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Alternative Insulation?

 
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Looking for ideas to insulate a lodge pole yurt home, walls and roof. I have been looking into wool although it seems to be pricey. Thinking about Cobb and or straw clay mixtures. Any ideas out there? I do not want to use anything toxic. I feel traditional insulation is toxic and I do not want to breath small particulates that could possible seep into my living space. Flammability is a factor I want to keep in consideration.


Thank you
Paradigm Shift
Tahjbo
 
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You may want to use the Search link at the top of this page, just under the bold word Permies, and search insulation.
There is much great material going back over the years on this subject.

The general idea is to create an envelop of insulation.... or said another way consider the floors and ceilings as well as the walls.
I believe using different materials for specific areas to be most efficient. One type may not serve you best in all locations.

When using natural materials you must consider pests (bugs & rodents) and plan for their demise as well.

You will want to research each material for it's uses, pros and cons.

Here is a partial listing of affordable common choices:

Wool batting
Felted wool (think Mongolian yurts)
Cotton batting
Compacted straw
Straw slip
Recycled materials - paper, cardboard, plastic....?

Of course there are companies making 'natural' insulation alternatives, but they are much more expensive.




 
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cattail down (from the plant, not the pet). easy to collect for free if there's a large cattail colony local to you. otherwise, probably not an option.

just snip off the tops after they're mature, but before they've started breaking apart. then break them up into a cavity for insulation. they're very effective, and produce a surprising volume of fluff. I don't know how they handle moisture or if they're attractive to rodents.

it's something I plan to do this year. though I also planned to do it last year and the year before...
 
Tahj Kjelland
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Thank you, good information!
 
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Good advice from Jami about the continuous envelope, you want your insulation free of thermal bridges.

Also keep in mind that air-sealing should be more of a priority than insulation. Insulation does little good if air can flow through or around it.

The best, most eco-friendly insulation out there right now seems to be mineral wool. The rigid board insulation form is coming on strong although its still quite pricey compared to plastic foam.
 
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Done properly, blown cellulose gives the best value for the cost. It contains borax which is natural but not something you should breathe. Millions of us live in homes containing it without ill effect. It is made from old newsprint.
 
Brian Knight
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Great point Dale. Probably the most eco-friendly, cost effective cavity insulation available. Its also perfect for ventilated attics and can easily added to existing ones.

The problem with cavity insulation of course is that its not continuous. Not so for an attic situation.
 
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Got cinders? Lava works spectacularly well.
 
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tel jetson wrote:cattail down (from the plant, not the pet)... I don't know how they handle moisture or if they're attractive to rodents



Attractive to rodents yes because this is the seed head so you provide a comfortable home and food. Can be treated with borax similar to blown cellulose though. VERY labour intensive!
 
tel jetson
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Max Kennedy wrote:

tel jetson wrote:cattail down (from the plant, not the pet)... I don't know how they handle moisture or if they're attractive to rodents



Attractive to rodents yes because this is the seed head so you provide a comfortable home and food. Can be treated with borax similar to blown cellulose though. VERY labour intensive!



I believe that. it's very satisfying to break the seeds apart, though. I collected enough for a vest in about three minutes, so I imagine getting enough for a small structure might be doable in a reasonable amount of time. I've no idea about the treatment part, though. I typically rely on the obnoxious local population of cats to keep the rodents at bay. the chickens help out, too. I think I'll try this first in an outbuilding that won't be harmed should it attract a little extra attention from some mice.
 
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cattail fluf is also quite good tinder when dry

something I always consider when insulating areas near where I sleep
 
Dale Hodgins
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I got dropped off on a high plateau while hitch hiking in Newfoundland when I was 18. It was about July 10 and had been a relatively warm day but as night approached with no cars in sight it turned cold and then it rained a little before it snowed.

I frantically gathered debris from the side of the road and constructed a crude shelter. I then harvested a huge amount of fluffy seed pods similar to milkweed and broke them up for insulation inside my hockey bag which was my suitcase. I spent a very uncomfortable night huddled inside my bag of fluff crouched on a pallet from the ditch and completely covered in spruce branches. I constantly flexed my muscles and wiggled my fingers and toes to maintain body heat. By about 2 AM all of my clothing and bag were damp. Finally at about 4 AM I flagged down a pickup truck full of drunks and they left me at a truck stop.

I later learned that milk weed fluff is the most insulative natural substance. It saved my ass.
 
Max Kennedy
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Brice Moss wrote:cattail fluf is also quite good tinder when dry something I always consider when insulating areas near where I sleep



Hence the treatment with Borax, it is not only a pest repellent but also an anti-fungal agent and a fire inhibitor. If you combine it with Boric Acid treatment as well, ie combine borax and boric acid, the material will be near fire proof.
 
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Brice Moss wrote:cattail fluf is also quite good tinder when dry



Haha...exactly. Cattail down is my preferred tinder when doing primitive fire demos. It catches so easily that it looks as though I know what I'm doing!

In re to using it for insulation, it seems it would hold promise. I suspect it would be highly vulnerable to moisture though. From what I have noticed when working with it in earthen plasters is that it it clumps together when it gets wet....and like down in a down filled sleeping bag, those clumps don't come apart without physical manipulation.

Re a previous post in this thread about cinders/lava, Kelly Hart has reported good results using them in "earthbag" construction. However, the thickness of his walls and use of papercrete plaster likely made up for the lack of R value other wise. Though I have not seen any formal testing of a completed wall insulated with this material, cinders only have an R value of .59/inch. Pumice is slightly higher at .86/inch. Per inch, this is a poor performing material. On the plus side, being that moisture will not render this stuff useless or cause it to rot, it probably has some good applications. One wouldn't have to worry about mice and bugs wanting to dine on it either!

 
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There is also a company that makes an insulating paint that is a "green product". It was developed alongside NASA and is manufactured in Florida.
 
Mother Tree
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Matt Snow wrote:There is also a company that makes an insulating paint that is a "green product". It was developed alongside NASA and is manufactured in Florida.



Would that work on a yurt?
 
Brian Knight
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If only it were that easy... Sorry, but Insulating paint is a scam.
 
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