And the Walls Came Crumbling Down
And our big construction project of the winter began—new insulation for the 3 bedrooms in our house. They happen to be in the back of the house. They are very cold in the winter, and very hot in the summer. So we figured insulation would be a good way to help. We decided to have the drywall pulled off, and new rolls of insulation installed. Environmentalist that I am, I begin to search for environmentally friendly insulation.
I quickly find out that the insulation industry considers itself fairly green anyways because installing insulation saves energy use, which is inherently green. I’ll accept that, to a point. But I want to know what is in it. I would prefer to use environmentally friendly materials if possible.
In one corner is the old reliable—fiberglass insulation with some percentage of recycled glass. It also has formaldehyde as a bonding agent, and that does not sound good. It has been around forever, and kept plenty of people warm. It also has big warnings on the packages about dangerous chemicals inside. All the pictures have a person with a mask to install it. The masks are kind of worrisome.
In the other corner is the challenger. Apparently there is an insulation that is made from recycled cotton. (There is also blown in insulation made from recycled newspaper, but blown in insulation is not feasible here). I got pretty excited about the prospect of using insulation almost completely made of recycled materials. It also had fire and mold retardants mixed in. And it had no horrible formaldehyde.
I thought this would be so easy. I got quotes on the cotton insulation. Then I went to Home Depot and learned how to read their price tags for the regular insulation. It turns out that the cotton stuff is not the same price as the regular stuff; it is 10 TIMES the price, (that is a 1 and a 0.). I can’t afford to sustain that particular product. I spent $127 on the CertainTeed insulation I bought on Saturday. I would have spent $1,000 on the cotton stuff. I kept the extra $900 in my pocket.
I’ll have to console myself with the following:
The insulation I bought is Greenguard certified for low emissions, suitable for children and schools. CertainTeed says that they use 35% recycled materials in their product, and that their factories are ISO 14001 certified. This basically means that they have an environmental management process in place in their factories. I am not sure if this means that they actually follow it. The other major brand I am aware of, Owens Corning, has recently announced a 40% recycled content for its insulation. It (Owens) also has a fairly extensive sustainability report on its website (perhaps motivated by the fact that they went bankrupt due to asbestos claims in the 1990s). The report is pretty impressive.
And finally, our house will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer while using less electric heat and air conditioning. Sometimes half a loaf is better than none of a loaf.