BPN (Building Products News), an Australian trade rag, recently carried an article titled 'Industry alert over reported insulation defects', with the lead paragraph:
Australian insulation experts have issued a warning against the ongoing use of poor-quality, hazardous insulation products.
In Australia, this topic strikes deep and fearful resonances. It is not because insulation failures are catastrophic to the same degree or with the same frequency as they might be in other places on earth with less benign climates. Rather, it is because the same headlines a few years ago brought to an abrupt, and politically hurtful halt the Federal government's initiative to upgrade the insulation levels of most Australian homes. The scheme was one of several injections of Federal funds that probably helped Australia survive the Global Financial Crisis in better state than otherwise might have been expected, so technical issues were easily conflated with political point-scoring. Be that as it may, it put tremendous pressure on the supply chain for insulation products, and exacerbated issues related to certification and quality control of imports, principally from China. Those issues are still with us today.
"The defects reported widely are said to include delamination, where the surface foil layer separates from the insulation core, and oxidation, when the insulation breaks down to a brittle dust over time, not having the ability to withstand long term exposure to high operating temperatures. More subtle failures occur when low quality reflective surfaces are affected by aging, even when they have a protective film, so that they lose their reflectance and thermal properties over a relatively short period of time."
As is often the case with articles in the trade press, the undoubted relevance of the news reported is slightly tinged with an advertorial flavour. I normally try to avoid jumping to that conclusion, but in this case it led me to wondering what other issues are at play in the consumer's choice?
These days thermal insulation in new buildings is invariably specified to obtain mandated energy efficiency performance. To meet the controls relies on accurate declared thermal properties for the wide range of insulation products that make up the total building envelope.