Benefits of Insulation

Many homeowners are focusing more attention on the societal impacts of the building materials used in their homes. This means greater emphasis on choosing products that are energy efficient, responsibly sourced, minimize waste, and reduce pollution. Choices regarding insulation affect the environment, the economy, and your health and quality of life.

Environmental benefits

Buildings consume a large amount of energy, and homes today are built larger, contain more appliances, and rely more heavily on space cooling than those in 1990.  Taking measures to improve the home’s energy efficiency has resulted in a reduction of energy use by 21.5 per cent between 1990 and 2010.  However, more can still be done.

Canadian homes contribute over 40% to the nation’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and an average household spends $1,963 on energy needs, of which approximately 65 per cent is used for space heating and cooling alone.  Installing high levels of insulation in all areas of the house effectively reduces the amount of energy required to heat or cool the spaces, and in turn saves money on energy bills and reduces overall GHG emissions.

Comparing Environmental Benefits of Insulation Types

 FiberglassRock and Slag WoolSpray FoamCellulose
Recycled ContentContains upwards of 70% recycled glassProducts vary, but they all contain natural rock and blast furnace slagAs a chemical product, it typically contains very little recycled contentGenerally has upwards of 80% recycled content
Reusable MaterialYesYesNoNo
Raw Materials Used in ProductionRecycled glass and sand, renewable and abundant materialsMinerals like basalt or diabase and blast furnace slagA blend of various chemicals, typically including Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), other isocyanates and polyols (derived from petroleum and agricultural sources)Newspapers or wood fibers

Use of recycled content

In 2015, NAIMA Canada members together used more than 373 million pounds of recycled glass in the production of residential, commercial, industrial, and air handling thermal and acoustical insulation.

U.S. and Canadian facilities used more than 666 million pounds of recycled blast furnace slag in the production of thermal and acoustical insulation. Since the industry’s recycling program began in 1992, NAIMA members’ plants have diverted more than 52 billion pounds of recycled materials from the waste stream.

While recycled content is just one indicator of a product’s environmental impact, the survey results illustrate the significant impact that an industry can have through the conscientious use of materials.

“Embodied Energy” and insulation products

In researching insulation products, you may come across references to “embodied” or “embedded” energy, which is the energy used to manufacture the product. Certain insulation types claim to have the lowest embodied energy. However, these claims should be viewed carefully.

Refer to third party environmental product declarations (EPDs) for complete information.

Economic benefits

A well-insulated building envelope can save homeowners money on their energy bills and improve the home’s value by offering energy efficiency[1]. In other words, they have more money to spend on other things, such as vacations or a kitchen renovation, and they can feel better about making smart investments into their homes. Not only that, but it helps to protect homeowners from rapid, significant energy price increases that could occur in the future.

The mineral fiber (fiberglass, rock wool, and slag wool) industry produces products for the Canadian market employing directly and indirectly approximately 17,000 people and contributes more than $3 billion to the nation’s economy each year. The industry ships some $600 million worth of product, of which approximately 80 per cent is for the domestic market. The insulation manufactured in Canada supports an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity through installation and construction.[2]

Health and quality of life

Airtight, well-insulated building envelopes with properly vented structures help improve a home’s indoor climate, which in effect improves the inhabitants’ health and well-being.[3] Asthmatic inhabitants could experience fewer asthma attacks, there could be fewer visits to the emergency room, and there may be fewer premature deaths.[4]

 


[1] Co-star report

[2] Altus Group—letter summary available upon request

[3] IEA/Copenhagen studies

[4] Harvard Studies