EFFECTIVE THERMAL INSULATION IS A KEY REQUIREMENT FOR GENUINE ENERGY EFFICIENCY
When discussing the energy efficiency of buildings, we often focus on the technology even though structural energy efficiency of the building should the priority. Effective insulation eliminates heat loss, thus allowing us to minimize the actual heating needs of the building. Good thermal insulation is the most effective way to improve the energy efficiency of a building.
The importance of structural energy efficiency is emphasized further as a result of the stricter requirements provided for the energy efficiency of buildings by the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Effective insulation becomes essential, as it is the most significant factor for reducing general heating needs, thus making the building more energy efficient structurally, simultaneously reducing its emissions.
Despite this, the majority of housing companies that have carried out renovations to improve the energy efficiency of their properties in recent years have done so by replacing doors and windows or changing the heating system. Only approximately one in ten housing companies have chosen supplementary thermal insulation, despite the fact that it is the most effective and efficient way to directly reduce heating energy needs and costs.
Energy Consumption Can Be Reduced by One Third Through Insulation
For some reason, insulation is an overlooked and underutilized method for improving energy efficiency.
“If a building is well-insulated, heat cannot conduct, radiate, or leak through the structures, which means that the heating needs are significantly lower than in poorly insulated houses”, Asso Erävuoma from Finnfoam points out.
Insulation offers a huge savings potential on the national level. The use-phase emissions of buildings, which in practice are generated by heating, correspond to more than a quarter (26%) of overall emissions in Finland. For comparison purposes, total emissions from private car traffic amount to approximately 4.5% of emissions in Finland.
According to calculations* by VTT Expert Service, the consumption of heating energy by buildings could be reduced by almost one third (30%) by improving thermal insulation. “If we genuinely want to reduce our carbon footprint, we have to consider our buildings as well, instead of just focusing on cars. The same applies on the individual level. The price difference between an electric and a conventional car would easily cover the insulation of your home, which would provide an immediate reduction in energy consumption, emissions, and costs and increase the resale value of the house. On the other hand, if you spent the money on an electric car, the resulting reduction in emissions would be relatively limited, and the resale value would go down instead of up. A well-insulated house will continue to save money for the owner for the next 50 years”, Erävuoma illustrates.
INSULATION MINIMIZES HEATING ENERGY NEEDS
According to Erävuoma, the Finnish approach to energy efficiency skips a step by focusing on the technology, such as the heating system, ventilation, smart building controls, etc. But if the basics have been overlooked, such adjustments can only provide limited benefits.
“Surely every repair construction project should start with ensuring that the building is structurally energy efficient. After this, we can examine the heating needs to determine the actual capacity of the heating system required”, Erävuoma says.
Proper thermal insulation will pay for itself through reduced energy costs. Additional savings may also be realized by choosing a less powerful heating system.
“Finland is full of houses that have been renovated with excessive heating systems due to lacking thermal insulation. If, for example, you could choose a smaller heat pump because of effective insulation, the savings would be immediate”, Erävuoma says.
Improving Insulation Could Halve Consumption, Emissions, and Costs
Reform of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) will tighten up legislation as we move toward zero-energy houses. The directive applies to both new and existing buildings. For example, the lowest-rated fifth of our building stock should be renovated by 2032 to ensure that the requirements of the directive are met.
“Modern buildings are approximately three times more energy efficient than those constructed in the 1970s, for example. At that time, the typical U value of a wall was approximately 0.4. Today, that value is 0.17, and it will be lowered further to 0.12 in the future”, Erävuoma explains.
For example, if the old, porous insulation material used in a building from this period is replaced with effective FF-PIR polyurethane insulation of the same thickness, the U value is halved, which reduces energy consumption, use-phase emissions, and costs in nearly the same proportion.
“Insulation will play a significant part in solving this issue. For example, future facade renovation projects should never be carried out unless supplementary thermal insulation is also included”, Erävuoma says.
GOOD THERMAL INSULATION PROVIDES RESILIENCE
With the energy crisis of last winter and increased heating costs, people have begun to realize the impact of effective thermal insulation of energy costs. And the demand for insulation will only grow in the future, as legal requirements are introduced on top of the price motive.
“Based on customer inquiries, many people have decided to take care of their insulation needs right now, and the reason is obvious: If you improve the insulation of your house this summer, you can enjoy lower heating costs in the winter”, Erävuoma says.
“And the fact is that we have no idea of what the next winter is going to be like; What is happening in the world, will there be electricity shortages, and what will energy prices be like. The one thing we do know is that a well-insulated house will allow you to save on energy and keep you warm, even in the event of a black-out”, Erävuoma sums up.
* Source: Rakenteellinen energiatehokkuus avuksi hiilipäästöjen vähentämiseen (Reducing Carbon Emissions Through Structural Energy Efficiency). Guide. Ministry of the Environment.
Mold-proof and emission-free Finnfoam insulation products provide a safe option for supplementary thermal insulation that also improves the quality of indoor air.