Zero VOC Insulation

updated January 2014

Why we are still putting highly toxic, formaldehyde and VOC filled insulation in our homes is beyond me! 

*and by the way, there are many new options that claim to be "green" "soy-based" or are formaldehyde-free - this DOES NOT mean that they are VOC-free. Look very closely at what's in it* 

But no need to worry, because there are a few safer options to choose from:

1. Wool Batt

Wool is made into batts and you can get a R19 value for $3.54 per square foot, plus shipping (from Florida. Ships to Canada as well as the US), and installation, from Good Shepard Wool.

A commenter below has stated that Good Shepard Wool uses a latex binder and Latitude brand adds boric acid, and an acrylic binder. Jeff of Safe Shelters has looked into Oregon Shepard batts and found that they add boric acid, sodium pentaborate decahydrate and a proprietary formulation using a natural protein. Black Mountain addes recycled polyester and borate. I do not know of a company that makes pure wool insulation so you must test brands first.

2. AirKrete

If money wasn't an issue, AirKrete would be my insulation of choice. A non-toxic, and by all accounts VOC-free product (and I have done my research on this one), it has passed the "sleep next to it test" of many a MCS patient.  Because it is a foam, it will get into all the cracks and crevices and therefore give you a higher "real life" R-Value than the Batts. You can get it in the thickness that fits your wall - but in a 2x6 wall you will get at least R-21. 
In BC, Canada, it will cost you $9 per square foot, including installation, for the 8''. It doesn't yet have CCMC, but the contractors claim it has the paperwork needed to get it approved in new buildings in Canada.

3. Recycled Cotton Batt

Ultratouch Insulation is what I used in my chemical-free tiny home. For the 5.5'' thickness you get an R-Value of 21 and it is only $1.35 per square foot*. You can order it from any Lowes in BC. It is made from denim scrapes and does contain Boric and Ammonium Sulfate and a olefin binding fiber. You have to test for your own sensitivities. I would not use this product again as I have become more and more sensitive to synthetic fabrics as well as the new clothing smell (from dyes and other chemicals used in making denim). (*for 24" centres)



4. Recycled Cellulose

Recycled cellulose is another option often slated for those with a chemical sensitivity. It is a blown-in insulation made with recycled newspaper that contains a fire repellant like boric. Lowes, Home Depot and Rona all carry separate brands and you should look into the ingredients of any one that you are considering. Newspapers are now supposedly made with soy-based inks that are not irritating to the chemically sensitive. I don't know, cause I haven't picked up a real live newspaper in ages.  It is the least expensive option of the four, and it has a R-Value (dependent on the thickness) that can match both wool and cotton batt easily. So if you are interested, look into it further.


5. Hemp 

Hemp insulation is a newer green option that I think is really promising. There are a few companies manufacturing it now, and one to check out is Thermo-Hemp. If you can find a company and supplier in your country you can ask them if they add anything to it and always test a sample first!

The following types of insulation would be ideal for trailers, tiny homes and simple shelters:

6. Reflectix

I have Reflectix in the floors and ceiling of my tiny house as well as around all my interior pipes. It is a bubble foil made of aluminum and polyethylene (the aluminum on either side blocks any offgassing of the plastic inside). It is flexible, very thin and has a very high R value. The thicker version is R 21 which is higher than 5 inches of wool. Because it is aluminum it can sequester the offgassing from pipes, which is why I have wrapped it around my pipes, but it could be used to sequester foam as well. The reason I did not use it in my walls is because I did not want to create an EMF cage which can be problematic if you are sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies.


7. Styrofoam with Aluminum Backing  

I also have some styrofoam in my ceiling and floors. Aluminum backed styrofoam blocks any offgassing from that side. You have to seal vigilantly with aluminum tape.  2 Inch foam is R-13.


EPS and XPS insulations are both treated with the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane - you would need an additional vapour barrier to block the flame retardent.

8. EVA Foam

EVA foam claims to be non-toxic though the ones with printed designs on them have a chemical that needs to offgass. It has barely any R value but could be useful in for metal trailers as a thermal break on the floor i.e. could be used as a carpet on the aluminum floors of a Camplite or cargo trailer or even for the walls in a dome or cargo trailer.

9. Fiberglass EcoBatt by Knauf  

This insulation was recommend by someone who could not tolerate polystyrene, cotton or wool. It is made a "natural" binder.


17 comments:

  1. Great tips here. Its so hard to find this sort of insulation in Barrie however. Any good online stores I should check out? Thanks again.

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    1. ECO Building Resource in Aurora
      Tel. 1-877-741-3535
      Web www.eco-building.ca

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  4. Do you or Paula Baker-Laport have any suggestions for radiant barriers (metallic sheeting material for ceiling of attic)?

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    1. I don't know anyone that uses them in Canadian climates but what about Denny Foil?

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  6. Good Shepherd wool insulation had latex as I binder last time I checked. (It was _very_ difficult to get the owner of the company to admit this, but after checking out a sample it was very clear to me there was something in there besides wool, and he finally admitted it was latex.) I had talked with Shepherd's Dream about getting some wool that was really just wool (they are a very eco-minded company, and I consider them trust-worthy). I ended up going with Latitude brand. It has boric acid, and an acrylic binder. Acrylic is much more tolerable for me than latex, and boric acid doesn't seem to pose any MCS-related problems. (As Corrine said, don't eat it or breathe it, and you will probably be okay with it, as it does not put of any VOC's.)

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    1. Wow very interesting! Thanks for sharing Leslie

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  8. This is so good and inserting.
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  12. Which of these forms of insulation could be installed using the blow in insulation? I want to use a less invasive form of insulation installation, but it would also be great for the insulation to also be green! I am thinking that the recycled cellulose is my best choice for that?

    http://www.earlytimeshomesolutions.com/attic-insulation/

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