Cellulose insulation is growing in popularity, in part due to being one of the most environmentally preferable insulation types available.
The embodied energy of cellulose compared to all other insulation is by far the lowest. It requires 20 to 40 times as much energy to produce furnace-made insulation materials compared to cellulose. Cellulose Insulation
is made by electrically powered machines while mineral insulation is made in furnaces. Cellulose is also made with locally available materials other than the fire retardant, while mineral insulation factories have to ship materials and products over greater distances.
Cellulose insulation uses borates for fire retardation. Borates are a non-renewable mined product.
Cellulose insulation can be very dusty during insulation and it is recommended that a standard dust mask be worn while working. The fire retardant boric acid is about as dangerous as table salt. There is slight concern over the off gassing of ink from the newspapers but the material is sealed behind walls, and no studies have shown this as an issue.
The non-recycled components of cellulose insulation in Vermont
is still environmentally preferable to the raw materials of most other insulation types, which are often petrochemical-based (this includes foam and fiberglass). Unlike foam insulations, many of which use HFC or HCFC blowing agents which have global warming potential hundred or thousands of times higher than that of carbon dioxide, cellulose does not produce significant gaseous emissions. Unlike fiberglass, cellulose does not use formaldehyde-based glues, which present a continuing hazard after installation due to off-gassing of formaldehyde.Cellulose has great advantages for industrial health and worker safety. Toxicity of the raw materials of most insulation types is typically highest during manufacture or installation. Neither is an issue with cellulose.
The sole hazard of cellulose according to the categorization by the OSHA is that it is a dust nuisance, requiring a simple dust mask during installation. This compares very favorably to the potentialNIOSH cancer risk of fiberglass
All insulation helps make buildings more energy efficient. Using cellulose insulation can contribute to obtaining LEED credits in the US Green Building Council certification program. It can earn credit in two categories: the energy and atmosphere energy performance category and the materials and resources recycled content category.
Cellulose Insulation is composed of 75-85% recycled paper fiber, usually post-consumer waste newsprint. The other 15% is a fire retardant such as boric acid or ammonium sulphate. Cellulose has the highest recycled content of any insulation available. For example, fiberglass has a maximum amount of 30% recycled content.
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