Wool Insulation: How to Knit your House a Sweater

We are remodeling our house. What started from a pinprick leak in the ice maker tube to our freezer morphed into a kitchen remodel, and now a major overhaul to the infrastructure of our home. Not only are we talking new floors that warped from the leak, but we are replacing our incandescent lighting with LED fixtures and bulbs, replacing our original crumbling galvanized plumbing, and upgrading the hot mess our electrical panel turned out to be behind some fancy garage sheetrock. Its been a challenge, but I also know that our home will be much safer once its all said and done.

What a whole manner of sins sheetrock can cover up. My hidden shoddy wiring and fancy taping of illegal wires would be enough to give Smokey the Bear hemorrhoids. We uncovered what was luckily a ghost town of rodent condos. And whatever sort of crazy toxic insulation that had been sprayed on most of the walls along the back side of my house had “failed,” according to my contractor. They found insulation the texture of sand that had settled to the bottom half to one third of my wall space, where it was even used at all! Not only was it not insulating my house from temperature changes and energy waste, chunks floated around my exterior that my kids quickly thought was sooooo much fun to play with since it crumbled into a fine powder that was oh-so-enthralling. Gross! Why would I want my home lined with something I know is toxic, not healthy, and not at all something okay for my kids to be playing with?

My contractor was already pleased as punch with me because I had his guys remove all of the recycling from the waste bin. I’m sure he braced himself when it came time to ask me what kind of insulation I wanted to use. He was wise to know I wouldn’t stand for any of that pink cotton candy fiberglass crap.

I had heard of cotton insulation, with 80% recycled denim, and its actually pretty readily available and reasonably priced, quite comparable to fiberglass in fact. In fact if you aren’t about sheering sheep or are on a tight budget, denim is a great eco-friendly option! But when I sat down to do a little research of insulation types, and it was like love at first sight when I discovered there was such a thing as wool insulation!

I love wool. Its amazing stuff. I’ve talked about it on Lovelaughandmakelemonade before. I love wool socks, I knit my kids wool pants, and plugged wool underwear. It turns out to be a great insulation for your home as well.

Here’s a quick list to tell you why:

  1. Its renewable: sheep grow more wool after every shearing
  2. It takes 90% less energy to produce than traditional insulation
  3. Its biodegradable: compost it when you are done with it
  4. It lasts a long time, for the life of your building
  5. Its naturally fire resistant
  6. Its naturally rodent resistant
  7. Its naturally mold and fungus resistant, even if it does get wet
  8. It maintains its insulation properties even if it does get wet
  9. It absorbs formaldehyde, improving air quality
  10. Its safe to handle and install and requires no special protective equipment
  11. It expands in your walls rather than settling, increasing the overall seal an efficiency of your insulation
  12. Great acoustic properties

So I brought home a few ewes and got out my husband’s hair clippers and went work insulating my kitchen. Hehe. I didn’t. But that would work too!

Rest assured it comes in batts or as loose “blow in” insulation. I first tried to purchase wool locally, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anyone locally who carried it. I let everyone know when I called and visited that I was looking for wool insulation, “No not ‘wall’ insulation– well, its for your walls– but WOOL insulation. As in Bahhhh, like the sheep!” – so they could remember that there are customers out there looking for this stuff and will hopefully carry it soon.IMG_0096

It shipped from Oregon from a small company who was terrible about taking my order, answering my questions or returning my calls. Alas, I had it shipped and I ordered it from a green building supply company eco-buildingproducts.com, from a guy named Greg who took the time to answer all of my questions. One of my questions was, “Why are these guys so bad about returning a call or replying to an email and answering my questions?” The sales person’s satisfying reply was that he had experienced that with them before, but that they are actually a small company of a few folks who actually go out and tend to the sheep themselves, leaving the marketing and questions to people like him. Best excuse ever!

I found I could get a slightly higher R-value for less money by using the loose insulation, although it did take longer to install. It came stuffed tightly in a cardboard box with fabric to staple into place and hold the loose insulation. Guess what? It didn’t come wrapped in plastic either! Jazz hands! It was more expensive, but not prohibitive. As Lily pointed out, healthcare is expensive too! IMG_0104IMG_0106IMG_0107

While I noticed the dramatic acoustic benefits immediately, I’m curiously awaiting the colder season to really see how this stuff performs. Honestly though, it has little to go to improve upon what junk was posing as insulation in my walls. I relished the opportunity to learn something completely new while making my home safer, less toxic, and more energy efficient.

 

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