Thermal Insulation

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What is Thermal Insulation?

Thermal insulation is a reduction in heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in an area exposed to radiation. It is important to know that heat transfers between objects at different temperatures. Thus, thermal insulation can be achieved thanks to specific methods or procedures, appropriate shapes, and the right materials. Heat flow is an unavoidable consequence of contact between objects at different temperatures. The insulating capacity of the material is measured as the inverse of thermal conductivity (k). In thermal engineering, other important properties of insulation materials are product density (r) and specific heat capacity (c). Thermal insulation improves the energy efficiency of domestic or commercial buildings, enabling the extensive use of glass and the benefit of passive solar gain.

Thermal Insulation Mechanism

Insulation means creating a barrier between a hot and cold object that reduces heat transfer by reflecting heat radiation or by reducing heat conduction and convection from one object to another. Depending on the barrier material, the insulation is more or less effective. Very low heat-conductive barriers are good heat insulators, and very good heat conductive materials have low insulation capacity. In this exercise, you can test with a glass of hot water which materials are good or bad heat insulators. In most production processes, energy is the most expensive element after raw materials, which is why thermal insulation is crucial. Thermal insulators capture gas bubbles in the foam structure. When these gas cells are filled with moisture, there is a significant loss of insulation efficiency. Moisture absorption by insulating materials can take place through direct contact with water entering the walls of the cargo space. However, it can also happen through the condensation of water vapour in the walls when the dew point in the temperature gradient is reached by the walls. 

Ultimately, thermal insulation is a valuable investment. Thermal insulation materials must be resistant to heat and fire, but they must also be adapted to a wide range of different environments and circumstances. For hot insulation, the heat flow through the insulation corresponds to the heat flow from the outer surface of the insulation to the surrounding air. For cold insulation, the heat flow from the environment to the outside of the insulation corresponds to the heat flow through the insulation.

Insulation Materials and Their Thermal Properties

Thermal properties largely depend on the thermal conductivity of the cell walls, cell-matrix, radiation, and convection, with the cell-matrix being the most important factor used to determine the overall heat transfer properties. Thermal conductivity changes over time due to izechanges in the composition of the cell-matrix. 

Using the right insulation in construction is critical to the environmental impact of the overall design. Insulation manufacturers regulate their products to meet (basic) energy requirements for thermal insulation of buildings. Like all other building materials, thermal insulation materials are subject to the heat transfer theory. Positive thermal insulation properties of insulation materials, compared to other building materials, result mainly from standing air (or gases) encapsulated in the insulation material. 

In thermal insulation of green roofs, the thermal insulation properties of plants are used to create an insulation barrier that serves as a windshield, minimises air circulation, and reduces heat loss by convection. Green roof insulation is mainly used to reduce overheating in a building, which often happens during the summer season.

Thermal Conductivity

The best insulation materials should have the lowest thermal conductivity to reduce overall thermal conductivity. The insulating properties of commercially available insulating materials are determined by the amount of gas contained in the material and the number of gas pockets. Therefore, the greater the number of cells (which can stagnate gas) and the smaller their size, the lower the thermal conductivity of the insulation material.

The heat energy flows through the insulation material through three mechanisms: solid conductivity, gas conductivity, and radiation (infrared). The sum of these three components gives the total thermal conductivity of the material. The improvement of the thermal resistance of a building partition can be achieved by reducing the thermal conductivity. 

This mode conducts thermal energy through a solid, liquid, or gas from molecule to molecule in the material. For heat to be conductive, there must be physical contact between the particles and some temperature difference. Therefore, thermal conductivity is a measure of the rate of heat flow from particle to particle. The temperature difference and its thermal conductivity affect the heat flow rate through a specific material.

At BrandXXX, our thermal insulation engineer covers pipes, boilers, and ductwork with insulating material and metal cladding, with the purpose of this being to keep heat in.

Insulation Performance

The most important aspect of an insulation material is its performance; it needs to provide the intended resistance to heat transfer throughout the lifetime of the building. Although the insulation manufacturer’s published expectations are an important conductor, other factors associated with “real” material installation should be considered as part of the design process.

Easy Installation

The final performance depends on how effectively the contractor can install material with conventional skills. For example, insulation boards must be installed in such a way that there are no gaps between adjacent boards or between boards and other adjacent boards that are part of the entire insulation shell (such as rafters or beams). All other gaps allow airflow and reduce performance.

Shrinking, Compacting, and Deposition

Some materials may exhibit some degree of dimensional instability over their lifetime. In many cases, this can be expected and remedied by careful design and installation methods. In all other cases, the planner should ask the insulation manufacturer for advice on related risks, especially if the installed material performance has not been proven.

Thermal Insulation Materials for Construction

Industrially produced wood fiber insulation was introduced about 20 years ago, after engineers from European wood production areas developed new ways of converting wood waste from thinning and factories into insulation boards.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose insulation is a material made from processed newspapers. The paper is crushed and inorganic salts, such as boric acid, are added to provide resistance to fire, mould, insects, and pests. Depending on the application, the insulation is blown or sprayed wet.

Wool Insulation

Wool insulation consists of sheep wool fibers that are either mechanically held together or bonded with 5% to 15% recycled polyester adhesive in order to form insulation mats and rollers. Sheep are no longer bred mainly for wool; it should be cut off each year to protect animal health. The wool used to make the insulation is wool that is rejected by other industries because of its color or content.

Hemp Fibers

Hemp fibers are made from hemp straw from a hemp plant. Most cannabis is imported, but more local crops are available. Hemp reaches almost 4 meters in 100 to 120 days. Due to the fact that plants shade the soil, no chemical preservatives or toxic additives are required for growing hemp. The product usually consists of 85% hemp fiber, and the remainder consists of polyester binding and 3% to 5% baking soda for fire protection.


Hempcrete is a mixture of hemp obstacles (shells) and lime (possibly including natural hydraulic lime, sand, pozzolans, or cement) that are used as building and insulation material. Hempcrete is easier to process than conventional lime mixes while acting as an insulator and moisture regulator. The brittleness of concrete is absent; therefore, it does not require expansion joints. Hemp walls must be used together with a frame made of another material that can withstand vertical loads in construction; this is because the density of hemp is 15% of the density of conventional concrete.


Fiberglass is made of molten glass, with 20% to 30% made of recycled and post-consumer waste. The material is formed of glass fibers arranged in a woolen structure using a binder. The process has trapped many small air bubbles between the glass, and these small air bubbles provide high thermal insulation. The density of the material can vary depending on the pressure and binder content.


Polyurethane (PUR and PU) is a polymer made of organic units connected by carbamate (urethane) bonds. Polyurethane can be made in various densities and hardness by changing isocyanate, polyol, or additives. Polyisocyanurate, also known as PIR, is a thermosetting plastic that is usually made as foam and used as rigid thermal insulation. The chemistry is similar to that of polyurethane (PUR) except that the proportion of methylenediphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) is higher, and the reaction uses a polyol derived from polyester instead of polyether polyol. Catalysts and additives used in PIR preparations also differ from those used in PUR. Prefabricated PIR sandwich panels are made of corrosion-resistant corrugated steel cladding, which are connected by a PIR foam core and often used for roof insulation or vertical walls (in warehouses, factories, office buildings, etc.).