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Renovate Responsibly

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Renovate Responsibly

The bitter cold storms last winter convinced us to add extra insulation when we renovate our draughty house this spring. We need to make sure the insulation is adequate to protect us from cold weather. Weâ??re also looking for the least toxic and ecologically safe products we can find.

The bitter cold storms last winter convinced us to add extra insulation when we renovate our draughty house this spring. We need to make sure the insulation is adequate to protect us from cold weather. We’re also looking for the least toxic and ecologically safe products we can find.

Get Your Blue Jeans On!

Yes, industry has found a way to make ecologically safe home insulation by recycling our pants! Natural cotton fibre insulation does not cause itching during installation and is easy to
handle and work with.

Cotton fibre insulation is free of chemical irritants and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), which can pose health hazards. It meets the highest American Society for Testing and Materials standards for resis-tance to fire, smoke, corrosiveness, and fungi.

Foiled Again

Another alternative insulation is reflective foil. Because it is inert, it does not outgas or produce particulates (dust), although it can be more expensive than traditional fibreglass or foam.

Paper Chase

Cellulose insulation made of at least 80 percent recycled newspaper is treated for fire and insect resistance; it is also a superior insulator.

Often, staples or tacks are used to install insulation; however, glue can also be used in some areas, and conventional glues may be highly toxic. Some manufacturers of adhesives have also formulated “low-tox” glues.

Glue That Binds

Enviro-friendly adhesives should be water based. Conventional glues are very high in VOCs and can outgas for long periods of time. Strong adhesives, such as epoxy glues commonly used for joining wood, can trigger an asthmatic reaction when their fumes are inhaled. According to the Canadian Lung Association, water-based contact adhesives and white glue are good alternatives.

When we renovate our home this spring, we plan to fulfill our responsibility to our family, our guests, and our earth by using the least toxic materials we can purchase.

R-value

R-value is a measure of how well a material resists the passage of heat. The higher the R-value, the more effective insulation is in keeping a home warm in winter and cool in summer. Insulation should always be judged by R-value rather than inches, as different insulation materials have different R-values per inch of thickness.

According to the US National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) committee, insulation can emit harmful chemicals, even though it’s covered or hidden.

Although the NIBS IEQ committee believes that persons with multiple chemical sensitivities best tolerate polystyrene foam insulation, this petrochemical product is not ecologically friendly in either its manufacture or disposal.

Other insulating products, such as fibreglass, cellulose, or cotton-polyester blend insulating products, may produce particulates, harbour mold, or emit problematic volatile fumes, depending on the product and the manufacturing techniques used. The NIBS IEQ committee also advises that insulation used anywhere in buildings must not contain urea-formaldehyde resins.

Adhesives containing formaldehyde should also be avoided. In any building where adhesive use is necessary, ensure that maximum ventilation is supplied during and after application of these products. Select glues that have the lowest VOC emissions, while still meeting other performance requirements.

For more information, visit the NIBS IEQ website: ieq.nibs.org/products/insulation.php

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