Most people want their homes and businesses to stay warm in winter and cool in summer and generally, the best way to achieve this is with insulation. A building without sufficient insulation could struggle to retain warmth, be expensive to heat and waste energy, such as gas. This is why you must meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements as laid out by Building Regulations. But why is it so crucial that buildings have insulation? Below, you can find out exactly how insulation works and why our homes and commercial premises need it.
How does insulation work?
Before we discover how insulation works, it’s important to consider how heat travels. The two main ways in which heat can travel are conduction and convection. Conduction describes how heat moves through a certain material, such as a radiator or a frying pan. Convection is the way in which heat and cool air moves (hot air rises and cool air sinks).
When your heating system comes on, hot water moves around the pipes and radiators. Thanks to conduction, the radiator becomes hot and can spread this warmth throughout the rooms in your home. However, heat will always flow towards cold air and this is where it can be lost to areas of your home that don’t have radiators, such as an attic, or even outside the home altogether.
This is where insulation comes in. Insulation contains small pockets in which air can become trapped. When this happens, it is much harder for heat to escape as it cannot break through these air pockets. This means that the heat is forced to stay inside a building and results in the insulation acting as a kind of barrier. Without this barrier, your boiler would need to work harder to replace the escaping heat, meaning it could use a lot more energy than a home that has good insulation.
It’s important to have a combination of cavity wall and loft insulation, while also making sure that windows are sealed and double glazed. In a large commercial space, such as an office, there may be more avenues for heat to escape, resulting in a less efficient building.
What is insulation made of?
Obviously, insulation must be good at insulating in order to work successfully, and this means that whatever it’s made from should be able to trap air within its fibres.Certain materials are better at doing this than others. For example, wool is a famously good insulator – it keeps sheep warm and dry and explains why it’s used to create jumpers that can keep us warm too. Fabrics such as cotton are also good insulators, as is foam which can be sprayed or injected directly into a surface. Other manmade materials can be used, such as fibreglass insulation. This material is made from a mixture of wool and glass fibres to create a strong composite that is extremely effective in loft spaces.
Why do houses need insulation?
Now that you understand how insulation works, why is it so important to have good quality insulation in your home?
Lots of people believe that most of the heat in a building escapes through the roof. Because heat rises, it seems logical that this would be the case. However, conduction also means that this heat travels to colder places, resulting in warmth being lost through walls and floors too. It’s thought that around 35 per cent of heat is lost through walls, 40 per cent through doors, windows and floors and only 25 per cent through the roof.
Insulation is one of the best ways you can make your home more energy efficient and therefore save money on your gas bills. Say, for example, you’ve set your boiler to heat your home to 20℃. Not only could it take more effort for your boiler to bring a room to this temperature, but it may also have to work harder to keep it at this temperature. This means your boiler could be using more gas than the same heating system in a well-insulated property. The Energy Saving Trust states that an average-sized three bedroom semi-detached property could save £150 in one year by installing loft insulation and an additional £160 by installing cavity wall insulation.
Why does your commercial property need insulation?
While insulation in homes is more about keeping heat in, it’s the opposite for commercial spaces. Most offices, particularly those with lots of electrical equipment like computers, can get very warm in summer. While air conditioning would be a good answer to this problem, this kind of system only uses more electricity, resulting in higher energy bills. Instead, insulation can keep an office space cooler. It can even be used in tandem with air conditioning so that the space is kept cool but heat from outside is unable to penetrate further into the building.
Insulation may also help to reduce your business’ carbon footprint and can be advantageous as a sound absorber too, reducing sound pollution from other parts of the building or outside.
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