Types of Home Insulation

Some types of home insulation to install for an eco-friendly and snug home

There are many types of home insulation available today which you can use to insulate your home to a high standard. This will help you to save money and cut your home's carbon footprint. Really, it is almost impossible to insulate too much! The key thing is to choose insulation which does the job well, without hogging too much space and without being a health hazard.

Here are some of the main types of home insulation you could consider and a little about each of them.

Double or triple glazing?

Window panes are notorious for shedding heat to the outside world. Just put your hand on the glass when you are warm inside and it's cold out. The glass feels cool or even downright cold!

Double or triple glazing will help remedy this but it does tend to have a long pay-back time. There are other benefits. If you are close to a busy road, sound will be reduced, for example. If your budget stretches to it, triple glazing is well worth installing. Up to 80% of heat loss is stopped and it is only a fraction more expensive than double glazing at the budget end of the market.

Temporary window shutters are an option if you don't want the expense of double glazing or triple glazing. It's also well worth looking at good drapes or curtains.

Floor coverings and underlay

If you buy new carpets or floor coverings such as laminates, don't forget to put in some underlay or other insulation. This can make a noticeable difference to the warmth of a room. Fibreboard batts can also be purchased to lay on concrete floors. This stops the continual drain of warmth into the fabric of the building.

There are many types of home insulation available for under carpets and linos. Always take advice on the best products to use once you have chosen your floor covering. Good quality underlay will usually be a worthwhile investment.

Underfloor insulation

There are several types of insulation which are suitable for under floor use. I've even heard of people using recycled bottles to create a layer of insulation! Here are some of the commoner commercial options.

If you have any reason to re-lay a floor, or put one in from scratch, it makes good sense to put in some underfloor insulation. There are products such as pumice and expanded clay balls which can be incorporated into the floor itself.

Some of the common types of home insulation for under floors are not too environmentally friendly. Fibreglass insulation is melts at high temperatures and is also a health hazard. The fibres cause itching in contact with skin and you certainly will want to avoid inhaling the fibres, or dust from them.

Polystyrene sheets and blocks are effective but may also give off toxic gases if there were to be a house fire. If it is sealed within concrete blocks, this is a less likely hazard. Polystyrene is reasonably convenient and easy to use but broken chunks can produce a long-lasting source of litter. Polystyrene sheets are often fitted between floor joists. You may need some more loose-fill insulation to take up spaces which are awkward to access.

Underfloor insulation

Underfloor insulation can make a big difference to your home. Pumice and clay balls are probably some of the most environmentally friendly products as they are non-toxic, durable and recyclable. They can be incorporated as part of the base of the floor screed if desired. (Pumice can be a versatile and cheap building material in its own right, suitable for single-storey dwellings and work sheds.)

Door and window insulation

Doors and windows should fit snugly in their frames and to prevent heat loss around the edges, good draught-proofing may be required. Many modern windows and doors come with integrated draught protection but older windows and doors can be helped by the addition of self-adhesive strips of foam or rubber. This is a simple DIY job for most people.

You need a roll of the special tape and a sharp knife such as a craft knife or Stanley knife. You may also need to clean surfaces before application. It's surprising how much grime can collect inside window frames and rural dwellings often accumulate insect debris in these spaces.

The under-sides of doors can be protected by threshold draught-excluders. This makes the door glide across the carpet or other flooring, keeping contact between floor and door, without affecting your ability to close the door properly. External doors need heavy-duty threshold fixings which repel dirt. Always check which way your door opens before buying a threshold strip.

Insulating your loft

As much as 25% of your home's heat may be lost through the roof. For this reason, insulating your loft to a depth of at least 270 mm is a good way to protect your home.

There are many different types of insulation available for lofts. What you choose will be influenced by your climate, what's available locally and your budget. Read about some of the main ones on these pages:

Best attic insulation for green living and

More best attic insulation choices

If you do insulate your loft, don't forget to insulate the hatch and draught-proof it so that it fits snugly.

Loft insulation can be enhanced further by insulating the spaces between the roof timbers in your loft. This is often done with aluminium foil. 

Fabrics and decor

Other types of home insulation can include fabrics, soft furnishings and decor choices. Curtains can be lined with heat resistant materials; blinds also can be of heat reflective qualities which mean that heat is reflected back into the room. Heavy wallpapers have some insulating properties and even paints can help with insulation.

Please see The Best Thermal Window Treatments for Your Home for more on insulating your windows.

There are more types of home insulation for specialist needs - but these are the main types which everyone should consider. We are all becoming aware of the need to make our homes as energy efficient as possible as the facts about climate change become more widely understood. Having a snug, warm home does not do us any harm either!

Useful books

The Homeowner's Handbook to Energy Efficiency: A Guide to Big and Small Improvements is an easy-to understand guide with clear explanations and graphics to guide you through. The author even gives some guidance for would-be builders.

Insulate & Weatherize (Taunton's Build Like a Pro) is a popuar, well-presented work which covers a lot of the dos and don'ts of insulation. It contains lots of myth-busting facts and gives plenty of detail on how to insulate effectively and save yourself money.

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