Insulation: Boring But Important... and Very Green
When it comes to home improvement projects, adding insulation has to be one of the least sexy. Almost nobody brags to their neighbor about increasing their home's "R" values. As boring as it might be, that doesn't make proper insulation any less important.
Simply put: a well-insulated home is a green home. When you've got great insulation, your heating and cooling bills may decrease by as much as 20 percent, and you're home is typically more comfortable. What's not to love about that? Adding to the benefits are new government incentives to make homes more energy efficient. The stimulus package includes tax credits for as much as 30 percent of the cost of adding insulation (up to $1,500)--among other energy-saving measures.
Green Insulation Options
Given insulation's benefits, all insulation--from your old school Pink Panther to insulation made from recycled blue jeans--is technically "green." But there are many shades of green to consider and it seems every day new options enter the market. Insulation typically costs about 50 cents to $3.50 a square foot--with a higher R-value (or resistance to heat) and professional installation reaping a more expensive the price. But some products are more expensive simply because they're so new, they're not yet in high demand.
Here are a few to consider:
- Cellulose, or shredded newsprint, is made of 85 percent recycled material and 15 percent eco-friendly fire retardant. It's blown in dry or sprayed on wet.
- Cotton, or old blue jeans, also mixed with a green fire retardant.
- Fiberglass, or spun glass, made with up to 40 percent recycled content. It comes in batts or is chopped and blown into floor and wall cavities.
- Mineral wool, made from recycled slag and mined basalt rock, is naturally fire and pest resistant and is great at muffling noise. Rigid-board foundation insulation also provides a waterproof barrier.
- Sheep's wool is formed into batts and loose fill and then treated for moth- and mildew-proofing. Like cotton, wool tends to primarily be a health-related choice.
- Cementitious, made from magnesium oxide cement mixed with water, it's pumped into cavities and has all the qualities you look for: natural resistance to mold, fire and pests.
- Agricultural-based: Soybean oil, sugar cane and corn replace petroleum-based ingredients. This comes in a sprayed foam and, in the case of soy-based, a rigid board.
By taking advantage of tax rebates and the large variety of insulation available, you can not only make your home more energy efficient, but green as well.
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.