Wool for Home Insulation

Could sheep's wool be used to manufacture home insulation products?

by Dani Yokhna

Sheep wool for insulation consideredVersatile wool makes some of the finest clothing from suits to sweaters.

Could it also become a key ingredient in home insulation?

A number of companies that manufacture home insulation are doing just that, according to a report from the Christian Science Monitor.

After washing, carding and spraying with borax to deter pests and mold, the wool can be turned into precut batts (define) of home insulation.

One company, GreenSpec–a company in Britain the collects information about green building products–says sheep’s wool insulations has several attributes that make it an ecologoically sound choice, reports the Monitor.

GreenSpec says wool is:

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  • Recyclable
  • Renewable
  • Nonhazardous to install
  • Biodegradable in landfills
  • Manufactured using little energy

Even the U.S. Energy Department says it’s has a good insulation rating. It gives it an R-value (define) of 3.5 — about 10 percent higher than fiberglass.

The department says “wool can absorb up to 40 percent of its weight in moisture without becoming wet, drawing moisture away from wood framing in walls and helping to prevent condensation. It’s also naturally flame-retardant.”

The biggest problems facing wool as home insulation are:

  • The cost–it’s more expensive than fiberglass by about three times.
  • The lack of infrastructure (lack of machinery) to process the wool.

Kimberly Hagen, vice president of the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association,says, “When the price of wool bottomed out in 2000, most of the machinery in the United States for processing wool was snapped up by the Chinese and Europeans.”

Hagen says France has been making wool insulation for 15 years–and while starting small the industry is doing well there, according to Christian Science Monitor

Other advocates find hope in the green marketing aspect and potential for growth, describing wool as meshing well with the growing interest in natural products.

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