March 23, 2010 at 9:09 AM Leave a comment

March 19, 2010

by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

Compared with cars and trucks, it’s fairly easy to cut energy consumption and subsequently reduce emissions attributed to buildings. But that’s new buildings, of course. Most of the buildings on the planet were built before green building became popular and no one has plans to tear the old ones down and replace them. For older structures some efficiency retrofits can help. Weatherization such as caulking, more insulation in accessible areas, new tighter windows and doors along with upgraded heating and cooling systems, for instance, can improve energy performance. However, all those kinds of things cost money and the pay back can be long. If there’s any immediate gratification it’s only that a weatherized building will be snugger and more comfortable to live and work in. For home owners it’s safe to say that people want to save on energy bills. But they don’t want to spend a lot to do so. One of the least expensive yet effective things people can do is add more insulation to their attics. However, adding attic insulation, while extremely important in efforts to save energy by cutting heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer, is only one part of an insulation improvement project. Doing something with exterior walls is another. Adding wall insulation to an existing home can be a difficult project, not one most homeowners would tackle. Insulating outer walls can range from adding insulating siding to filling empty wall cavities with blown-in insulation to a major remodeling which can include gutting walls and insulating. Applying rigid insulation to inner walls, then sheathing over the material somehow is another possibility. None of the above are easy and low cost tasks. If there was just some kind of insulating paint homeowners could roll on that would add the equivalent of thick fiberglass or polyester fiber insulation people would leap at the chance. Unfortunately there is no such thing. Yet anyway. However it’s now possible to apply a heat reflective layer to interior finished walls and ceilings of a room with a product from German wallpaper manufacturer Saarpor. Climapor (R), available in a roll or as a tile, utilizes a form of the same heat reflective element that’s warming the planet: carbon. According to the company the expandable polystyrene (EPS) product is impregnated with graphite particles that behave like mirrors, reflecting thermal radiation and reducing heat loss. Unlike using light-colored paint on a wall to reflect sunlight, the graphite in Climapor reflects thermal radiation, preventing what we feel as heat from leaving a building. Climapor can be left as it is or wallpapered over. Saarpor says the 4 millimeter thin covering (a little over an eighth of an inch thick) can provide the same insulating value as 68 millimeters (about 3 inches) of solid brick or 210 milimeters (8 inches) of concrete. The comparison to brick as an insulating material may seem a little baffling. Here in the U.S., builders, architects, even homeowners, have been trained to think of insulation effectiveness in terms of R-value, a measure of thermal conductivity. Brick has a particularly low R-value of between 0.44 and 0.80 for 4 inches, not 3 inches, of brick. But the Saarpor product reflects heat and we’re not accustomed to thinking in terms of heat reflectivity as another way to retain heat in a building. Retaining heat through reflection can do the same job as insulation. (The product information page for the Climapor wall paper says the product has a Thermal conductivity rating of class 040 under the German DIN 4108 standard for thermal insulation.) This kind of product could be just the ticket to help cut energy bills in older buildings without major modifications. It would be a game changer if it worked as advertised. With that in mind, a real world study or two of the effectiveness of the product would be helpful. If very small amounts of carbon in the atmosphere keep the planet warm by reflecting heat and keeping it from escaping into space, then it seems feasible that large amounts of carbon should easily do the job of retaining heat in buildings. So, if Climapor and copycat products demonstrate their heat reflecting capabilities and insulation effectiveness, then cutting energy consumption in buildings may be as simple as redecorating.


Entry filed under: Conservation, Energy, Green Biz, Sustainable Living. Tags: , , .

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