The prime purpose of insulating buildings is to make them more comfortable, healthier whilst making them more energy efficient.
Properly insulated buildings provide numerous benefits
- Significant energy savings every year for the life of the building. This equate to a reduction in energy costs that in some cases amount to several hundred dollars savings per annum
- A short term payback on invested costs in some cases just within a few years
- Improvements in comfort, energy bill control, noise control, maintenance costs, property values and health outcomes. In some studies these benefits have been found to be larger than the savings in energy costs.
- Due to lower energy use, a reduction in household greenhouse gas emissions.
- An increase in the assessed energy efficiency rating, sustainability and liveability ratings
Insulation is not expensive. Insulating the walls and ceilings of a typical new Australian house costs less than 1% of the construction cost. For an existing home, the costs of ceiling insulation can be repaid – primarily through energy savings – over a couple of years.
What are the potential annual savings for the average insulated Australian home?
|Ceilings||Top-upexisting ceiling insulation||Walls||Floors|
|$ Savings p.a.||300||49||91||39|
|Star rating improvement with insulation||2.2||0.5||1.0||0.2|
|GHG savings in tonnes p.a.(t CO2-e) p.a.||0.93||0.15||0.29||0.11|
|Source: The value of Insulation Based Residential Energy Savings Measures in Australia. Prepared by Energy Efficient Strategies September 2012.|
How is the performance of insulation typically measured? (Insulation values R, U, k)
There are several commonly used measures to demonstrate and compare thermal performance.
R Value: this is a unit of thermal resistance for a particular material (e.g. an insulation batt) or assembly of materials (such as an insulation panel). The higher the R value of the material the better it insulates.
U-Value measures the rate of heat transfer through a building element over a given area under standardized conditions. The smaller the U factor the better it is at reducing heat transfer. The lower the U value of a material the better it insulates.
k Value (thermal conductivity) is the measure of how easily heat flows through a specific types of material independent of the thickness of the material. The lower the k , the slower the heat will move through the material, the better is its thermal performance
Can Glasswool insulation reduce nuisance noise?
Improved building energy efficiency standards – especially higher levels of insulation – can not only provide opportunities to reduce energy usage but can also provide less noisy and more comfortable living environments. If you’re experiencing problems with noise from your neighbours, traffic or even between rooms in your home, it might be time to consider looking at your insulation needs.
Insulation contributes to saving energy infrastructure requirements
The most sustainable form of energy is energy saved.
Insulation reduces the amount of energy needed to heat and cool buildings. As more buildings are insulated or become better insulated, this reduces the need to spend the large sums of money on new power generation plants and network delivery costs
How to choose the right insulation
- Check the product complies with relevant Australian standards – never assume. Look at the product brochures/packaging and make sure that you are dealing with a company whose products are in compliance with AS4859.1.
Reputable product manufacturers should also be able to provide a warranty for the performance of their products where they are installed in accordance with Australian Standards. ICANZ Member companies provide substantial warranties for the performance of their products.Products that meet Australian Standards are safe if installed correctly, (particularly around downlights) and where a hazard assessment has been performed before the product is installed. For further details refer to ICANZ Installation Guide for Professional Installers. This is downloadable from www.icanz.org.au. Some products offer the added security of having been tested to Australian Standard 1530.1 which means they are deemed a Non Combustible building material*.If you have any doubts, always call the manufacturer who is obliged to provide proof of compliance.
- If you’re using a professional installer, make sure you conduct a background check of the company you’re dealing with.
Ask questions of the installer. Ask how long the business has been in operation, and whether they are backed by any additional training from a manufacturer. Some manufacturers of insulation provide additional training to Installers that purchase and install their product.
- Take your time to choose the right insulation product – shop around. Get at least two quotes. Use this as your opportunity to
- Explore all of your options in terms of the right product for your home prior to contacting an installer.
- See if the installer is able to provide a warranty certificate of performance on the product that they intend installing.
- Check how long the manufacturer has been in operation. If they are a reputable manufacturer and are willing to provide a lifetime warranty for the performance of the product, this provides added security.
- If you’ve decided that DIY insulation is the right option for you, remember to choose a product that has clear safety and installation instructions. All ICANZ Member Companies provide easy-to-follow safety and installation instructions on their product packaging and added helpful information on their websites.
What are the Public Health Benefits of Glasswool insulation?
The right insulation correctly installed can significantly improve comfort and health in the home. Installed insulation helps protect the quality of life for the elderly and socially disadvantaged.
