The ability of insulation to reduce home heating and cooling costs continues to remain surprisingly overlooked throughout Australia despite recent focus on the dismal energy efficiency of the country’s built assets.
“The one thing that we’re finding is that people are choosing not to insulate, or they’re not even thinking about insulation when they’re doing new projects,” said Sandra Skelly of underfloor heating systems provider Comfort Heat. “The architects aren’t specifying it and the builders aren’t suggesting it.
“Builders ask us all the time if we should insulate when the assumption should be that they are already.
“It shouldn’t be a choice – yes, you should insulate, you can never insulate enough - the more you insulate, the more the heating and cooling properties of the house will improve.”
Skelly believes a big part of the reluctance to install insulation is due to concerns over upfront expenses, along with a failure to realize the long-term savings that can be achieved via increased efficiency.
“I think insulation is being overlooked largely due to cost considerations,” she said. “It ends up being that added extra, because if you don’t need to have it, then it’s the first thing that is crossed off the list.”
While the recent spate of home renovation shows has left the average consumer far better apprised when it comes construction methods and approaches, insulation still fails to receive as much attention as other building parts.
“Insulation isn’t even one of the things people are considering when it comes to bricks or glass - a lot of people are looking at e-glass and various types of window treatments that keep the heat in, but insulation still isn’t on the list that they’re checking off," Skelly said.
“Simple insulation products, such as an extruded polystyrene underneath their slabs, are still being overlooked.”
According to Skelly, failure to give more thorough consideration to the potential insulation needs of homes translates into greater costs further down the line as well as poor energy performance.
“It concerns me that insulation seems to be an afterthought, because it ends being a costly one when it’s not included in the original quote of how much this house is going to cost you," she said.
“People are always looking at running costs, they’re worried about the cost of heating their homes, but they’re never looking at what they can do in their design phase, when they would save more by taking insulation into consideration.”
A general perception that insulation is a better suited approach to buildings struggling with colder climate conditions could be a significant factor behind reluctance to adopt it in many parts of Australia.
“The only place where people are really giving it greater consideration is down in Tasmania and its more alpine regions, where it does get really cold, as well as the western tablelands of NSW,” said Skelly.
Concerns about thermal lag and the potential impact of insulation on the cooling of homes in Australia’s predominately warmer climate region could be another factor behind the market’s neglect of insulation.
“One thing about Australia is that it may heat up during the day in summer, but it also cools down at night, and what you don’t want is for the house to store the heat,” said Skelly.
Such concerns are misplaced in Skelly’s opinion, as insulation serves to enhance the cooling of indoor environments by preventing the ingress of external heat.
“If you’ve got the insulation products in the house, it won’t heat up as much, so you have even less of a thermal lag,” said Skelly. “The house will operate even more efficiently if it doesn’t absorb the heat in the first place.
“If you insulate, you have to be improving the efficiency of home both heating and cooling - heat moves in from hot to cold, so when you’re trying to heat an insulated house during winter the heat moves from the house to the outside
“The opposite happens if you’re air-conditioning a house during summer – the the heat will move from the outside towards inside, so you still want the insulation to prevent this transfer of heat.”