With the Australian winter season making its unwelcome appearance earlier this month, many would agree that turning the heater up is the easiest and most convenient way of keeping warm.

Then comes the energy bill at the end of the quarter.

For those who are conscious about the rising cost of living and increasing environmental awareness, many are looking to more cost effective and sustainable ways of keeping homes warmer for those three, chilling months of the year.

How to choose the right home insulation
First, it is important to understand the different types of thermal insulation. According to Sustainability Victoria, the types of thermal insulation include:
  • Glasswool 
  • Rockwool
  • Natural Wool
  • Polyester
Glasswool or fibreglass insulation is made from melted glass spun into a flexible mat of fine fibred. It is usually sold in a batt or blanket form that's easy to cut and install.

Denser than glasswool, Rockwool is made from volcanic rock melted at high temperatures. Similar to the glasswool variety, rockwool is also spun into a mat of fine fibres and comes in a batt or blanket form.

Natural wool insulation is usually made from sheep's wool that is formed into batts or blankets and are naturally flame-resistant, depending on the amount of synthetic fibres added during the manufacturing process.

Polyester insulation have very similar properties to mineral wool, made from polyester fibres that include recycled PET bottles and also spun into a flexible mat form.

An honourable mention goes to reflective or foil insulation which helps enhance the thermal resistance (R-value) of a property.

The eco-friendly variety is now available in a range of natural materials, many of which are made from wholly recycled materials. Kingspan Insulation, for instance, offers fibre free insulation varieties suitable for roofs, walls and floors.

Reducing overall building or home energy use was perhaps nagging at the back of CSR Bradford Insulation 's mind when it decided to come up with an effective glasswool insulation solution. Made from a bio-soluble formulation, the Anticon™ roofing blanket consists of a glasswool insulation blanket adhered to an impermeable reinforced reflective foil facing. It contains up to 80% recycled content and is designed to provide efficient thermal insulation and condensation control.

Its Optimo™ product is manufactured from rockwool and offers a rigid, high density insulation that keeps homes well insulated. It is designed to fit snugly between the joists under suspended timber floors, putting an end to draughts that come through timber floors.

The GreenStuf® batts from Autex is 100% thermally bonded polyester thermal insulation that is easy to install. According to Autex, GreenStuf® batts contain no ozone depleting materials such as CFC or HCFC.

Higgins Insulation provides a safe and environmentally friendly option for thermal insulation needs. Higgins products are manufactured in accordance with Australian Standards AS4859.1.2002 and have Zero Ozone Depleting Potential (Zero ODP).

RMAX decided to tackle the issue from another angle by offering its Orange Board™ roof and wall cladding system. Although far from the typical batt and blanket type insulations, Orange Board™ is said to offer an exceptional, energy efficient thermal insulation solution that is odourless and non-irritant. Fletcher Insulation have also come up with its own product that helps increase the thermal performance of a building. The thermal resistance of its InsulBubble™ reflective 'bubble' insulation can vary dramatically with application, orientation and installation method.

Photo: a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from natindco's Flickr photo stream.