Some of the benefits of insulation are obvious. In a home or building, insulation reduces energy use which in turn reduces utility bills, pollution, and cuts down on water use (used in power generation). But while all insulation types general reduce energy consumption, specific insulation types can impact the environment and the economy differently in other ways.
|Fiberglass||Rock and Slag Wool||Spray Foam||Cellulose|
|Recycled Content||Contains upwards of 70% recycled glass||Products vary, but they all contain natural rock and blast furnace slag||As a chemical product, it typically contains very little recycled content||Generally has upwards of 80% recycled content|
|Raw Materials Used in Production||Recycled glass and sand, renewable and abundant materials||Minerals like basalt or diabase and blast furnace slag||A 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
NAIMA Canada members together used more 373 million pounds of recycled glass in the production of residential, commercial, industrial, and air handling thermal and acoustical insulation.
In 2015, 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.
Purchasing mineral fiber (fiberglass, rock wool, and slag wool) insulation products supports and helps to grow an industry that directly and indirectly employs 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.[i]
Highly-insulated buildings also help business owners grow their businesses.[ii] By reducing their energy bills, the owners can afford to make their prices more competitive, to pay higher profits to their shareholders, or to put money back into the company to increase production. They also provide some protection to their businesses, since they are less sensitive to rapid and significant energy price increases. [iii] Finally, the business could run smoother with an increase in productivity due to improved acoustical performance. A business that stays and grows within a community is a major asset for that community.
[i] Altus Group—letter summary available upon request