What is insulation and what types of insulation are covered in the Government insulation scheme?
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Insulation is everywhere in our lives. In our walls, in our lofts, in our windows and doors... almost sounds like a lurking monster. I promise you that insulation is no monster- it is extremely important to have effective insulation to make sure that no thermal (heat) energy is wasted in the house. To some, the following questions may seem easy but to others, people that have lived without insulation, need to know the answers to these questions; What exactly is insulation though? What is cavity wall insulation? What does double insulation mean? What exactly does it do? Let's try and answer as many as possible.
Before you continue, if you're interested in the Government's ECO scheme, we recommend reading up on that first.
What is insulation?
Insulation (In-sul-ai-tion) or an insulator, is a scientific term for essentially 'stopping the heat'. It is the opposite of a conductor which attempts to bring the heat in. A perfect example of this can be seen in a typical pot.
This pot has a metal exterior and because metal is a conductor, it takes in the heat when it is being heated meaning that the pot is kept hot for a period of time after the heat is turned off. Plastic, however, is an insulator. This keeps the heat out and makes sure it stops the person using the pot from burning themselves.
Insulation in a home, similar to a pot, aims to stop the heat from escaping the house and keeps the occupants warm. If you were to put a conductive material, like metal, around your home, other than being very expensive, the heat would be absorbed by the metal, serving no purpose.
What are the types of insulation for a house?
Insulation for a house comes in many forms. What types exactly are there, though?
Loft insulation is the most important type of insulation for a house to have. Because heat rises upwards, the heat released into your home seeps through. Generally, if there is little to no insulation in a roof, you may lose up to 33% of your heat energy through it alone.
Insulation in the roof is generally made of sheep's wool or synthetic wool. They come as large rolls that are rolled out and fitted accordingly. They can be manufactured for different thicknesses buy typically, sufficient loft insulation thickness should be anywhere between 100 millimetres to 270 millimetres. Having under 100 mm may still cause heat to escape. If you're not able to check, find out if you have a lack of loft insulation that's costing you.
We often are asked "how do you insulate a loft and how much does it cost?" Loft insulation is possible to lay yourself, however, if your roof is flat, damp or you are not a DIY sort of person, we would recommend having it checked out by someone qualified. The cost of loft insulation without doing it yourself is between £280 and £400 depending on your area, your type of home and the company you use.
Room in Roof Insulation
If you have a room in your roof, be it a bedroom, bathroom or a study, you can add insulation to it. Insulation for a room in your roof can be applied in a similar way when there isn't a room in the roof. The material for the insulation will be the same type of wool, however, it will come in the form of boards to blend in with the style of the room. It's placed around the loft's ceiling and around the edges to maintain heat.
If there is any place that can have insulation in the roof that isn't part of the room, we highly recommend having one of Broad Oak's team help. If a room in your roof sounds appealing, contact our Build team to see if it's possible to have work done to turn your loft into a room.
External Wall Insulation
External wall insulation comes in the form of boards that are fitted to the external walls of the house. These boards can be made to look like a range of different materials to suit a property's style. This is the home's first line of defence to stop the cold from getting through to the rooms of the house.
External wall insulation IS SAFE for your home. It is different from external cladding which is used on high-rise buildings. Talk to us if you're interested in having safe external wall insulation.
Underfloor Insulation (UFI)
Underfloor insulation also referred to as UFI, is underneath wooden floors in houses. It is installed directly under floors. This insulation can't be too thick as wood floors need oxygen flowing to it. This is why you may have noticed vents outside your property at ground level.
Floor insulation assists in maintaining heat in a room to avoid it escaping through the floor. It also blocks out any cold air that may pass through the vents. It is absolutely worth insulating under floorboards.
Cavity Wall Insulation
A lot of people are now looking into getting cavity wall insulation installed in their property. We'll do the best we can to explain what cavity wall insulation is, how much does it cost and how long does it last.
Cavity wall insulation refers to the gap in between the external and internal walls of a house. The cavity wall gap is typically about 50mm in width and is connected to the house with metal 'ties'.
Installing cavity wall insulation is done by designing an 'injection pattern' across a wall. This injection pattern determines where holes are driven through the mortar in the brickwork in order to fill the cavity. An injection gun sprays insulating foam into the hole which fills the gap between the two walls. Once filled, the mortar is then replaced.
