Insulation for the Nation
by Megan Macpherson
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has announced that from July 2006 all new homes must have a five star energy rating. This environmental sustainability concept will be made mandatory in the Building Codes of Australia (BCA). The ABCB has divided the country up into eight climate zones that govern the level of energy requirements and insulation for a home within the specific area. Check with your state's current system if you are planning on building a new home, as the new regulation may be incorporated into an existing system. For example in NSW it may be incorporated into BASIX.
Insulation is a way to make your home more energy efficient, in terms of regulating the temperature within the house against the varying outside temperatures. This also reduces greenhouse gases by heating and cooling a house naturally. Fibre batts are the main material used for insulation, or reflective paper, or a combination of both. Insulation can be installed in the roof, as well as in wall cavities and under the floor. During renovations is an excellent time to install insulation into your home.
Fibre based insulation such as glasswool batts are a hazard to the person installing them, as contact with skin, or breathing in the fibres is dangerous. Other more user friendly materials include wool batts, paper waste, rockwool, ployester batts, polystyrene, and composite aluminium/recycled plastic. If you are installing fibre batts yourself, then make sure you have al the safety equipment such as dust mask, goggles, gloves, and clothing that covers all your skin.
Insulation is measured in R-value, that is, how resistant to temperature change it is. The higher the R value, the higher the level of insulation. Some factors to consider when wanting to install insulation are whether it will interfere with wiring or not, and whether it will be exposed to water. A leaking roof will cause fibre batts to become waterlogged and heavy. This could cause water damage to your home, not to mention structural damage if the ceiling could not support the extra weight.
A new insulation product in Australia is called Aircell, which is a fibre free product that ultimately eliminates all problems associated with fibre insulation. It is a reflective insulation that is what the name suggests - air cells. Pockets of air are trapped within plastic cells, a similar idea to bubble wrap. Aircell has an R rating of 2.5, and can therefore reduce home energy costs by 50%. It is also fire and rodent resistant, and waterproof, unlike fibre batts. Aircell has a unique design but is ultimately more expensive than other traditional forms of insulation. However, the investment may pay for itself in the long term, if it cuts heating and cooling costs within your home.