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Insulating your home is a great way to make it more efficient to heat. In warm climates, it can also keep your house cooler during the day. This can be an effective way to bring down your carbon footprint.
But, if you’re doing so by using dangerous or high waste insulation, like fiberglass, is it worth it? Fortunately, there are alternatives. One of the most innovative is recycled denim insulation. We’re going to cover everything you need to know, including all the pros and cons, to decide if recycled denim the right choice for your home.
What Is Denim Insulation?
Denim insulation is probably exactly what you think it is. It’s an insulation material that is made from old blue jeans. The cotton used to make jeans is an ideal insulating material.
How Recycled Denim Made?
Denim insulation is made from old jeans and offcuts of denim produced in the production of jeans. Converting it is a pretty low energy process, which makes it an ideal recycling job.
The denim is shredded until it resembles cotton candy. The cotton threads are then treated to make them flame retardant and mold resistant. A bonding agent is added before the material is shaped and baked. The final product is wound into rolls, ready for installation.
One of the most significant advantages of denim insulation over other options like fiberglass is that it not only keeps the warmth from escaping your home. It also stops sound from coming in. It’s about 30% more effective at muffling sounds than fiberglass. That can make a big difference to the feel of your home.
Recycled denim insulation is treated with a combination of two chemicals. The first makes it flame resistant, and the second makes it mold resistant. This means you can install it, then leave it with no worries.
You can get denim insulation in a range of R values from R-13 to R-30. This means that you can effectively insulate your home and make a drastic impact on your energy loss.
There’s a Ready Supply of Textile Waste
There is a ready supply of textile waste. The amount that goes to landfill each year numbers in the millions of tonnes. Around 80% of the denim used to make this sort of insulation is post-consumer. Essentially that means that it is diverted directly from a landfill.
Because denim is made from treated cotton fibers, it’s soft to the touch. Fiberglass, on the other hand, as you may have experienced, releases hundreds of tiny particles. They get everywhere and make you itch like mad. They are also dangerous to breathe in. So in comparison, denim insulation is a much easier material to handle.
Most denim insulation comes in perforated batts. These are pre-sized rolls that you can cut down to the size you need. They fit into the frame of your walls in long strips. When you combine this with the fact that they are safe and easy to handle, it makes installation a breeze.
It’s a little harder to find, but in some places, you can get recycled denim insulation that has been prepared into a form that you can blow into your home. This makes filling awkward to reach spaces much more manageable.
You Can Recycle It
Not only is this insulation made from recycled material, but it can be recycled when you’re done with it. All the cotton fibers can be recovered and repurposed to go on and have even more life.
The biggest drawback of recycled denim insulation is the cost. When you compare it to fiberglass, it costs, on average, twice as much. Although in some places it’s more than that. The most significant appeal of fiberglass to homeowners is its comparatively low cost, so this is an area where most alternative insulations just can’t compete.
Requires A Vapour Barrier
Unfortunately, there is another added cost to choosing denim insulation. You need to install a vapor barrier with it. This is because if it gets wet, it compresses. This will lead to uneven insulation. When it does get wet, it takes a long time to dry. Just think about anytime you got wet wearing jeans, and you can understand the problem.
Some Batts Can Be Inconsistent
It’s not uncommon when using recycled material to find that the production can be a little inconsistent. As denim insulation is still reasonably new, this has been reported as a problem. You may find that the width of the batts varies a little. It’s not the end of the world as you can easily cut them to the shape you need. However, it can be frustrating when you’re trying to get a job done.
Other Alternative Insulation Materials
If recycled denim insulation isn’t seeming like the right choice for you, there are other options. Here are three more to consider. All of them are better for the environment than fiberglass.
This is the most popular alternative to fiberglass. It’s made from shredded paper, usually newspaper. Again this is a material that is diverting waste from landfills. In terms of R-value and acoustics, it’s similar to denim. But it can release small amounts of the chemicals used to treat it. It can also absorb a lot of water which can mask early warning signs of a leak.
Mineral wool is mostly made up of waste material from industrial processes. Because of the way it’s made, it can be as unpleasant to handle as fiberglass. It’s also a little more expensive than fiberglass, but it does have a longer lifetime, so it can be worth the higher price. Especially when you consider that it has a much higher R-value than other options.
Natural wool is an excellent option for insulation. It’s naturally flame retardant and has a high R-value. However, it still needs to be treated in the same way as the denim to make it mold resistant. The biggest downside to natural wool is the high cost. Prices vary depending on location, but in most places, this is the most expensive option.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most environmentally friendly insulation?
Both denim and cellulose insulation are top contenders for the most environmentally friendly option. This is because they are made from materials that would otherwise go to a landfill.
How do you install denim insulation?
Denim insulation is most often installed in batts. To do this, you first fit a layer of the vapor barrier. Then you roll out the denim and trim it to fit in the spaces you’re filling. You can easily cut it to size with a knife. Once the denim layer is in, you put the second layer of vapor barrier on top, and you’re all done.
How much does denim insulation cost?
The prices of denim insulation vary a lot. The thickness, type, and location all factor in. The range can be anything from $10 – $1,000. If you know how much fiberglass would cost you, you should double that number to get a reasonable estimate of the price. It is always worth shopping around, though, as you can find some good deals.