Choosing an insulation, the embodied energy of insulation materials

Thermal insulation materials: embodied energy necessary for the manufacture of the most common insulating materials.

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Definition of gray energy

Embodied energy is the raw (primary) energy necessary for the life cycle of a product, i.e. the energy necessary to extract, transform, distribute the product but also to recycle it when it reaches the end of its life. .

Concept of gray energy applied to insulators: it is fundamental!

From a global point of view, the concept of gray energy for insulators is fundamental.
Indeed; as an insulator makes it possible, this is its primary role, to save energy, it is therefore essential that the energy which it has enabled to save during its lifetime is greater than its embodied energy. If this is not the case, it is better not to use this insulation at all ...

When choosing and installing an insulating material, you must therefore:

- choose the type of insulation best suited to your situation (bulk, rolls, panels, etc.),
- follow the installation and implementation advice (humidity is a scourge for mineral wool in rolls for example).

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This will guarantee you maximum service life and efficiency.

So we can define a point of return on investment calculated on embodied energy, just as we can calculate a point of financial return. Regarding the latter case, it varies between 5 and 15 years depending on the insulation chosen but especially on the difference in insulation quality before / after.

To get a more concrete idea of ​​what the following figures represent, you can use the following equivalence: 1L of fuel oil = 10 kWh.

1) Insulating concrete family

- Monomur type 3B Bellenberg: 600 kWh / m3
- Monomur type Biomur: 740 kWh / m3
- Monomur type Gélis: 774 kWh / m3
- Cogetherm type pumice stone block: 161 kWh / m3
- Cellular concrete 400kg / m3 (common brands: thermopierre ytong siporex): 400 kWh / m3

2) Wood family

- Raw light wood, air dried (fir, spruce): 329 kWh / m3
- Light wood, planed, steamed (fir, spruce): 610 kWh / m3
- Heavy wood (beech, oak): 560 kWh / m3
- 3-layer solid wood panel: 1636 kWh / m3

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3) Synthetic wool

- Rock wool 20kg / m3 (rolls) 123 kWh / m3
- Rock wool 70kg / m3: 432 kWh / m3
- Rock wool 110kg / m3: 697 kWh / m3
- Rock wool 140kg / m3: 851 kWh / m3
- Rock wool 160kg / m3: 1006 kWh / m3
- Glass wool 18kg / m3 (rolls): 242 kWh / m3
- Glass wool 35kg / m3: 470 kWh / m3
- Glass wool 60kg / m3: 806 kWh / m3
- Glass wool 100kg / m3: 1344 kWh / m3
- Bulk rock wool: 216 kWh / m3

4) Other synthetic insulators

- Expanded polystyrene: 500 kWh / m3
- Extruded polystyrene (expanded sheets with HCFCs) of the Styrodur type: 795 kWh / m3
- Polyurethane foam 30kg / m3 (molded plates): 974 kWh / m3

5) Natural and ecological insulation

- 200 kg / m3 wood wool panels: 219 kWh / m3
- 150 kg / m3 wood wool panels: 161 kWh / m3
- 50 kg / m3 wood wool panels: 58 kWh / m3
- Hemp wool, linen, cotton: 48 kWh / m3
- Sheep wool and other animal fibers: 56 kWh / m3
- Expanded cork in accordance with standard NF EN 13170: 450 kWh / m3
- Straw (bales flat): 0 kWh / m3
- Straw (bundles on edge): 0 kWh / m3
- Blown cellulose wadding: 50 kWh / m3
- Injected cellulose wadding: 98 kWh / m3
- Cellulose wadding (panels): 152 kWh / m3
- Lime-hemp concrete 270kg / m3 (roof): 54 kWh / m3
- Lime-hemp concrete 450 kg / m3: 90 kWh / m3
- Straw-earth concrete 600kg / m3: 18 kWh / m3
- Natural pumice: 16 kWh / m3

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Disclaimer: This information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, the authors or their organizations decline any responsibility for damage or loss resulting from the use of these. You are entirely responsible for the use of this information

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