When people ask us about reusing or recycling their home insulation, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
- Saving money: if you’ve already paid for insulation materials in the past, it stands to reason that you’d like to repurpose those materials to the greatest extent possible if it means saving money on your home insulation installation costs.
- Saving the environment: While there are many kinds of eco-friendly home insulation on the market these days, it’s never a bad idea to look for additional ways to offset the environmental impact of home insulation. Reusing existing home insulation means using less new insulation. Recycling insulation means less insulation has to be produced in the first place, thereby curbing the production of byproduct pollutants during the manufacturing process.
Hey, you don’t have to choose one reason or the other. After all, environmentalists like saving money too. And penny pinchers can be tree huggers (we use both those terms lovingly, by the way!).
So can insulation be reused or recycled? It depends on the type of insulation we’re talking about (and the type of reuse or recycling you’re asking about).
Reusing Cellulose Insulation
Just by using cellulose insulation to begin with, you’ve already gotten an A on your environmental report card. That’s because cellulose insulation is made from recycled materials in the first place.
Cellulose insulation is typically made up of about 80% recycled newsprint and 20% fire-retardant materials (the non-toxic kind, by the way!). The production process for making cellulose insulation is also less energy-intensive than for most other kinds of insulation.
Even better, cellulose insulation can be reused and repurposed on-site (assuming it hasn’t been damaged). It is critical, however, that you trust this process to experienced professionals. Reusing cellulose insulation is truly an expert craft. It takes real know-how, not to mention special equipment.
Cellulose insulation is prized for its low rate of material waste. So for those of you asking, “Can insulation be reused or recycled?” — well, whether you had money or Mother Earth on your mind, cellulose is a winner.
Reusing Fiberglass Insulation
Before you decide to reuse fiberglass insulation, you want to make sure the materials themselves haven’t been compromised. Moisture invites bacteria and mold, and it will also reduce the material’s ability to do what it’s meant to do (namely, insulate).
You also want to make sure the insulation hasn’t been severely matted down or compressed. If it has, you may not be able to get enough R-value (thermal effectiveness) or moisture control out of the old material.
The neat thing about fiberglass insulation is that it is often installed in battes, which makes removal easier. Once removed, those battes (if undamaged) can be reused or put back in place.
As with cellulose insulation, fiberglass insulation is often made with recycled materials (namely recycled glass), albeit in smaller percentages than you find with cellulose.
Here again, if you plan on reusing fiberglass insulation, it’s critical that you work with experts who have specific experience in reusing insulation materials.
Disposing of Insulation: Is It Recyclable?
Can insulation be recycled? If we’re talking about fiberglass, be careful. The answer is technically “yes,” but relatively few U.S. counties currently accept fiberglass insulation for recycling. Those that do will have special rules for accepting the material — most will not allow you to simply leave it at the curb.
Cellulose insulation, meanwhile, cannot be recycled. That’s because of the fire-retardant materials used in cellulose. So while cellulose is environmentally friendly in almost every other respect, there is this one downside: you can’t recycle it. That said, as outlined earlier, you can reuse cellulose insulation — and that’s a form of recycling all its own!
We also want to briefly mention two other kinds of insulation material that are recyclable in some places:
- Mineral wool insulation. Generally speaking, this type of insulation lends itself to both reusing and recycling. Depending on the type of mineral wool used, it may be made up of primarily recycled materials as well.
- Polyurethane foam. A word of caution: never put polyurethane foam inside plastic trash bags. There’s a serious fire risk if you do. Instead, contact your county’s primary waste management facility and ask about the established protocol for recycling or disposing of polyurethane foam.
Schedule a Home Energy Audit in Denver or Fort Collins, CO
Want to learn about whether your insulation can be reused or recycled? Let us come take a look at your home, the state of the current insulation there, and your current rate of energy effectiveness.
During a home energy audit, we can get a feel for whether the insulation in your house is reusable, and we can also make recommendations for reducing your monthly energy bill by up to 50%.
We staff a team of certified building performance analysts who are well versed in the latest home energy insulation advances and state-of-the-art environmental standards.
REenergizeCO is a Colorado-based home energy efficiency company that helps homeowners increase their comfort, decrease their energy bills, and prolong the life of their home.
We’ve conducted countless home energy audits across Colorado. The process is quick and easy, and it can tell you a lot about your home’s ongoing energy expenditure — all with a view toward increasing your quality of life and decreasing your monthly expenses.
Learn more about a home energy audit in Denver, CO and contact our office to schedule yours today.
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