How Insulation Contributes to a Healthier Indoor Air Quality

Healthy indoor air quality with insulation
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air within and around a building or structure (especially concerning the health and comfort of occupants). Understanding how to stop pollutants from coming indoors and affecting IAQ can help prevent health issues. With many of us spending increased time indoors and working from home, maintaining healthy IAQ is more important than ever for our health and productivity. Poor IAQ from air pollution, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants can contribute to a host of health issues from asthma, allergies and other respiratory diseases. IAQ is thus essential for the indoor generation. Insulation plays a major role in maintaining a healthier indoor environment. Having insulation properly installed can improve IAQ and prevent health issues. There is a strong link between insulation and improved IAQ. Insulation can effectively help keep indoor air quality clean, healthy and comfortable while guarding it against pollutants, allergens, humidity and moisture buildup. Insulation acts as a barrier to help improve indoor air quality. The right insulation materials can effectively seal off gaps and cracks in ceilings, walls and floors, where pollutants commonly enter. Properly installed insulation can improve the air quality indoors and protect the whole family. Quality insulation works in conjunction with effective ventilation to control moisture indoors and mould from forming on surfaces. Controlling moisture levels in this way will act as mould prevention and protect your family from exposure to potentially dangerous microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that can commonly impact the respiratory system. Adding insulation also provides a more balanced and comfortable climate for any indoor space with more consistent temperature levels and fewer fluctuations. By regulating both temperature and humidity levels you can also prevent the growth of unsightly and hazardous mould and mildew forming. TABLE OF CONTENTS
  1. Understanding Indoor Air Quality
  2. The Importance of Minimising VOC
  3. The Role of Insulation in IAQ 
  4. Mould Prevention and Insulation 
  5. Ventilation and Air Circulation 
  6. Types of Insulation and Their IAQ Impact 
  7. Common IAQ Issues Addressed by Insulation 
  8. Conclusion & Next Steps

Understanding Indoor Air Quality 

Indoor air quality refers to the quality of air present inside a structure and its correlation to the health of occupants.  Poor IAQ can have major impacts on health and well-being. When IAQ is low there is an increased risk of respiratory diseases, as well as reduced mental cognition and increased headaches and fatigue.  Pollutants found in poor indoor air can irritate airways and increase the likelihood of asthma and allergy flare-ups. Very young children, the elderly and those suffering from respiratory and heart diseases are particularly susceptible to the effects of poor air quality. Some common pollutants found to impact IAQ include:
  • Dust
  • Mould and mildew spores
  • Pollen
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Smoke and combustion products (from fireplaces, gas cookers, stoves and heaters).
If you’re looking at how to improve air pollution indoors, installing proper insulation is a critical step. You must also allow for proper home ventilation.

The Importance of Minimising VOC 

Minimising VOCs indoors is critical to maintaining healthy air quality. (VOC meaning: volatile organic compounds). These are chemicals that contain carbon that evaporates into the atmosphere when at room temperature.  They affect air quality and can cause irritations to the eyes, nose, and throat as well as headaches and nausea and can lead to greater health complications.  VOCs often come with an odour and are present in many household products and commonly used materials, including
  • Construction materials and furnishings.
  • Paints, varnishes, adhesives, cleaning agents, sprays, scents and synthetic fabrics.
  • As a result of activities such as smoking and vaping.
  • Some insulation materials.
To maintain improved indoor air quality, you should try to avoid using materials that contain VOCs. Choosing the right insulation materials for indoors can help minimise any VOC emissions in your home. Luckily, there are healthy options available such as our Pirmax Insulation (which contains zero VOCs).

The Role of Insulation in IAQ 

Selecting the right insulation material is critical to ensuring IAQ. Insulation acts as an effective barrier to guard against outside pollutants like dust, pollen and emissions.  Pollutants pose a threat to everyone, especially those living in big cities where air pollution is a big issue. They also have a major impact on those suffering from allergies and other chronic health issues. Properly installed insulation also helps to reduce heat loss and heat gain, which can regulate humidity levels and prevent moisture buildup from forming on indoor surfaces such as ceilings, walls and floors. Insulation can help maintain consistent temperatures. This can help prevent IAQ issues associated with fluctuations in temperature as well as mould and mildew formation.  To achieve the best IAQ, insulation must work alongside ventilation to ensure a good exchange of stale air with fresh air. This will also make sure your space stays dry, and warm and prevent cool spots where mould can grow.

