Home insulation has been mandatory since 2015. With thicker walls bringing big benefits to electricity bills and the environment, the switch shouldn’t have been particularly difficult for most builders. However, you should think carefully about which insulating material you leave between your walls, because the criticism of synthetic materials is becoming louder and louder. In this article you will find out why ecological insulating materials are increasingly establishing themselves as worthwhile alternatives.
Conventional vs. ecological insulation materials
More and more potential homeowners are having doubts about the conventional insulating materials Styrofoam (EPS) and XPS : Since the materials are obtained from fossil, i.e. non-renewable raw materials, the actual environmental benefits are estimated to be very low. The bottom line is that the balance of environmental friendliness is often not as great as initially calculated by the consultant.
In addition to the sustainability of the materials, health and safety also play a major role. Although EPS and XPS are no longer treated with chemical fire retardants that emit harmful gases, mistrust of plastics persists. Many people simply don’t like the idea of “wrapping their home completely in plastic” – perhaps not entirely wrongly: If there is a fire despite fire protection, the extinguishing work can be very complicated.
Luckily for those who have doubts, there are a number of good alternatives. Whether hemp, jute or cellulose – ecological insulating materials have many advantages.
jute and hemp
Jute becomes an insulating material through the so-called upcycling of old cocoa and coffee sacks. Upcycling means not just reusing something (like recycling), but making something more valuable out of it. When processing into insulation mats, hemp is often used. This mixture can also absolutely keep up with the synthetic competition in terms of price and is available from €3.30/m².
Hemp is also a plant-based insulating material and, by and large, has very similar properties to jute, which is why the materials are often used together. With hemp, it should be emphasized that it is very resistant to moisture and therefore also resistant to mould.
coconut and flax
The coconut fibers processed into rolls or mats serve as a good insulating material because they are elastic and tear-resistant. In addition to its qualities as an insulating material, the coconut fibers regulate the humidity in the interior and serve as sound insulation.
Critics, however, complain that particularly long transport routes have to be accepted when coco is used as an insulating material. Even the fact that the plant grows back naturally, i.e. it is a renewable resource, cannot console many people about this ecological shortcoming.
Flax insulates as well as coconut, but is obtained from native plants. The insulating material is also quite cheap and is usually processed into panels or mats.
Cellulose is the most popular ecological insulation material among consumers – and not without reason! The material is obtained from shredded waste paper and can be used in the form of flakes, especially in crooked cavities.
When thinking about wrapping their house in paper, many future homeowners probably get a shock at first: What if there is a fire? But there is no need to worry here. The cellulose is treated with boron salts or aluminum sulphate before use and is therefore flame retardant. The disadvantage, however, is that you can no longer dispose of the insulation material in the compost.
If you like it loud at home but don’t want to disturb your neighbors, you should definitely choose cellulose. Due to the many air spaces between the paper fibers, the insulating material serves as excellent sound insulation.
Ecological insulating materials: prices and thermal conductivity at a glance
|Material (d= 18cm)||Price per m²||thermal conductivity|
|jute||about 17€||approx. 0.038 W/(m•K)|
|coconut||about 40€||approx. 0.045 W/(m•K)|
|flax||about 27€||approx. 0.040 W/(m•K)|
|cellulose||about 27€||approx. 0.042 W/(m•K)|
|hemp||about 18€||approx. 0.040 W/(m•K)|
*the lower the thermal conductivity value, the more suitable the material is as an insulating material
There are many good reasons to choose ecological insulating materials over conventional ones.
With ecological variants you do something good for yourself and the environment and in some cases you don’t even have to spend any more money. Nevertheless, with the wide range of different insulating materials, the comparison is of course worthwhile again. The most important data can be found at a glance in the table above.