Cavity wall insulation should last a minimum of 25 years and has a guarantee of that time frame when being supplied and installed. Cavity wall insulation is a very good idea as like all kinds of insulation, in the long run, it will save you hundreds of pounds in the energy saved. There are Government grants available in the UK for cavity wall insulation for those on benefit or on a low-income.
Internal Wall Insulation
Internal wall insulation is somewhat more complex than the other forms of insulation. While it's easy to understand what internal wall insulation is, the actions to do it yourself and whether you need it are a lot more advanced.
This type of insulation can come in the form of boards, spray foam or rolled sheets as previously discussed in the other forms of insulation.
To install internal wall insulation, old plaster needs to be removed. This can be done with a hammer and chisel or it can be done with an automatic plaster remover, ensuring that it isn't hitting straight on as to avoid hitting the brickwork.
Insulation can then be either, directly to the wall by putting up insulation boards, spray the wall with insulating foam or batten the wall (meaning to add a wooden frame to the wall) and applying a layer of insulation within the frame.
Solid Wall Insulation
Solid wall insulation is an umbrella term for internal wall and external wall insulations. A solid wall refers to the build of the house. For instance, more modern homes will have a uniform brick pattern with the cavity gap that was discussed earlier. Solid wall homes, those built before ~1920, have uneven brick patterns and do not have a gap between the walls.
Please refer back to either internal wall insulation or external wall insulation for options on how to insulate your home and save money.
Double insulation refers to a second layer of insulation. This second layer of insulation is used in a couple of different places. It can be found on electrical wires as a way to stop electric shocks occurring when the wire is being handled. It also aids in keeping moisture out of the wire which would otherwise short-circuit and stop working.
In the UK, the term 'double insulation' or 'double glazing', also refers to double paned windows. Double-paned windows are windows that have two panes of glass (two sheets) with a gap in between. These windows are sealed underneath both panes with a seal and have a desiccant (a material that stops corrosion from forming).
Triple insulated windows, also called, triple-paned windows, are also becoming more common. It is currently quite expensive but is created in the same way as double-paned windows, except with the addition of a third pane of glass which aims to reduce energy bills further by keeping heat in.
Draught (said as 'draft') proofing, refers to the measures that you can take to reduce the wind coming into the building. If your windows are not double-paned (or double insulated), you can get rubber seals that go around the frames which will act in a similar fashion.
Curtains are also a great measure to stop draught from windows. You can also use a keyhole cover made out of metal for a door, install a flap to a letterbox and for gaps at the bottom of the door, add a draught excluder. These come in different forms but if you want one with character, get a snake draught excluder!
Chimneys can be a large source of draught too- if you have an open fire, you can get a fireplace/chimney draught excluder which is custom made to fit chimneys.
Radiators can have reflector panels that fit behind radiators. They are put onto where the radiator is fitted to stop the heat from going into the external wall. Hot water tanks can be insulated with a jacket that is at least 80mm thick which is placed around them. Pipe can also have insulation by getting a foam wrap around it.
The best thing about draught-proofing is that it is the cheapest and easiest way to save money on your energy bills and which takes the least amount of time. All the equipment is readily available for you in local hardware and home stores.
With all these precautions that you take, you've still got to make sure that your house has airflow moving through it to avoid a build-up of stale air. Stale air is the build-up of pollutants like carbon dioxide which are trapped in a room. People often say that the room feels 'stuffy' if it's filled with stale air. To avoid this and to avoid dampness in the room (a result of a stuffy room), make sure that you have some ventilators in bathrooms and other forms of getting in the fresh air in other rooms by opening the windows from time to time. Check to see if you're entitled to getting free, new ventilators which would come with an insulation installation through the Government's ECO scheme.
The Importance of Having Insulation
The importance of having insulation cannot be understated. It will save you thousands of pounds, year on year in energy bills and you'll be doing your little bit for the planet by reducing your carbon footprint.
Broad Oak can check to see if you're eligible for free or a low-cost supply and installation of insulation. If you want to see if you're eligible, click here and find out if you're able to receive free insulation.