How Insulation Keeps You Warm

The Science Behind Insulation

If you’re out and about during the winter and you’re feeling a bit cold, chances are you’ll put on a hat or another layer of clothing. If you’re sitting at home watching television and the same thought strikes you, you’re more likely to turn on your heating. Now, what if we switched the logic around? What if you ate more food whenever you felt cold and stuck a woolly hat on top of your house each winter? The first wouldn’t make much difference: food supplies the energy your body needs, but it doesn’t necessarily make you any warmer right there and then. But putting “clothes” on your house—by insulating it—is actually a very good idea: the more heat insulation you have, the fewer energy escapes, the lower your heating bills, and the more you help the planet in the fight against global warming. If you’re interested in how the best rated cooling towels do the opposite for your body when it’s hot outside, we’ve also got a lot of articles discussing that topic. Let’s take a closer look!

Why Do We Need Insulation?

To put it simply, we need insulation because fuel is expensive and fuels that burn pollute the air and damage the environment, one way or another. Some fuels are more expensive than others; some are more harmful than others; some are more efficient than others. But even efficient fuels cost money—so the less of them you burn, the better for your wallet.

Compared to using age-old technology such as an open-coal fire, most modern heating appliances are actually pretty efficient; look at the red bars in the chart below and you’ll see that, for every joule (the standard modern unit of measuring energy) of fuel you feed into them, you typically get about 70% back again as heat (in practical terms, that’s what the fuel efficiency percentage means).

Hold On To Your Heat

The real problem with home heating is retaining the heat you produce: in winter, the air surrounding your home and the soil or rock bed on which it stands are always at a much lower temperature than the building so, no matter how efficient your heating solution is, your home will still lose heat sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time. The answer is, of course, to create a kind of buffer zone in between your warm house and the cold outdoors. This is the basic idea behind heat insulation, which is something most of us think about far too little. According to the US Department of Energy, only a fifth of homes built before 1980 are properly insulated; so, as you can see from the chart below, most of us believe our properties are better insulated than they actually are. The good news is that standards are rising. Over a quarter of new homes now meet ENERGY STAR specifications, according to the US Energy Information Administration, which means they use 15 percent less energy than those built to 2009 building codes.

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