cork insulation

What are Your Best Options for Green Home Insulation?

Green home insulation

Credit: Olga Ionina via iStock by Getty Images

Prioritizing an environmentally-responsible, green home is something we all should want to do. But, what are your options if your current property falls somewhat short of the mark?

The good news is when it comes to eco-friendly home improvements, there are many things you can do to make a green home that won’t even require planning permission.

For example, we know huge amounts of heat are lost through badly insulated roofs, walls and floors. This is why insulating your home should be one of the first things to consider in a drive to lower your energy bills, along with your carbon footprint. 

Chances are your permitted development rights will allow you to install solar panels on the roof, convert your garage or loft, and even build a small home extension. All you need now is effective home insulation to keep the heat in and the cold out. And, if you choose natural and sustainable types of insulation for your home, there is a wealth of extra benefits to be had, such as:

  • Eco-friendly materials contain fewer or no toxins as human health irritants and are safe to handle.
  • There’s a much lower risk of health issues arising across lifetime use of the insulation products.
  • Most production processes for eco-friendly insulation materials require only small amounts of energy.
  • Green insulation materials are reusable, recyclable or compostable, so they’re kept out of landfill.
  • Raw materials are sufficiently available without resource depletion and there is zero waste from offcuts.
  • Green home insulation provides great heat storage and acoustic insulation properties on a par with conventional insulators.
Green home insulation 

Credit: Francesco Scatena via iStock by Getty Images

What Is Environmentally-Friendly Home Insulation?

The UK home insulation market is worth more than £800 million per year, but only around 1% of the market share is taken up by natural insulation products. But when it comes to increasing the energy efficiency of your home, the type of insulation really matters.

Conventional materials such as polystyrene and fibreglass insulation require resource depleting manufacturing processes using up to ten times more energy than greener alternatives. They are composed of fuel-derived plastics or other chemicals and are not kind to the environment.

What’s more, the chemicals used to produce regular home insulation materials include flame retardants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as isocyanate, formaldehyde and hexabromocyclododecane. These are known toxins, carcinogens and hormonal disruptors.

Eco-friendly home insulation is produced in a more sustainable way made with fewer, less toxic chemicals or no synthetic substances at all, all the while offering effective heat preserving properties.

Let’s take a look at some of the best green home insulation products that will reduce your need for heating when it’s cold and keep your home cool when it’s hot outside.

  • Sheep’s Wool 

Sheep’s wool is a great natural product, and an increasingly popular choice, for sustainable home insulation for walls, roofs and floors. Compressed wool fibers create a large number of microscopic air pockets, which give this material excellent insulating and air-purifying properties. Sheep’s wool insulation is vapor permeable, moisture regulating and completely recyclable. However, at £18-£22 per square meter, it is rather expensive.

  • Cellulose 

Cellulose is found in every plant cell, lending structural strength to cell walls. Natural cellulose insulation is made from old newspapers or other paper sources ground into fine dust and chemically treated (typically with boric acid) to make it fireproof. Insulating the walls, floors and roof of your home by blowing in cellulose insulation is a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly way to achieve a thermal conductivity similar to rock wool. And at £12-£18 per square meters, it’s relatively budget friendly too.

  • Wood Wool 

Wood wool insulation is derived from timber shavings, similar to the material used for packing food hampers or wine crates. The light, biodegradable, compressed material can be customized into many shapes and thickness to fit the requirements of the space you are insulating. Wood wool has a high heat storage capacity as well as great soundproofing properties. It is also damp proof and can be composted when no longer needed. At £16-£21 per square meters, it is not the cheapest option, but as a non-irritating eco-friendly material for insulating floors, walls and roofs, it is well worth considering.

  • Hemp 

Made from the hemp plant, hemp is an excellent natural home insulator for roofs, walls and floors. It is also completely compostable after use. Hemp fibers have a strong, woody structure and insulation can easily be produced in the shape of batts or boards capable of being cut to size for installation. It makes good acoustic insulation too. As a natural product, hemp is non-irritating, moisture regulating and recyclable. It comes in at a reasonable price of £13-£18 per square meter. Make sure you apply a vapor barrier for installation in damp-affected rooms though.

  • Cotton/Denim 

Also sometimes referred to as blue jeans insulation, the raw material for this type of sustainable home insulation comes from discarded jeans and denim clothing. The material is shredded and recycled, treated to make it fire retardant and bonded with other fibers to stabilize the material. It is then cut into thick sheets to allow it to be cut to size as required. Because this type of insulation is made of 100% recyclable and non-irritant, cotton fibers surrounded by air pockets, it provides good heat insulation and sound absorption. The cost is somewhat higher than fiberglass insulation, but it doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals and it performs excellently.

  • Cork 

Cork insulation is derived from the outer bark layer of the cork oak and can be produced in the shape of granules or boards. It’s a naturally recyclable and renewable material that is also hypoallergenic. This material has excellent thermal and damp-proofing properties, is a great acoustic insulator and performs brilliantly in roofs, floors and walls. Did you know cork is used by NASA for thermal protection in spacecraft and rocket parts? At £16-£22 per square meter, it’s not cheap, but this type of green home insulation is effective for a very long time.

  1. September 12, 2022

    Thank you for sharing such a comprehensive guide to choosing the best insulating material! Home insulation is an important job that helps to save on utility bills all year round. About 35% of home’s air escape through poorly insulated walls and through gaps.

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