Insulation is important because it helps to keep warm areas warm and cool areas cool. This is an important concept to understand regardless of the type of building one builds. Insulation is important in any type of building and is the key to keeping energy costs down.
There are many different types of insulation that include different types of foam, cellulose and fiberglass.
If a home is not properly insulated, up to two thirds of its heat energy can be lost.
In regard to passive solar design, insulation is used in the building’s design so that it can work together with thermal mass. Thermal mass is a dense material that can store and radiate heat.
It is recommended that a passive solar house have insulation on the outside of the thermal mass so that the heat stored within the mass can be utilized to keep the inner temperature warm and stable. Remember that insulation allows a warm building to stay warm and a cool building to stay cool.
A lack of insulation will drastically impact the heating and cooling storage capacities of any building.
The diagram shows common leaks that allow heat to escape in a traditional building.
Heat moves to constantly try to reach equilibrium and will constantly move from warm to colder areas. When a door is opened to a cold winter evening, heat will move out of the house while the cold sweeps in. Similarly, when reaching for the ice cream while the freezer door is open, heat moves into the freezer, as cold air rushes out. In regard to both the building and the freezer, the presence of insulation functions to keep areas warm or cool areas stable. In buildings, it is desired to live within a constant, comfortable temperature, regardless of the temperature outside of the building.
There are also building materials that incorporate insulation within its structure.
These types of building materials include Structure Insulated Panels (SIPS), Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF’s). For more on Styrofoam types of insulation, see this post on polystyrene.
The economical solution to a warmer house in the winter and a cooler house in the summer is to insulate it well, while understanding the movement of heat.