History of Insulation

For as far back as history goes, the earth has experienced four distinct seasons. Some areas have always experienced more extremes in terms of temperatures and therefore had to find ways to maintain a comfortable living environment. Insulation has been used throughout the centuries to keep heat in and cold out or vice versa.

Ancient Forms of Insulation

Prehistoric people built shelters to protect themselves from the elements, originally using organic materials and later more durable substitutes. Hot climates would construct homes with thick walls that would insulate against the heat and provide a cooler and more temperate indoor environment in which to live.

• Ancient Mayan ruins in Central America;

• Egyptians also used these construction methods to keep out the desert heat of the Sahara. These homes had low roofs and small windows so the heat couldn’t easily enter and remain in the homes.

• Ancient Greeks probably made some of the more significant discoveries in terms of insulation ­ they used cavity walling to insulate the buildings. Cavity walling has a gap between two walls which traps air and moderates the temperatures. During the hot summer months, cavity walls kept the warm air out and in the cooler winter months, it would help keep the warmth inside the homes.

• The Romans also used cavity walls, though in addition, they used materials such as cork to insulate hot water pipes so the heat from the pipes would not transfer to the surrounding walls and floors, causing them to crack. Fabrics were also used as additional insulation. Scraps of cloth would be tucked into window frames to keep out the desert dusk or the icy European cold. Rugs made from animal furs were used as carpets and thick linen drapes were used as curtains. Elaborate tapestries were hung on walls and helped to manage some of the moisture buildup in the stone buildings. The tapestries also helped moderate the draughts that could sometimes cause an added chill.

Industrial Types of Insulation

During the Industrial Revolution, insulation became an integral part of many designs. Steam power was driven by coal­burning furnaces and asbestos was the main type of insulation used because of its flame­resistant properties. Interestingly enough, asbestos had been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as insulation and they had dressed their slaves in it. Even though the Greeks had noted that it seemed to cause lung disease in those who were exposed to it, the industrialists seemed oblivious to this fact. For more than a century, asbestos continued to be the main form of insulation. It was only in the mid­1970s that the harmful effects of asbestos were finally properly documented which caused industries to consider other forms of insulation. Fiberglass batting was then widely used in building and construction projects and is still used today.

The Need for Energy Efficiency

In recent decades, there has been an increasing awareness to become more energy efficient and environmentally conscious. Insulation requirements are becoming more detailed and stringent. The thinking is that better the insulation, the more energy efficient the building. Everyone knows that insulating your home is one of the single most useful things you can do to help you start saving energy. Between lagging your pipes, looking after your loft and insulating your walls, there’s hundreds of pounds – and tonnes of carbon – to be saved.


There are lots of performance facts bandied about, especially over how much you can save by installing proper insulation in your wall cavities or loft (around £120 and £150 a year respectively, in case you didn’t already know) but here are a few of the more unusual ones:

If every house in the UK was fully draught­proofed, the nation

would save enough energy to easily heat all the homes in Belfast and Cardiff combined!

Making Comparisons & Things you need to know

Comparing different kinds of insulation and building materials to try to see which one will be best for your needs can sometimes seem a bewildering problem. Here are a few straightforward facts to help you:

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