Insulation: the unsexy home improvement

batts and insulationIt sounds unsexy, but it’s the greenest thing you can install in any house or apartment to immediately improve its environmental performance – insulation.

Put it in ceilings, walls or around hotwater pipes and you’ve got your house the equivalent of a warm woolly jumper in winter or an esky in summer, not to mention plenty of enviro-Brownie points to help you feel smug about the state of your Green-ness.

Effective insulation saves on electricity consumption, making a home more comfortable to live in and paying back the initial installation cost within a few short years, according to energy expert Bruce Taper from Kinesis.

“In terms of dollars spent, insulation is the cheapest thing you can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.

Insulation installer Justin Beck says ceiling insulation – either loose fill or fixed batts – is the most effective way to reap immediate comfort and energy-saving benefits, with the average house costing between $800 and $1200 to insulate.

Know your R values

But RMIT adjunct professor Alan Pears says householders would reap immediate benefits by going the whole insulation hog and putting it in walls, ceilings and floors.

“There is an art to insulation,” he says, explaining that all insulation products offer a thermal rating – or R value – which must be correctly aligned with the local climate.

Sydney homes have a different R value to homes in Hobart, for example. There is also a range of products – from wool batts to bubble wrap to blow-in fill to suit ceilings or walls without easy access.

“Insulation has a cascading effect on the environmental efficiency of a house,” he says. In other words, the better insulated a home, the more cost-savings the owner will reap.

“Installing lagging around the hotwater pipes that run between the hotwater system and the bathroom is one of the easiest, cheapest forms of insulation. The minute you do it, you don’t have to pay to heat as much water and you don’t let as much cold water run down the drain,” he says.


This article was first published in House & Garden magazine as part of The Green House column.