Keeping Up to Date with Insulation Technology in Spain

A new generation of insulation materials has been developed and they are thinner and better.

Modern Insulation Technology
Modern Insulation Technology

As you know insulation along with solar orientation, window placement, shading and window technology, are key factors in determining the comfort and energy efficiency of your home.

How do the new generation of insulation materials work?

Heat travels through a material by three modes: convection, conduction and radiation. Traditional insulants work by blocking convection by means of a matrix of fibres or bubbles where the voids are filled with air. The performance of an insulant is therefore determined by the thermal conductivity of the air within it, plus the transfer capability of the material itself.

Replacing the air with a less conductive substance, or blowing agent, improves the overall performance of an insulating material. Removing the gas altogether to create a vacuum offers even better performance – both convection and conduction require the presence of gas molecules to transfer heat energy, so neither can take place.

The New Generation of Insulation Materials

Advantages

  1. Additional floor area without having to alter the designed footprint of the building
  2. Increased loading capacity in freight vehicles
  3. Reduction in necessary site-storage space
  4. Time saving, where insulation materials are integrated using a modular construction approach. Support systems and fixings are also less onerous.

COST / CAPITAL VALUE / ROI

In a study based on commercial buildings where space is at a premium such as office buildings in city centres 92% of the buildings analysed produced a positive return on investment. The additional cost of thinner insulation was more than offset by the increased capital value of the building.

What are they? Here is a list of some of them

Aerogel

Aerogel is a synthetic, porous material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component has been replaced with a gas.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS)

The manufacturing process of EPS uses expandable beads that expand to 30 times their original size and are then fused together to produce a shaped product or large block.

Extruded polystyrene (XPS)

Polystyrene granules are melted, mixed with additives and a blowing agent, then extruded under pressure to form rigid foamed polystyrene, which is then cut into boards.

Mineral fibre

Glass fibre and rock fibre insulation comprise a matrix of fibres, made by spinning a molten inorganic material at high temperature. This is then bonded with an organic resin binding agent.

Phenolic foam

The manufacture of phenolic insulation begins with a liquid insulation mixture, which is placed between two flexible facing layers. The liquid contains a blowing agent – most commonly pentane – which under the action of a catalyst evaporates to form a matrix of small bubbles or cells. When the reaction stops, a rigid cellular board is created, which can then be cut to size.

Rigid urethane (PIR or PUR)

PIR or PUR insulation is made in the same way as phenolic insulation, and has many of the same benefits.

Vacuum insulated panel

VIPs are rigid boards that have a microporous core made of three components: fumed silica, an opacifier and organic fibres. This core is evacuated of air, encased and sealed in a thin, gas-tight envelope.

Author: John Wolfendale

Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida Homes and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials.  He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with over 22 years experience living and working in Spain.

John Wolfendale Chartered Surveyor Granada
John Wolfendale Chartered Surveyor Granada