Three innovative insulation materials could soon be used for commercial building retrofits in the U.S., as costs of these products fall and revamped local building codes allow their use, says a senior analyst with Lux Research. These technologies promise to boost thermal performance dramatically while reducing space devoted to insulation materials.
· Vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) offer thermal efficiency (R-40 per inch of thickness or better thermal protection, compared to just R-4 with many traditional alternatives), while maximizing floor space.
· Aerogels offer flexibility for interior and exterior use derived from gels and are 90% to 99% air. These materials almost entirely nullify the primary methods of heat transfer: convection, conduction and radiation. They are still cost-prohibitive for most applications, however, prices are expected to decline.
· Phase-change materials (PCMs), more of an energy storage technology than a purely thermal barrier material, absorb heat as they liquefy at the desired daytime temperature, and then release it when they solidify as temperatures cool at night. This material suits buildings in areas with warm days and cold nights.