Carbon footprint of insulation

It is important to note that the carbon footprint of insulation materials depends on a number of factors, including 

  • the manufacturing process, 
  • the lifetime of the material, 
  • insulation efficiency 
  • and the end-of-life of the material. 

However, here is a general comparison of the carbon footprint of some common insulating materials:

Insulationkg CO2 eq/m² for R=5Thickness (cm) for R=5
Glass wool5-1523
Expanded polystyrene (EPS)10-2518
Rock wool5-2524
Wood fibre25-7525-27 (depending on density)
Sheep wool5-2525
Expanded cork025
Cellulose wadding10-4024
  1. Glass wool Glass wool has a low carbon footprint due to its long life and insulating efficiency. However, the production of glass wool can require a lot of energy.
  2. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) EPS is a highly effective insulating material, but its manufacture requires hydrocarbons and releases greenhouse gases. It is not biodegradable, but can be recycled. As a petroleum by-product, it is very economical and does not require oil extraction.
  3. Rock wool Rock wool has a carbon footprint similar to that of glass wool. It is made from basalt rock and recycled industrial waste, which can reduce its carbon footprint.
  4. Wood fibre Wood fibre insulation is generally considered to have a low carbon footprint because it is made from renewable materials and has good insulation efficiency.
  5. Sheep wool Sheep wool is a natural and renewable insulating material, giving it a relatively low carbon footprint. However, sheep farming can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, which must be taken into account.
  6. Expanded cork Cork is a natural, renewable insulation material with a low carbon footprint. What's more, cork trees absorb CO2 when they regrow their bark, which can help offset emissions.
  7. Cellulose wadding Cellulose wadding is made from recycled paper, giving it a low carbon footprint. It also insulates well and is biodegradable at the end of its life.

It is also important to note that the carbon footprint of an insulation material should not be the only criterion for choice. Insulation efficiency, durability, fire resistance, impact on indoor air quality and cost are also important factors to consider.

However, all these materials have a net positive impact emissions because of the energy savings they bring.

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