New insulation technology is making buildings more environmentally friendly than ever. With more efficient materials, insulation can substantially reduce noise pollution and prevent loss of energy from leaking air. For homeowners, this means lower energy bills, a quieter and more comfortable interior, and less damage to the surrounding environment.
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In ancient times, insulation was not really a concern of home builders. Sometimes, the materials provided incidental insulation, but this was not intentional or even fully understood. Bricks, mud and straw are examples.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that scientists began to understand the nature of heat transfer and thermodynamics. It became clear that slowing heat transfer could protect equipment and workers in factories and be more comfortable for residents.
But it would take years before builders really latched onto this information and began to apply it. Originally, fire places warmed homes in colder months. In the 18th century, though, central heating was invented using wood-fired stoves to heat home interiors.
Of course, in an un-insulated home, a lot of this heat escapes because it seeps through thin walls and ceilings and disperses into the exterior air. The first fiberglass insulation didn’t come along until the 1930s when a scientist inadvertently shredded two plates of glass with an air hose.
Experimentation showed that this fiberglass was great at insulation because of two properties. First, the glass fibers were not good at conducting either heat or electricity. Second, the open spaces between the fibers trapped air and diminished heat transfer even more.
Fiberglass quickly became the standard for home insulation, and it remains common even to this day. Blown-in fiberglass is a great choice for older homes, particularly for attics, because it is quick and easy to install. However, fiberglass blanket insulation tends to last longer.
Asbestos was another form of insulation that came along in the 20th century, using the tiny fibers from a type of mineral, but health risks caused asbestos to fall out of favor. It is still used in certain manufacturing processes.
A modern innovation that has become popular is spray foam insulation. It provides a permanent solution that is certainly the most effective of all available options in terms of reducing energy costs, keeping out moisture, eliminating noise pollution and making the home interior comfortable.
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