Research conducted in New Zealand involving 1400 homes and nearly 5000 people found that people living in insulated homes that were warmer and drier reported a significant improvement in the health of adults and children compared to people living in the uninsulated homes (Housing and Health Research Program, Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago).
Adults and children living in insulated homes reported less visits to their GP and were admitted less often to hospital for respiratory conditions. Adults were also significantly less likely to report sick days off work, and children were less likely to have days off school.
An evaluation of New Zealand Government subsidised insulation programme, using a sample of the 47,000 retrofitted homes, found a cost-benefit ratio of 4:1. This meant that the New Zealand Government saved $4 for every $1 spent on its insulation programme. These savings resulted from improvements in occupant health, lower energy bills and less unemployment benefits having to be paid
Installing home insulation can help reduce mortality among the elderly during heat waves, according to new medical research from the French Institute of Public Health Surveillance. Researchers investigated the causes of thousands of excess deaths during a severe heat wave that hit France in August 2003. They found that 35% of the sample died of heat related factors. The report identified that a lack of thermal building insulation was a main risk factor associated with the deaths of elderly people.
Does insulation affect air conditioning?
Installing insulation is the most cost effective way of reducing heat transfer from one area to another. With the right insulation correctly installed, the energy used for air conditioning will be reduced substantially to achieve and maintain comfort levels. The size, and hence the capital cost, of the air-conditioning unit can often be reduced when the premises is well insulated.
How to manage insulation and ventilation
Insulation and designed ventilation complement each other. Correctly installed insulation is the most cost effective barrier for preventing heat entering or leaving a building. However over extended periods of hot weather heat can build up inside a building. Ventilation designed for the this use can be used to effectively expel built up heat and replace it with cooler air from outside
How to install insulation correctly (Incl. advice on tools and attire)
Insulation correctly installed is the single most effective way of improving energy efficiency in buildings. In particular, glasswool insulation is a low-cost, safe, highly-beneficial product that can reduce the energy households use on heating and cooling, provide a more comfortable home and lower a home’s greenhouse gas emissions.
All insulation must be installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and the correct method of installing insulation in proximity to downlights and wiring is clearly set out in the current versions of Australian and New Zealand standards AS 3999 and AS/NZS 3000 2007 wiring rules.
Downlights are a popular, flexible and mood lighting choice for hundreds of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders. Some types of downlights can, however, generate heat into a roof space and care must be taken to ensure that this additional heat does not become a fire hazard when combined with combustible materials. Before selecting and installing downlights, ICANZ recommends consumers consult with their electrician and lighting supplier to recommend low heat and high energy efficient lighting options which will substantially reduce any possibility of fire risk.
Halogen Downlights do not present a fire hazard if insulation and down-lights are installed correctly.
The correct method of installing insulation in conjunction with down-lights is clearly set out in Australian Standard AS 3999. And in AS/NZS 3000: 2007 (Australian and New Zealand wiring rules)
Insulation batts are bonded into a fixed shape during their manufacture and should not move around or change shape once installed correctly. Glasswool batts that have passed the test requirements of Appendix C ‘Resistance to Movement’ test of AS 3999 and when installed correctly do not require additional barriers to protect them against contact with down lights. All insulation is required to leave a clearance of at least 50mm around downlights, electric fans and hot flues.
It is extremely important where special guards or suggested caps are required or used for placement over down lights or electrical appliances that these covers are matched and approved as suitable for the insulation type to be used and for the particular lights or appliances to be covered
DIY Safety Tips
Do-it-Yourself (DIY) installation of glasswool insulation can be done safely and effectively provided a few essential safety precautions – such as switching the electricity OFF at the switchbox – are taken. ICANZ member companies provide easy-to-follow safety and installation instructions on their product packaging and on their websites. ICANZ also produces an Installation Guide for professional installers, which can provide the DIY installer with additional safety and installation information.
ICANZ recommends as good work practice to adopt the following in any situation where dust is evident or likely:
- Light long sleeve clothing
- Gloves and cap
- Dust mask when working overhead or in confined spaces.
- Goggles for overhead work.
All instructions are clearly outlined on ICANZ members’ product labels which are on every pack of Glass Wool.
Installer accreditation (licensing)
ICANZ supports accredited training for all insulation installers and has assisted in the establishment of an accredited insulation installer training course in conjunction with the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries (AWCI) and the Clean Energy Council (CEC).
ICANZ has published a Guide for Professional Insulation Installers. This is downloadable from ICANZ website – www.icanz.org.au.