Mould Prevention and Insulation 

Mould and mildew are common problems in both uninsulated and poorly insulated homes. Without proper insulation, moisture can enter through gaps and cracks and build up on surfaces like your ceiling, walls and floors.  Other activities such as cooking and showering, can also lead to increased levels of condensation in the home. Moisture buildup is also a particularly common issue in cooler climates. Insulation helps prevent moisture from building up by controlling heat loss and heat gain. This means you can stop mould, mildew and other toxic microorganisms from growing in your home.  Preventing the formation of microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria is critical to having healthy IAQ, as they can be very hazardous to respiratory health. If proper installation procedures haven’t been followed, mould can creep into your insulation. This can be avoided by knowing what signs to look for and following a few simple mould prevention measures.

Ventilation and Air Circulation

Adequate home ventilation is important to maintaining healthy indoor air quality.  To maintain the best possible IAQ in your home, ventilation needs to work in combination with sufficiently installed insulation. A home that lacks proper air circulation will have a counterproductive effect on all the great benefits that insulation offers and will reduce air quality overall. It’s very important to have a fresh air supply, while also maintaining energy efficiency. Ventilation can be encouraged with various strategies, including:
  • Mechanical ventilation systems (like heat or energy recovery ventilators)
  • Exhaust fans
  • Opening windows.
While insulation helps control moisture buildup by reducing heat loss and heat gain, if it’s packed too tightly and insufficient airflow is present it can cause issues with condensation. This can often occur in areas vulnerable to moisture such as carpets, wallpaper and timber floors. Condensation issues can be avoided by inspecting the cavity before insulating to ensure proper ventilation is present.

Types of Insulation and Their IAQ Impact

Many outdated forms of insulation deteriorate fast and can also contribute to unwanted levels of airborne dust and VOCs. This is why it’s important to choose quality insulation and update any old insulation you might have within your home.  There are many types of insulation, and all can have an impact on improving IAQ. 

Glasswool Insulation (aka fibreglass insulation)

Glasswool is low allergen and excellent for moisture control. It is made from recycled glass fibres and is also fully recyclable making it an eco-friendly option.

Polyester Insulation

Contains a high percentage of recycled materials. Our Bradford Polymax Underfloor Insulation is an affordable and eco-friendly option that is low allergen and produces no VOC emissions. 

Foam Insulation Panels (with foil facing)

This kind of insulation will not sag over time and offers a great barrier for securing your indoor environment. Our Foilboard Green Rigid Panels also contain zero VOCs. If you are going to install this product, you will need to ensure it meets all your current building requirements in terms of breathability. 

Common IAQ Issues Addressed by Insulation 

In combination with the right level amount of ventilation, insulation can help mitigate many air quality issues to ensure a healthier life indoors.

1. Guards Against Pollutants 

If you’re looking at how to eliminate allergens in the home, installing insulation is critical. Insulation helps to seal off any gaps and cracks indoors. This helps filter out pollutants such as outdoor dust, pesticides, pollen and air pollution and prevents them from entering your home. 

2. Provides Moisture Control

Insulation can effectively prevent moisture from gathering in various areas of the home and causing condensation. This has the benefit of preventing the formation of mould and mildew and exposure to potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi that can cause and exacerbate asthma, allergies and other health conditions. 

3. Helps Prevent Heat Fluctuations and Humidity 

Heat fluctuations and humidity can also have an impact on respiratory health, especially for allergy and asthma sufferers. Insulation helps create more stable temperatures for a more comfortable environment all around. 

Conclusion & Next Steps 

Poor IAQ can cause a range of health concerns. This can be avoided with the help of installing quality insulation in combination with good ventilation. Knowing how to properly install insulation can protect the home from a range of potentially harmful outside pollutants. It can also prevent the growth of toxic microorganisms in the home, and allow everyone to lead more comfortable and productive lives. With quality insulation, you and your family can enjoy all the benefits of a clean home, with healthier IAQ and more stable temperature control.  Understanding how to avoid pitfalls when installing insulation and how it works together with good ventilation will help you achieve the highest level of IAQ.  Pricewise Insulation provides a great range of quality insulation to help ensure healthy IAQ. With low-allergen, VOC-free, and eco-friendly options available, it’s never been a better time to insulate. Contact us for a free quote.

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