There are many natural insulation products available today, so why would you choose wool, or more specifically, Oregon Shepherd’s wool insulation products.
Since 8,000 BC, sheep have been able to adapt to even the harshest of environments; their wool protects them through hot, cold, damp and dry seasons. Because of their crimped nature, when wool fiber is packed together, it forms millions of tiny air pockets which trap air, and in turn serves to keep warmth in during winter and out in the summer.
The crimp in the wool fiber forces each strand to bump up against each other, as opposed to lining up side by side or laying down flat together. This keeps the tiny air pockets intact, acting as little insulators — the key to being able to keep you both warm and cool.
The unique advantage of wool as an insulator is the NATURE of the fiber:
- Moisture Moderating
Sheep wool absorbs and desorbs moisture, it heats and cools as this process takes place. Wool therefore can absorb moisture in your house, preventing condensation.
Sheep wool insulation has memory, the technical description used to explain the “crimp”; or the ability to retain the shape it was in before it left the sheep. A sheep wool fiber can flex and bend 30,000 times without breaking, and this is why manufacturers of custom speaker enclosures are switching to sheep wool from fiberglass or cotton which slowly disintegrate over time due to the speaker vibrations.
- Formaldehyde absorption
Tests carried out by the Central Testing Facility in Tokyo, Japan found that when formaldehyde was released into a chamber, wool was able to absorb 96% of the formaldehyde within several hours. This capability is unique to natural fibers. In addition to formaldehyde, wool can absorb and breakdown other indoor air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
Sheep wool Insulation products naturally enhance the acoustic properties of a building, as sheep wool is an excellent absorption medium of sound waves; its inherent qualities provide much more acoustic insulation than traditional insulation in similar applications.
- Health and Safety
Oregon Shepherd wool insulation contains naturally-occurring Solubor with Sodium Borate, giving it excellent resistance to pests and improving wool’s inherent resistance to repelling fire. Oregon Shepherd’s proprietary bonding system uses natural proteins to chemically bond the borate molecules to the wool protein chain; this assures the end-user of a lifetime of fire and vermin resistance. Our insulation is easy to handle, requiring no special protective clothing or equipment during installation or throughout the serviceable life of the building. For those with sensitivities you may choose to use a dust mask and gloves, but not required like glass/mineral insulations.
- Resistance to mold and fungus
Wool naturally resists mold and fungus due to its natural moisture transfer properties. Wool Insulation allows your home to breathe by absorbing moisture, chemical, and/or odor laden air and transferring it outside as temperatures change. A permeable house wrap applied over exterior sub-siding provides for this passive exchange.
- The Environment
Oregon Shepherd sheep wool insulation is energy efficient, sustainable, renewable, and recyclable:
- The energy required to produce our insulation is less than 10% of that required to produce traditional insulation materials such as fiberglass or mineral/rock wool.
- Wool is a sustainable and renewable resource; every year sheep grow a new crop.
- Wool is completely recyclable; at the end of its life as insulation it can be re-manufactured, reused, or biodegraded.
Whether you’re building to LEED Platinum standards, or simply trying to reduce your carbon footprint on your home remodel, Oregon Shepherd’s blown-in wool or wool batting products will help keep your project clean and green. To prove it, we’ve compiled this handy comparison chart showing the benefits of all natural wool over traditional synthetics/fiberglass:
|PROPERTIES||OREGON SHEPHERD||VS. SYNTHETIC/FIBERGLASS|
|Recyclable||Yes||Not currently; can be reused, but there are no facilities for recycling|
|Renewable||Yes||No (but some brands use portions of recycled glass)|
|Low embodied energy||Yes||No|
|Safe to install||Yes||Requires protective clothing|
|High natural content||Yes||No|
|Emissions||None||Manufacturing process can emit chlorides and fluorides, as well as various particulates and solvents; burning insulation emits toxic fumes|
|Condensation||Wool actively absorbs and desorbs moisture, preventing condensation||Synthetic fibers do not absorb/desorb moisture.|
|Non-combustible||Yes||Yes, but may emit harmful gases at high temperatures|
|Appraised||Yes||Yes (various levels of approval depending on product)|
|Fire resistant||Yes||Yes, but relies on toxic petrochemical additives|
|Pest resistant||Yes||Yes, but relies on toxic petrochemical additives
Technically the Best
Wool, with its unique fiber qualities is naturally fire resistant. Untreated wool fiber will not support open flame. Oregon Shepherd’s loose fill insulation is treated, just as most insulation products, with a chemical solution called Solubor with Sodium Borate, to make it even more fire resistant. The difference is that our treatments are not petrochemicals; they are natural chemicals from the earth. Petrochemicals emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s); things like formaldehyde, benzene, and methane; which are not materials you would like to inhale on a daily basis.
Our chemical treatments do not emit VOC’s, neither in the production process, nor in your home. EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.
Many consumer products found around the house, such as cleaning solvents, paints, fiberglass insulation, and wood preservatives from certain furniture all emit VOC compounds, which may contribute to sick building syndrome and other effects such as allergic sensitization or asthmatic symptoms. Due to the high abundant use of VOC-containing products indoors and the high vapor pressure of VOCs, these compounds can easily off-gas into the indoor environment. They also occur in and are released from most common indoor materials from natural sources such as trees, animals and plants as well as from synthetic sources such as petroleum derivatives.
Another unique attribute of wool fiber is what’s referred to as its pliable memory. Other loose insulation products, even other natural materials, will settle over time. This results in a lower insulating section. So while your initial 10 inches of fibrous insulation will provide a value of R-38, it settles to an actual depth of only 8-9 inches, lowering efficiency by up to 20%. Wool fibers’ unique attributes actually cause it to increase in depth over a several month period as its fibers decompress.
Other benefits of this unique quality is that all spaces remain filled, even the tiny cracks and crevices always found in the building materials. The expansion of the material in place will affect a total seal. This total seal is almost impossible to overestimate. Most of the heat loss in the walls and ceilings of the home have more to do with the air seal, rather than the insulation.