As Western Australia continues to experience record hot spells, people clamber to shelter inside their insulated homes – yet recent statistics claim that a large proportion of insulation products could be only working at 75% of their advertised performance level – which leaves us wondering…are you really being protected?

In simple terms, insulation in most homes during the excessive hot spell is actually working less than if it were in winter. In many cases the material you purchased was only tested on a single sample not subjected to the installed conditions experienced in the home nor experienced outside the bag.

According to Australia’s leading insulation testing facility, CSRIO, buying insulation today is like buying one kilo of salt at the supermarket and getting home only to find 750 grams of salt in the packet – an analogy that demonstrates the current deception and poor testing of many popular insulation materials.

AIR-CELL Insulation General Manager, Mr Scott Gibson, agrees with the analogy and goes one step further in saying that there is a large contingent of insulation products that would not perform as advertised when installed but continue to get away with the deception as no-one is policing the industry.

“I think most people would be horrified to find their one kilo salt bag only contained 750 grams and the supermarket would be bombarded with complaints. Why I ask then can so many of our popular insulation manufacturers and suppliers get away with the exact same thing?” Raising the benchmark and leading the industry by example, AIR-CELL Insulation has become the first insulation company in Australia to conform to the new mandatory Australian Standard introduced by the Building Codes of Australia (BCA).

The standard requires all insulation companies to test their product against “all factors known to affect the installed thermal resistance of the insulation material”. In simple terms, testing of product performance must occur in the installed environment (i.e. home or commercial building).

“It is important that customers know exactly what they are getting when installing insulation. With recent industry reports stating that a large number of our most popular insulation products frequently fail to reach their advertised performance, customers are being tricked into thinking that these products are correctly tested,” Mr Gibson said.

In July 2003 the BCA introduced Amendment 13, calling for all insulation companies to conform to the Australian Standards , and providing the industry time to gain conformance. Currently only one out of many hundred insulation companies has gained conformance – AIR-CELL.

One testing facility quoted that in 16 years they had only performed the correct test procedure 4 times yet was aware that many others claimed product testing to Australian Standards. In some cases, only a very small single sample of product is laboratory tested to ideal conditions not subjected to packaging compression or installed conditions – raising the issue of whether insulation products are really working to the level we are told?

CSIRO Senior Experimental Scientist, Mr Robin Clarke said it is a concern that the present lack of testing or compliance checking means that insulation products frequently under perform, with a sizeable impact on Australia’s greenhouse gas energy consumption.

Receiving the Benchmark Certification to AS/NZS 4859.1.2002, Mr Gibson said it was an important process the company went through to ensure its specifiers, engineers, architects, builders, consumers and over 350 AIR-CELL distributors would have security and confidence the product was safe and conformed to Australian Standards.

AIR-CELL is a fibre-free, food-safe, non-asthmatic and allergy-free insulation medium. The high performance and safety of the product has contributed towards the development of a wide range of applications including commercial and residential buildings, perishable goods packaging and wine vat insulation.

“We began just seven years ago, operating out of a garage in City Beach. In 1999 we opened our first office and since then the company has become one of the major players in the insulation industry with offices in every state and export agencies in six countries,” Mr Gibson said.

“People are coming to us because they know our products are clean, safe and tested to perform in an installed environment. We are totally transparent and totally committed to providing customers with installed performance compliant to the latest Australian Standard – Buying many insulation products at the moment is like taking a stab in the dark – you don’t really know what you will get.”

Over a period of nine months, AIR-CELL has spent a significant amount of money on the conformance process. An endeavour they undertook to prove the quality and performance of their product. AIR-CELL has been assessed independently by Benchmark Certification using the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) and is now endorsed under the scheme as compliant to the standard.