Effective insulation is a basic building requirement throughout all Australian climate zones – but Australia’s building and construction industry should be aware of increasing concerns relating to both product quality and installation.
When selecting insulation products for Australian homes and commercial buildings, it is critical that consideration is given to quality, performance characteristics, and fitness for purpose as well as price – or face potentially ensuing costs and dangers.
According to Keith Anderson, Technical Manager at Kingspan Insulation, there is a temptation for purchasers of imported and locally manufactured insulation products to buy on price alone. “It’s false economy, pure and simple,” Keith warns, explaining that budget products of unknown quality, can end up costing far more than reputable insulation products, due to potentially large replacement costs, energy wastage, construction delays and most alarmingly, an increased risk of fire.
The industry is reporting a growing number of cases where building owners are facing massive costs to remove ineffective, degraded insulation – often in hard-to-access places and in the process, disrupting their core business activities. “It would have been far more cost effective to install reputable product from a reliable source in the first instance,” said Keith.
The defects reported widely 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. Non-compliant, poorly manufactured insulation products, clearly not fit for purpose and not manufactured to withstand Australia’s hot conditions behind roof and wall claddings, are being installed in residential and commercial buildings Australia-wide.
Significant failure can occur any time from five weeks to five years, or longer, after installation, depending on conditions and the nature of the problem. “Quality insulation products don’t perform better by chance,” Keith explains. “Companies like Kingspan invest heavily in R&D to develop and lead with product innovation.” As an example, Keith cites Kingspan’s Insulbreak range, which has now undergone over 51,000 hours of continuous testing at 90 degrees Celsius.
Leading Australian insulation experts issue a warning against the ongoing use of poor-quality, hazardous insulation products.
“Insulation by its very nature, is out of sight, out of mind, which means substandard product is often only detected when room temperatures become insufferable, or when electricity costs for heating and cooling get out of hand.
Kevin Herbert, Secretary of Insulation Australasia –a product agnostic insulation representative body–advises prospective purchasers of insulation products to note the following simple checklist:
- Is the insulation company merely a trading company?
- Who owns the company?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Who underwrites the warranty?
- Is the warranty based on any actual aged product testing?
- Are the products compliant, are they manufactured in Australia or overseas?
Kevin’s advice to industry is to only deal with reputable manufacturers & installers of quality insulation, to ensure products are code compliant, correctly specified, and properly installed.