Now that you’re up-to-date on R-value, let’s take a look at what choices are out there for the environmentally conscious homeowner who wants to save energy and cut heating and cooling costs by adding to or replacing insulation.
The first thing to be aware of is that you can check a company’s claims of environmental friendliness. There are independent, third party organizations that certify building materials. One good example is the Greenguard Environmental Institute, which is a group that oversees third party certification in order to reduce chemical exposure and improve indoor air quality. All products that bear the Greengard seal of certification are guaranteed to be environmentally friendly.
Next, watch out for insulation made with formaldehyde. Fiberglass batts are one of the most popular forms of insulation, and their manufacturers used to make them by using a formaldehyde-based resin to bind the fiberglass threads together. However, we now realize that there are many health risks associated with formaldehyde. Most importantly, it has been classified as a known human carcinogen. So many consumer groups and government agencies are calling for reductions in formaldehyde emissions, which can occur from insulation that uses formaldehyde in its manufacture. In response, many companies that produce fiberglass batts for home insulation are now making them formaldehyde-free. So look for those products if you choose this type of insulation.
You may be asking whether fiberglass is itself environmentally friendly. It’s a very “green” material! Fiberglass is made by melting recycled post-consumer glass and stretching it out into very fine threads. Fiberglass manufacture is in fact the largest market for recycled glass. So you will be making an environmentally friendly choice, as long as you make sure to avoid formaldehyde.