Environmental performance of Glasswool
Up to 80% of the content used to manufacture glasswool insulation is sourced from recycled materials. And. the bulk of virgin material materials used are either abundantly available or from renewable resources
Glasswool insulation products correctly installed are guaranteed to perform for the life of the building.
The use of insulation helps put saved energy back into the economy for productive use. Energy saved by installing glasswool insulation is typically up to 400 times greater than the energy used in the manufacturing process to produce glasswool insulation products
Suitability of test reports relating insulation products
In order to demonstrate compliance with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4859.1, testing must be performed by a ‘recognised laboratory’ relevant to this Standard.
Test results are valid for 5 years.
ICANZ has become aware that in recent times non-compliance with this requirement has increased. A condition of compliance to this Standard (Section 4.4) is that copies of test and calculation reports are to be made available on request for verification.
Demonstration of product compliance
It is mandatory for all thermal building insulation products installed in new buildings to comply with the labelling, testing, quality assurance and other requirements contained in the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
ICANZ recommends building practitioners, particularly building certifiers, should either:
- request a copy of a report by an accredited laboratory showing that the insulation product complies with testing, labelling and quality assurance requirements of the Australian Standard AS/NZS 4859.1:2002;
- check that labelling or manufacturing supply documentation includes a statement that the insulation product complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4859.1:2002; and
- check that the labeling or manufacturing documentation declares the R-value of the product, and that this meets the specified R-value for the location of insulation in the building (e.g. ceiling, walls, floor etc); or
- If the insulation product does not comply with the testing, labeling and quality assurance requirements of AS/NZS 4859.1:2002 as the deemed-to-satisfy solution, the applicant should provide evidence that the insulation product complies with the performance requirement (P2.6.1 in BCA Volume Two) as an alternative solution.
Energy efficiency of Australian homes
Australian homes remain some of the least energy efficient in the developed world. Even the new 6 Star Building Code of Australia, which incorporates such design and material features as building orientation, insulation and glazing levels are still only at around 60% of those of homes in the USA located in similar climate zones.
By 2005, the Building Code of Australia had incorporated minimum energy efficiency requirements for all new habitable buildings and major renovations to pre-existing buildings. The prime purpose of these minimum energy efficiency regulations is only to eliminate worst practice and not to achieve for optimum performance. Of all the energy efficiency measures available for buildings, insulation is amongst the most immediate and cost effective.
Insulation is not just about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Insulation will:
- Reduce peak power loading in extreme weather conditions
- In all seasons, reduce costs and save money by reducing energy bills.
- Provide healthier living conditions and wellbeing for occupants
- Increase passive comfort levels
- Reducing sound transmission through buildings
Australia still has a long way to go from having the least energy efficient buildings in the OECD to anything approaching international minimum standards.
For more details (both State and National) refer to ‘ The value of Insulation Based Residential Energy Savings Measures in Australia. Prepared by Energy Efficient Strategies September 2012’ which is available and downloadable from the publications section of ICANZ website – www.icanz.org.au.
One of the barriers to retro-fitting insulation is that many uninsulated homes are rental properties, so the cost savings from reduced energy consumption do not flow to the owner but to the tenant. The owner has no clear incentive to invest money for the sole benefit of the tenant. This is the area where the market has clearly failed to deliver energy efficiency reform and where ICANZ believes government intervention is well justified.
Glasswool and Rockwool insulation products are safe to install and use
Glasswool and Rockwool insulation products have been manufactured and used internationally for over 80 years. Today these products represent over 60% of all insulation used in the building industry worldwide. Over their long history they have been used successfully and safely across a very wide range of industries with no risks to the health for those manufacturing the products, handling or using the products or end users enjoying the many benefits provided by having glasswool and rockwool products installed.
Over $100 million US dollars have been spent on medical research to ensure fibres from these products do not result in chronic health issues.
Glasswool insulation products are not classified as hazardous or carcinogenic.
These products are proven to be safe to manufacture, handle, install and be used by consumers.
Glasswool may cause a short-term mechanical itch to some people. Read the directions on the label and wash as directed.
Glasswool is not a primary cause of asthma, bronchitis etc. However, it is possible it may cause discomfort to those suffering a pre-existing condition.
Formadehyde & Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
There is no risk associated to formaldehyde emissions from glasswool insulation supplied by ICANZ members
Comprehensive studies done on full scale chambers have demonstrated that glasswool wool insulation products do not contribute to the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or formaldehyde indoor air pollution..
Glasswool insulation supplied by ICANZ members does not represent a formaldehyde health risk based on these independent test findings.