authority Building Control
Better energy efficiency not only means lower fuel bills, but fewer damaging CO2 emissions. Give yourself a big green tick. You can improve your eco rating even more by using environmentally friendly products as you go round your property upgrading the various elements of insulation.
So where do we start? Here’s a quick guide to the types of thermal and acoustic insulation available and the materials used. Follow the links to other pages for more information on selected topics.
Types of insulation
For housing, industrial or commercial buildings, the building envelope can be padded internally or externally to keep heat in or out. You can use products as basic as foil and bubble wrap, or go to town with sophisticated systems costing thousands of pounds. It’s not always a case of bigger is better – different fabrics have varying insulatory properties and sometimes a thin layer of an innovative material will produce the same U values as a thick wad of something less advanced. Let’s work from the top down:
- Roof: We all know hot air rises, so it's vital that there is a barrier to slow down its escape into the atmosphere. The Energy Saving Trust states that 25% of a home's heat escapes through an insulated loft and roof. Insulation for flat or pitched roofs can take the form of membranes, panels and sprayed foams. The choice of roof tile can also make a big difference to heat retention - and don't forget that the substrate and vegetation of a green roof acts as a blanket, so that's another option. Conservatory roofs have a particularly challenging role in trying to control the temperature fluctuations of the space below. In homes with a pitched roof and attic space, insulating the loft is one of the most cost-effective ways for us to stay snug. Rolls of mineral wool are a popular, cheap solution and suppliers include the InstaGroup (InstaFibre pictured).
- Walls: Here you've got a choice of adding an insulating layer to the inside or outside of the walls - or in between if you're talking about cavity walls. Loose fill or blown material is most commonly used for retrofitting insulation to cavity walls, although foam boards are frequently chosen for new builds. Internal or external work generally involves rigid boards or panels being fixed to a framework. Indoors, these might be foil-backed plasterboard or a basic gypsum stud wall with polystyrene or other slab insulation behind it. There are advanced external wall insulation systems that not only act as an all-weather suit but can also improve the aesthetics of a building. Some of the heat from radiators can disappear into walls; reflective foil is a cheap way to combat this.
- Floors: New builds have to achieve a U value of 0.20 for floors and rigid board insulation of 80mm or more is the answer. For solid floors, there is a choice of screeding over or under the insulation boards. If you're planning to install under-floor heating, take care to choose a proprietary board that has been developed for this application. Suspended floors can be a bit more tricky - foam boards have to be carefully cut to fit between the joists while maintaining ventilation. Another method is to hang insulation blanket in 'hammocks' created with netting.
Also known as noise insulation or soundproofing, acoustic insulation limits the impact of noise on neighbours. We might just be talking about maintaining harmony within a home where some family members like watching surround-sound movies or practising the drums. Or it could be a business with noisy production processes needing to comply with conditions laid down by the local authority. Building Regulations set out the standards for sound insulation between adjoining units in residential developments and within a dwelling or school.
Both walls and floors can be responsible for transmitting noise at nuisance levels. Isolating construction – creating a gap – is an effective way of reducing impact and structure borne sound, but can be complicated by the need to have ties for structural reasons.
- Walls: Dense brick or blockwork provides mass that counters the transfer of airborne sound through walls. Isolation is achieved by using facing each side of the wall, spaced at least 25mm off the wall. Sound absorbent pads or quilt can be used between the framework of stud walls.
- Floors: Separating floors can be a source of noise aggravation in houses or blocks of apartments, often made worse by the trend for wooden floor coverings. Acoustic insulation slabs can be installed under screed or under chipboard and in-between the joists of a suspended timber floor. As well as reducing impact sound, this has the double benefit of improving thermal performance. Pictured is the Isotonic Platform Floor from Thermal Economics.
In addition to these major building elements, there are other areas that can benefit from thermal or sound insulation. Pipework needs to be wrapped up to prevent water from freezing in winter (and this is even more important in an insulated loft); energetic youngsters on stairs can create a racket, so consider padding treads on any wooden treads.
Insulation is a huge and very important subject. Read more and find companies supplying quality insulation products by following the links on this page, or visit the Energy Saving Trust’s free information site. There are separate sites for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Shivering woman image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Tick image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net