The Importance of Insulation

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto
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Plastering walls to stop glass wool leakage

A few years ago, we rented a charming house on stilts that was situated on a hillside, with a large wraparound porch/balcony. We had a breath-taking view of the valley below, complete privacy and enough space to garden and raise some livestock, and the landlord boasted of the house being eco-friendly. We soon had the chance to test this last claim when the rubber hit the road..

Putting ‘Eco-Friendly’ Claims to the Test

It was true that the house had a greywater recycling system, which was awesome. It also had many large windows to capture light, which was a great mood-booster for me, as I’m really a sunshine kind of person (I’m lucky to be living in Israel). However, those windows were the weak point of the house insulation-wise – not only were they single-paned, the frames were badly fitted and air could get in through them.

Furthermore, the house itself was built from construction panels plastered on the interior, without any additional insulation in between. It was cold and drafty in winter, and if you’re thinking this isn’t a big issue around here, let me tell you that it can get pretty chilly up in the hills, and a poorly insulated house means that when it’s close to freezing point outside, it isn’t much better inside.

In the summer, of course, the house would turn into a furnace, as all those lovely panoramic windows didn’t have adequate shades or screens. We invested in curtains, but this wasn’t enough. We had to keep the air conditioner turned on almost 24/7 to make the conditions somewhat livable. Bottom line: not a very energy-efficient, eco-friendly house after all.

Poorly Installed Insulation

Later on, in the house where we currently live, we had what you could call an insulation horror story. The people who had built this house used glass wool for insulation. Now, glass wool makes great insulating material, but because the builders didn’t use any sheathing, just stuffed exposed glass wool between the outer walls and the inner wood paneling, the glass wool eventually began to disintegrate and leak through tiny cracks in the paneling.

For a couple of months we experienced persistent coughing and other symptoms of respiratory system irritation without even knowing why. Once the problem was detected, we solved it by plastering the walls.

Home Insulation Lessons Learned

When building our own cabin, we learned from other people’s mistakes: we wanted a well-insulated, energy-efficient home, and we wanted to do it right. So we used glass wool, but wrapped layers of it in plastic sheaths and only then used it for insulating the walls and ceiling. We opted to have fewer windows than we would have chosen from a purely aesthetic point of view, and put in just enough to give us plenty of light, making sure the frames fit well. We look forward to moving in and testing out the result of our labors.

Anna Twittos academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.comAuthor Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts here

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