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Which Insulation Is Best For Your Home: Each Type Explained

Pink wall insulation being installed

Insulation is widely considered one of the best home improvements that you should consider when you’re renovating your house. There are many forms of insulation that you can choose from, and can provide many benefits to your daily life. For example, insulation can save you a lot of money on your energy bills, as it makes your home energy-efficient – meaning you stay warmer for less. Insulation can also be useful in summer, as it can help trap cool air inside your home. It can also add value to your home, as energy-efficient, eco homes are extremely popular in the housing market. 

Many people are choosing to invest in insulation, as well as double or triple glazing. This can cut down your energy bills and add value to your home – but it is also part of a wider ‘green homes’ plan. Across the world, countries are trying to reach their net zero targets. This means that millions of homes will need to be ‘retrofitted’ with insulation, double-glazing, heat pumps, solar panels and more. This will help the country significantly reduce its emissions, and reach net zero. This is incredibly important for many countries across the world.

However, there are many types of insulation out there, and you should choose wisely. Some forms of insulation are not useful if you have a certain type of house, and others aren’t. Different types of insulation have positives and negatives, such as cost, effectiveness and convenience. 

Here is the complete breakdown of every type of insulation, which one you should choose for your home, and how it could benefit you in the long run.

Cavity Wall Insulation

This is one of the most common types of insulation, and is one of the most effective. Many people choose to invest in cavity wall insulation. It makes a huge difference and makes the home far more energy-efficient. 

However, cavity wall insulation only works if you have cavity walls – which means gaps in between the layers of your wall. To find out if you have cavity walls, you will need to check if they have a hollow centre – you can do this if you measure the width of the walls. If the distance between the inside and outside wall is more than 260 mm thick, you probably have cavity walls. Cavity walls were introduced to prevent damp from entering the home, and are seen in homes built after 1920. It became compulsory to build houses with cavity walls during the 1990s. 

Many homes are bought with cavity wall insulation already installed. If you’re not sure whether your home already has cavity wall insulation, you can check your home’s EPC rating – if it’s between A-C, you probably already have it. You can also check out your home for other forms of insulation. If you have loft insulation for example, your home may already be fitted with cavity wall insulation. 

Installing cavity wall insulation by a professional, which costs an average of £1200, can significantly improve your home’s energy efficiency by preventing a lot of heat loss in the gaps between your walls. However, it can save you between £300-£400 on your energy bills each year – meaning you could get your money back very soon. 

Key benefits: cost-effective, extremely energy-efficient, prevents damp, fire-resistant, adds sound-proofing to your home. 
Key disadvantages: initial high cost, requires a professional, in some cases can increase condensation levels in the property.

Solid Wall Insulation

If your home was built before 1920, your home may have solid walls. Just under 30% of properties in the UK have solid walls – however, you can still add insulation to them to make your home more energy-efficient. There are two types of insulation you can choose from if you have solid walls – internal, and external. 

Internal solid wall insulation will often involve sticking insulation boarding on the inside walls of your home, which will then be covered by plasterboard for aesthetic purposes. This can cost up to £10,000 – which is a significant cost. 

External solid wall insulation typically entails professionals installing insulating material onto the exterior of your home, which they then cover with cladding to maintain its aesthetic appeal. On average, external solid wall insulation costs up to £14,000. 

These methods can save you up to £390 a year and add value to your home – but comes at a high initial cost. However, this may be well worth it if you live in an older home. 

Key benefits: reduces energy loss by up to 60%, significantly reduces your carbon footprint, highly effective. 

Key disadvantages: high initial cost, internal wall insulation reduces room size, slower payback time. 

Loft Insulation

Loft insulation could significantly enhance your home’s energy efficiency since around a quarter of all heat loss occurs through the loft and roof. There are many forms of loft insulation that you can choose from, and each could be very effective when it comes to preventing heat from escaping your home. 

Many people choose to insulate their loft with rolls of insulation – which doesn’t take an installer and can be very cost-effective. These loft rolls can provide a high level of thermal insulation, and can be very cheap to install – however, you can hire people to install this for you. However, some forms of roll insulation contain fibreglass, which can be irritating to the eyes, skin and throat. 

Others opt for spray-foam insulation, which can be up to 2x more effective than rolls of insulation. Because spray foam expands when used, it can fill hard to get areas, which means that more gaps can be closed (resulting in even less heat being lost through the roof.) It costs significantly more than installing your own insulation, however, it reportedly lasts for 80-100 years – so there is significant lifetime value.

Roll Insulation

Key Benefits: low cost, easy to install, prevents heat loss.

Key Disadvantages: certain types can cause irritation, less effective than other measures.

Spray Foam Insulation

Key Benefits: extremely effective, non-toxic, lasts between 80-100 years, flexible.

Key Disadvantages: high initial cost, needs an installer, can be difficult to remove.

Pipe Insulation

Pipe insulation, despite being one of the least known types of insulation, can still effectively improve your home and save money by minimizing energy loss through your water pipes. It achieves this by fitting foam tubes around the pipes. One of the largest advantages of installing pipe insulation is that it prevents your pipes from freezing over in the winter, which can be very costly to fix. 

The return on pipe insulation is very minimal – energy-efficiency experts predict that pipe insulation can only save you between £3-4 a year. However, if you’re looking for extra ways to make your home green, this should not be overlooked. 

Key Benefits: very low cost, prevents frozen pipes, and you are able to install yourself. 

Key Disadvantages: low return, can be difficult depending on where your pipes are.

Under Floor Insulation

A significant proportion of heat loss happens through your floors, especially the ground floor. This is because there are gaps in the foundations of your home, allowing heat energy to escape. Obviously, under floor insulation would only work if you live in a house – apartments would not benefit from this type of work! 

Under floor insulation usually uses spray foam, just like spray foam loft insulation. This method effectively fills gaps in the space underneath your home, expanding similar to spray foam loft insulation. As a result, it significantly reduces heat loss from under your floors. However, like spray foam loft insulation, it can be costly compared to other methods.

You could also install floor insulation through fixing insulation boards, cork boards, or cellulose underneath your flooring, which you can do yourself. The cost for these materials can also be comparatively low, but tend to not be as effective as under-floor insulation. If you live in an apartment, you can also install these to cut down on your energy bills!

Under Floor Insulation

Key Benefits: effective, non-toxic, lasts a long time, flexible

Key Disadvantages: high initial cost, hard to remove, can affect house prices.

Board Floor Insulation:

Key Benefits: easy to install, low cost, able to be used in a lot of different properties.

Key Disadvantages: doesn’t save a lot of money, can be difficult to install.

So, What Insulation Should I Go For?

Depending on the type of home you have, different types of insulation may be more beneficial to you. For example, over 50% of heat loss occurs through the walls – if you’re looking for a drastic improvement on your energy bills, you should definitely consider different forms of wall insulation. Wall insulation is one of the best ways to make an ageing home more sustainable, and you can definitely see the benefits. 

However, heat also escapes significantly through the floor, loft, and windows. Therefore, investing in floor and loft insulation, as well as double glazing, can greatly enhance your home’s energy efficiency.

Whether you’re looking into insulation for sustainable reasons, or you just want to save some money, you should definitely consider all these different types of insulation. It could definitely benefit you in the long run!

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