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Try green insulation for health and energy efficiency

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ January 8, 2012

If you're committed to going green, you'll be curious about the new generation of efficient, low-impact insulation products on the market. Traditional insulation products can off-gas (at worst) or give off odors in your home. You can swap them out for low or non-VOC emitting insulation products and, at the same time, fill your home with insulation that doesn't sag or settle.

New green products also come with the most-appropriate R-values to protect your home from heat loss in winter, heat gain in summer. The U.S. Green Building Council says you'll save up to 30 percent of your energy bills by having the right levels of insulation in your home.

The U.S. Department of Energy hosts a free online R-value calculator to determine the minimum levels to insulate your home, based on heat source and climate. Current minimum ratings are at R-13 for exterior walls and R-38 for your ceilings.

Here are some insulation options:

Cellulose

This loose-fill fiber product is created from up to 85 percent recycled materials (usually newsprint). It has a consistently higher R-value than fiberglass and requires 30 percent less energy to manufacture. Buy products that include a mixture of borate fire retardants. Cellulose can be sprayed-on damp or blown-in dry into ceilings, floors and cavities.

Polystyrene-Expanded (EPS) and Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation

Both EPS and SPF are free of hydrochloro-fluorocarbons, making them an excellent green option. Moreover, they're installed using water in the blowing agents rather than VOC chemicals. EPS is recyclable. Both products are sold in open or closed-cell varieties. You'll find that closed-cell products have higher R-vales. SPF favorably holds its shape over time.

Cotton

Sold as a shredded product, cotton is known for having low-VOC properties. Again, buy the line that comes with borate fire retardants. Cotton is recyclable and sold as loose fill and batt. Made from recycled cotton clothing and fabric, this insulation is a good option for walls and ceilings. Avoid high-moisture areas.

Soy

Soy-based insulation is sprayed in with water, so there's no VOC impact. It comes as two materials (resin and catalyst) mixed together onsite when applied. Soy spray-on foam expands up to 100 times, so it's an option for wall filling,

New or increased insulation can truly help you weatherize your home for best energy efficiency. And now you have a choice of products that keep your home green.

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