Vacuum Insulated Panels, Aerogels & PCMs: A new generation of green building insulation
Green innovations are constantly changing as innovators are coming up with products. In terms of energy-saving insulation products, the three latest innovations are: Vacuum Insulation Panels, Aerogels, and Phase-Change Materials.
Vacuum Insulation Panels offers greater thermal performance and cost effectiveness than its competing products, albeit at a cost: less structural flexibility. One of the primary suppliers in the US, Dow Corning, expects “this product’s performance to be at 80 percent of its original R-value after 30 years.”
Aerogels, on the other hand, are the lightest insulating solid around. Developers are attempting to produce high-performance aerogels with low cost materials. Currently, Massachusetts-based Aspen Aerogels has spent a decade creating “a blanket strong enough to survive in urban building applications” resulting a product that combines silica aerogel with reinforcing fibers.
Phase-Change Materials, also known as PCMs, are not so much a thermal barrier as they are an energy storage technology. The benefits of using PCMs can be seen in their proven effectiveness when used in Europe. DuPont (Energain) and Phase Change Energy Solutions (Bio-PCM), which are using the PureTemp PCM product from Entropy Solutions, have reported that air-conditioned European commercial buildings using PCM have cut costs by 35 percent in warm months and winter heating bills have dropped by 15 percent.