Keeping Your Home Comfortable – and Healthier – With Wool Insulation
By Steve Hanley
Sheep’s wool has been keeping people warm for thousands of years. It is by definition all natural, renewable, and recyclable. When used for clothing, its inherent ability to breathe and absorb moisture – keeping it away from the skin – makes it comfortable across a wide range of temperatures. Could it do for buildings what it does for people?
The folks at Havelock Wool say the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Wool building insulation is a high performance material that is both natural and sustainable.
Unlike with fiberglass and spray foam insulation, installers do not need to use protective clothing and an external breathing apparatus to protect themselves from harm. Moreover, once placed in exterior walls, wool not only provides superior insulating power, it makes buildings quieter and more peaceful inside. It also keeps buildings cooler in summer and warmer in winter, which pays dividends for owners by reducing the cost of heating and cooling during the lifespan of a structure.
Another important advantage of wool insulation is its ability to absorb moisture and trap pollutants that may work their way into a building’s interior.
Wool is resistant to rot, mildew, and mold – an important consideration in keeping building occupants safe from exposure to allergens and other respiratory system irritants. In addition, while some forms of insulation require expensive disposal methods once a building reaches the end of its useful life, wool insulation is completely biodegradable.
Healthier Air, Healthier Spaces
Recently, Dr. Joe Allen of the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University completed a study examining the relationship between green buildings and cognitive functioning in those who live and work inside those buildings. During the study, office workers were exposed to various levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as variable ventilation levels.
In Dr. Allen’s research, the level of carbon dioxide required to impair cognitive functioning was much lower than previously thought. Adjustments to building ventilation to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the occupants resulted in significant increases in cognitive performance. Allen’s research predicts that improvements in cognitive function could boost workers’ productivity by 8%, on average, which translates into an estimated extra $6,500 in economic output annually per employee.
Breathing Easier with Wool Insulation
Smart builders are focusing today on creating healthy homes and work spaces. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from asthma and allergies, and that number is on the rise. Homeowners are demanding healthier living spaces for themselves and their families, and are willing to pay more to get them.
“I initially missed how important this issue is because I never asked,” says C.R. Herro, vice president of energy efficiency and sustainability for Meritage Homes, one of the largest home builders in the US. “Most builders don’t appreciate how much value they’ll get by going down this road. Talking to people about taking care of how their family feels and offering them better lifestyles is a self-supporting, smart business strategy.”
Unlike traditional insulation materials, wool insulation captures and irreversibly bonds with carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds, trapping them in the air spaces between its fibers – and keeping them from reaching a building’s inhabitants.
Lee Ann Head, vice president of research for Shelton Group, a marketing consulting firm in Knoxville, Tennessee says, “Overall, health is a strong purchase driver, and there’s increasing concern about indoor air quality.” Home buyers are more aware today of the benefits that come from the use of non-toxic building materials. Completely natural and sustainable, wool insulation can be an attractive selling point for consumers.
A Smarter Option for Green Building
“Most every wall out there is built with toxic materials and ends up being too vapor retarding,” says Lucas Johnson, western regional manager for 475 High Performance Building Supply. “Such walls can trap moisture and may become exceedingly difficult dry out. If a building wall or a house can’t dry out, it can lead to all kinds of bad things.”
Johnson has teamed up with Andrew Legge, founder of Havelock Wool, to create the Smart Wall, a smart enclosure system designed to last for generations. Conventional walls are subject to accelerated decay. Not only is such damage costly to repair, it can lead to the cultivation of mold and other contaminants within the walls. Those factors, in turn, can contribute to symptoms commonly associated with colds such as itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing, along with headaches and stomach aches.
Johnson and Legge’s low energy loss building enclosure is airtight enough to qualify for Passive House and LEED certification but also permits moisture to permeate the Pro Clima barrier to prevent the accumulation of water vapor that can lead to rot, mildew, and mold within the wall cavity.
“The importance of indoor air quality is not conjecture,” said Andrew Legge, founder of Havelock Wool. “The kind of air we breathe matters. And, it matters if you’re a business owner too, because when your employees can think straight, your bottom line is better for it.”
While Havelock Wool insulation costs a little more than traditional insulation, it more than pays for itself in longevity, lower energy costs, better health – and, ultimately, enhanced peace of mind. For more information on natural wool insulation, visit Havelock Wool.
This post has been sponsored by Havelock Wool; images from Havelock Wool except sheep image, from BabaMu on PixaBay