Insulation Innovations

GAS-FILLED PANELS The honeycomb structures of these foil-coated plastic panels are filled with low-conductivity gasses such as argon or krypton, much like a high-performance window, Wilson said. R-values range from 5 to 11 at 1.5-inch thickness. “It presents some useful applications,” Wilson said.

SILICA AEROGEL This lightweight, translucent material comes in granules that can be used to fill glazing panels and provides R-values up to 20. The material is already known to some builders and architects who spec products from Kalwall, which relies on the technology for its window panels, skylights, and walls.

VACUUM INSULATION PANELS Similar to the insulation on a Thermos bottle, this material may soon be used to insulate home appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters; a 1-inch-thick panel provides R-25 or higher, Wilson said. The product was showcased as insulation for Team Germany’s winning entry in the 2009 Solar Decathlon.

FOAMGLAS This cellular glass material is 100% waterproof and is manufactured with up to 66% recycled glass from automobile windscreens and old windows.

WOOL This all-natural and inherently fire-retardant material, a common insulator for New Zealand homes, is just beginning to catch on with the U.S. market, Wilson said. It comes in a loose-fill formulation that is blown into the wall cavity much like dense-pack cellulose and is held in place with drywall or mesh.

COTTON Cotton insulation can now be found in 100% post-consumer recycled formulations with no formaldehyde or VOCs and in R-values up to 30. New perforated batts make installation easier, Wilson added.

CEMENTITIOUS FOAM This non-toxic and mold-resistant product, which has been on the market for 25 years but has recently caught on with green builders, is made with 100% organic magnesium oxide cement and is a good choice for homeowners with acute chemical sensitivities, Wilson said.

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