One of the most fundamental ways to green up your home and save on energy bills is properly insulating your home. This in turn is great for the total environment, because most heat comes from fossil fuels. Traditionally, insulation has struggled with three main obstacles: formaldehyde, low r-value, and air gaps. Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound or a VOC that stinks. Remember dissecting the frog in high school? VOCs create poor indoor air quality over a long period of time and are known to cause a number of diseases. R-Value speaks of insulations ability to control temperature. Just remember, the higher the better. Lastly, air gaps greatly reduce a products ability to perform. Air gaps must be filled in to receive the full benefit of insulation. Here's a quick breakdown on different options for insulating:
Batting (usually pink). Though this has a dominant hold on the industry, it's not necessarily the best choice. This product is less expensive up front and doesn't need professional installation. That's the pro. The cons are lower r-values and air gaps. The specific r-value will vary from product to product, but is generally lower than other products. Air gaps are impossible to seal with batting. Environmentally friendly options include formaldehyde free and recycled content batting
Total-Fill Insulation: Total fill is a great product that comes at a mid price range. The product is installed differently for a tighter blanket. First, a thin membrane is stapled to the exposed wall studs. Next, a fluffy insulation is blown in between the studs, held in by the membrane. Tightly packed, the gaps between your wall studs are totally filled in, hence the name. The pros include a higher r-value, formaldehyde free options, and filled air gaps. Note: a filled air gap isn't necessarily a sealed air gap. That's the con with total-fill products. Even with a tightly packed insulation, air gaps cause problems and lower performance.
Spray Foam: Air gaps can only be filled with a spray foam. This product must be professionally installed and costs more than other alternatives. However, spray foams have several advantages. First, foam seals air gaps everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Second, foam can be made of safe organic material like soy. Third, because air gaps are completely sealed, the r-value is greatly enhanced.
There are ways to seal air gaps and use a less expensive product. Most hardware stores carry a spray foam product in cans that can be directly applied to air gaps before installing your insulation. This is an inexpensive, though sometimes tedious, solution to a lower insulation budget. Just remember, a home is an investment. If it's not constructed properly, it can cost you much more money in the long run than green products cost up front. Fortunately, green products are coming down in price and we can start saving our monthly income along with the environment.