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What is Thermal Insulation and Its Types?

The prevention of heat transfer through buildings is known as thermal insulation. Since many regions experience extreme cold, the inhabitants must keep their buildings warm. As a result, they utilise heaters, kindle fires within the building, use steam to keep it warm, etc.

Also, building owners must thermally insulate the structure for the heating system to function well. It uses less energy to maintain the building’s warmth. This is so that the building’s heat loss is reduced through thermal insulation.

 Hot climates also require thermal insulation. Its insulation reduces the amount of heat that enters the building from outside. Hence, thermal insulation reduces heat transfer from a building’s interior to its outside or from its interior to its exterior.

Thermal Insulation Materials

The building is thermally insulated using insulation materials. Thermal insulation can be made of a variety of materials, including mineral wool, sawdust, reflective cladding sheets, fiberglass, cellulose, polyurethane foam, polystyrene, etc. 

Insulating materials work to limit the amount of heat that may be transported through radiation, conduction, and convection by utilising the molecular structure of the material itself.

In order to outperform “open cell” materials, which are more reliant on preserving dry air within their cores for optimal performance, insulation materials having a more dense, self-contained cellular composition will offer a greater thermal resistivity (value). As a result, materials used for insulation with higher R-values have greater thermal resistivity.

Fiberglass, one of the most popular insulating materials, is made by weaving very thin glass strands. Sand, soda ash, limestone, and other minerals are used to make fibreglass. To be deemed “green,” fibreglass must include at least 35% recycled glass. R-values can be as low as R-11 for material 3 inches thick and as high as R-38 for material 12 inches thick. Per inch of material thickness, fibreglass typically has R-values between 2.8 and 3.8.

Cellulose is created using recycled paper products, typically newspapers. Up to 85% of the material is recycled. It is a cheap loose-fill insulation that is widely used in blow-in insulation applications. Since cellulose is a material that is tightly packed and contains almost no oxygen, it is great at withstanding the heat and flames of fire. Contrary to its advantages, cellulose has some serious drawbacks. Those who are allergic to paper dust should avoid it. Moreover, it diminishes with time, which lowers its effectiveness. The availability of skilled labour to work with cellulose is another problem. For every inch of thickness, cellulose has an R-value that ranges from 3.1 to 3.8.

Mineral Wool:
Rock wool, which is manufactured from basalt or diabase, or slag wool, which is made from blast furnace slag obtained from steel mills, can both be used to create mineral wool.

On average, 75% of it is made of recycled materials from post-industrial sources. It is environmentally beneficial because recycled materials are used in its manufacturing. It doesn’t require any additional components to make it fire-resistant. It neither melts nor burns. But, it is not advised to use it in really hot temperatures. Its R-factor per inch thickness ranges from R-2.8 to R-3.5.

Polyurethane Foam:

Spray-applied polyurethane foam is a thin, water-resistant substance. It is a great substance for filling voids around pipes and fracturing tiny cracks. Although polyurethane foam is among the most effective insulating materials, its installation costs are higher than those of fiberglass or cellulose. It is inexpensive but not sustainable because it cannot be recycled. The flammability of polyurethane is another drawback. The R-value of polyurethane foam is 6.3 for every inch of thickness.


It comes in three different styles:

  • The manufacturing of foam boards and microscopic foam beads typically uses moulded expanded polystyrene, also known as MEPS.
  • Little plastic particles that have been fused together make up expanded polystyrene, or EPS 
  • The term “Styrofoam” refers to a substance known as extruded polystyrene, which is a molten polymer that is pressed into sheets.
  • R-values for polystyrene range from 4 to 5.3 for every inch of thickness.

Types of Thermal Insulation

Following are the different types of Thermal Insulation: 

Slab or Block Insulation:

These blocks are made from materials including mineral wool, corkboard, cellular glass, cellular rubber, sawdust, etc. In order to reduce heat loss and maintain the correct temperature, they are mounted to the walls and roofs. These planks have a thickness of 2.5 centimetres and measurements of at least 60 by 120 centimetres.

Insulating Boards:

These boards are created by pressing the pulp of wood, cane, or other materials very firmly and with some force at the proper temperature. They come in a range of sizes in the market. Due to their finished surface, they not only offer great looks but also good insulating qualities. Insulation boards are frequently used to line interior walls as well as to build partition walls.

Blanket Insulation:

Flexible fibrous materials like mineral wool, cotton, refined wood fibre, and animal hair are used to make insulating blankets. They are available as blankets or rolls that resemble paper. Insulation blankets are also simple to install. It can be applied directly to the surface of a wall or ceiling and secured in place with insulation fasteners. Their thickness spans from 1 to 8 cm and is bendable in nature. 

Structural Insulated Panels:

SIPs or structural insulated panels are prefabricated, insulated structural components comprised of foam board, a liquid foam core and insulation made of straw. A SIP consists of two sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) or another structural facing material with four to eight inches of thick foam board insulation sandwiched between them. They are employed in the construction of a house’s walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs.

Low-density Materials:

Using low-weight aggregates for creating concrete mixture will produce positive outcomes in reducing heat loss. These results will be advantageous as well. Concrete will be more heat resistant if it is made with lightweight aggregates like vermiculite, burnt clay aggregates, blast boiler slag, and similar materials.

Materials for Insulating Batts:

They can also be found as blanket rolls, although bat insulation rolls have a larger thickness than blanket-type materials. The blanket’s installation is comparable to that of the former. They can also be extended across the room’s walls or ceilings.

Unbound Insulation:

Insulation that is not packaged in a typical manner is referred to as loose-fill. You can buy any substance in loose form on the market, including rock wool, mineral wool, and cellulose. Just cut a stud in the wall where windows and doors will be built in order to install loose-fill insulation.

Materials for Reflective Sheets:

Gypsum boards, steel sheeting and aluminium sheets are some reflective sheet materials. The material’s reflectivity will be higher and its emission rate will be lower. As a result, these materials are excellent at withstanding high temperatures and therefore frequently utilised in industrial applications in addition to blanket insulation. Heat is diminished when solar radiation enters a surface and is reflected. To stop heat from entering the building, they are put in place on the exterior.

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