Insulation: how does it work and what are the benefits?

Behind the term insulation, whose meaning is often misunderstood, lies a simple and effective operation that saves energy. How does it work? This article explains how.

Insulation? Quésaco ?

Insulation is an operation of insulating the pipes of a heating and hot water installation in a building. When the boiler, whether collective or individual, is installed in an unheated area, such as a basement or car park, the temperature of the water in the pipes that come out of it can be reduced before reaching the building’s dwellings or rooms (a drop of up to 10ºC can be observed a few metres upstream). This drop in temperature is due to the exchange of energy (thermal in this case) of the water flowing through the pipe to the outside. Insulation consists of covering the pipes with a thermal insulation, known as lagging, the material of which may be glass wool, cork, polystyrene, phenolic foam or cellular glass. Depending on the insulation used and the characteristics of the hot water production plant, a classification from 1 to 6 is assigned. The higher the class, the more effective the insulation used. The tanks or cisterns of the installation can also be insulated, although it is usually the pipes that are insulated first.

Less heat loss, more energy savings

The aim of a thermal insulation operation is to reduce the heat loss of the water flowing through the pipes. If the water that reaches the dwellings is hotter, the consumption that the inhabitants make of it is less. This is because the radiators emit more heat and the proportion of hot water used in the sanitary facilities is lower. As a result, the boiler does not need to produce as much hot water. The direct consequence of this improved efficiency of the heating system is energy savings, which translates into lower energy bills. For owners of single-family homes and tenants of buildings, insulation means lower bills and lower charges respectively. For the environment, insulation means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

A financed operation

France’s commitment to reduce its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020 led to the introduction of Energy Savings Certificates (EEC) in 2005. Sellers of energy (electricity, gas, heat, refrigeration, heating oil) were therefore obliged, under penalty of a dissuasive amount, to encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption. Insulation being part of the energy renovation operations that fall within the scope of this policy, the co-ownerships that carry it out benefit from an energy bonus which, in most cases, results in 100% financing of the work. Insulation is therefore a simple and inexpensive way to reduce the energy bill of buildings while preserving the environment.