Innovations In Insulation: Structural Insulated Panels, Trombe Walls And Water Walls

Traditionally, an insulated panel consists of insulating layers such as fibreglass or foam sandwiched between boards. However, innovations in the field of insulation are changing this traditional definition, and now, homeowners have a range of insulting panels and materials available to them. If you are trying to create a well-insulated, environmentally friendly home, here are three types of insulating walls or panels you should consider:

1. Structural Insulated Panels

Also called SIPs, structural insulated panels both insulate and support a building. These panels boast excellent thermal performance, and as they come manufactured and ready to use, they are easier to integrate into a building than traditional framing materials and insulation. On site, they also produce less waste than their traditional counterparts.

In addition to being more green than many traditional building materials, structural insulated panels are more energy efficient throughout their lifespan as well. Where traditional materials allow drafts to enter and exit a home, structural insulated panels fit neatly together to reduce drafts and make the home feel more efficient.

To test this theory, researchers built a home out of SIPs and an identical home out of traditional wood framing and fiberglass insulation. They found that the SIP house was five times more efficient than the traditional home. This finding means that homes with SIPs use fewer resources for heating and cooling, preserving fossil fuels and saving homeowners money. Homeowners in search of even greater savings, however, may want to look at walls or panels that produce radiant heat in addition to insulating the home.   

2. Trombe Walls

Named after the French inventor Felix Trombe, Trombe walls are passive solar walls. Rather than consisting of a wood exterior and a foam or fibreglass core, these walls feature a brick and glass exterior with a layer of air in between them.

Essentially, sunlight hits the masonry or brick wall through the glass. It begins to warm up the brick wall and, slowly, the heat travels through the outer side of the brick wall to the interior side of the brick wall. From there, the heat radiates into the rest of the home.

The layer of glass sits outside, encasing the masonry wall, and it prevents heat from leaving the system. The trapped heat sits in the layer of air between the glass and masonry wall, and as needed, it infuses into the brick wall, continuing to heat the house even when the sun is not shining.

The time the heat takes to travel from the outside of the wall to the inside varies based on the thickness of the wall, but with a 40 cm thick wall, the heat travels from the inside to the outside in about 8 to 10 hours. That keeps the home comfortably warm, and these walls can be fitted with vents to further control the release of heat.

Trombe walls typically need to be integrated when the homeowner is building or designing their home. However, homeowners who want to retrofit more insulation or passive heating into their home may want to explore water walls.

3. Water Walls

Water walls essentially helps to heat and cool a home using solar energy. Environmentalists can retrofit water walls into their homes using plastic drums, jugs, fiberglass tubes or a range of other water holding devices. However, you can also use custom built modular steel water tanks.

These can be designed, like insulating panels, to fit the entire length of a wall, or they can be designed to fit in with other insulating panels or traditional walls. For example, you can build the home using traditional wood framing and insulation or structural insulated panels, and you can add several custom modular steel water tanks as stylistically unobtrusive window seats or kitchen countertops.

Whether they take up a whole wall or just a portion of it, these tanks take sunlight from north-facing windows, and they store it for slow release into the home. According to research, these water walls can take care of 80 percent of a home's heating needs.

Contact an insulation expert to help with your insulated panel installation.