If we know how to keep our cup of coffee hot for hours, and we know how to keep our drinks chilled on a hot day, what’s to stop us from using that knowledge on a large scale? By understanding the fundamental properties of insulation and conductivity, there is nothing to stop anyone from applying the same principles when constructing a house or other building. The only difference is that instead of keeping a mere cup of coffee warm or a cool drink chilled, we’re talking about keeping people warm or cool, regardless of the weather conditions outside.
Keeping you warmer in winter…
As we know, insulation is a material that has high insulating properties. In other words, it is difficult for heat to pass through. During winter, we generate heat inside our homes to keep warm. If, however, our ceilings and walls are not lined with insulation, the heat is able to pass through quite easily. This is because common building materials are generally poor insulators. Consequently, our heaters have to continually generate heat to keep our houses at a comfortable temperature. By installing wall and ceiling insulation, we make it difficult for the heat to escape and our house essentially becomes an enormous version of the thermos in the snow explored earlier in the blog.
… and cooler in summer
Do the same principles apply during the summer? Of course they do! Houses with higher home insulation ratings can be likened to a massive variety of the esky discussed in ‘What does insulation mean?’ which kept our cool drinks chilled. The heat is now being generated by the sun on the outside of the house and finding it very difficult to penetrate the external walls and ceiling. The effects of a poorly insulated home, on the other hand, can be likened to a can of drink sitting in a backpack that has been left in the sun for hours. Of course insulation can’t prevent all heat from passing through and the unrelenting rays of the sun will eventually penetrate the home, but it takes a lot longer. In fact, even if the house has warmed up a little by late afternoon, measures can often be taken overnight to cool it down again.
Choosing the right home insulation ratings
One of the factors determining how well home insulation will perform is the thickness of the material. Fortunately home owners and DIY renovators don’t have to worry about deciding how thick is good enough. This information is already available through reliable sources. All insulation products come with an R-value (recognised Australia wide) which is a definition of how effective it is. The higher the rating, the better it performs. The BCA (Building Code of Australia) sets out minimum requirements for insulation in new housing, measured in R-values and categorised by climate zones. Many insulation experts recommend that home owners increase their home insulation ratings by going for a slightly higher R-value than specified by the BCA. The benefits are often very noticeable, with increased comfort and energy savings. As the initial cost is only marginally higher, many home owners report having earned back the extra expense already in the first few years.