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A History of Insulation and Why It Matters Today - C & E Industrial Services

A History of Insulation and Why It Matters Today

If you are a homeowner or business owner, you hear the word “insulation” all the time. In winter, you hear about insulating your pipes and insulating your kids with quality jackets and the like. They are two very different types of insulation, of course, but the concept is the same. There have been great strides and improvements in the world of insulation. So when did insulation become an essential part of our homes and businesses? 

A Need for Shelter: How Insulation Came to Be

Humans have always recognized the need to shelter from the elements. So ever since we have been building structures, homes, or shelters, the idea of increasing the shelter from the elements was a necessity. Early materials used for insulation was, of course, good old mud. This lovely material was used by Vikings and even ancient Egyptians. The Vikings were quite smart about this, as they used mud in between logs to seal them tighter and reduce the chances of air escaping. 

As the story goes, the ancient Greeks and Romans discovered asbestos and found quite a few uses for it, due to its resistance to heat and fire. The name asbestos comes from the Greek “inextinguishable.” Romans were also known to use cork for insulation. In fact, they insulated their pipes with cork. Today, cork has become a popular material to use on floors! 

Around the Middle Ages, homes were mostly constructed from stone and thatch roofs. These structures were damp and cold and there was not a whole lot of innovation on the insulation front. It can be said the Middle Ages were a bit of a dark period where not much flourishing innovation happened. People would often hang animal hides on the walls or use it on the floor to keep things warm. This was not particularly effective, however, and people still suffered some not-so-comfortable temperatures in their little huts and homes. 

How the Industrial Revolution Changed Everything

Enter the age of the Industrial Revolution and the power of steam, particularly the advent of steam-powered engines. This meant there was a lot of use for pipes and thus, a need to insulate. The initial move was to bring in asbestos as a form of insulation and keep workers safe. This was a long time before people began to raise health concerns about it. In fact, for more than a century, this material was used as the go-to for insulation needs. 

In the early 20th century, there were several advancements in the industry, several of which did not really become popular in the mid-century and after World War II. One of these was cellulose insulation and fiberglass insulation. The latter changed the game and was invented by Owens Corning Company for use in homes. The story of fiberglass is somewhat accidental, as it was discovered by happenstance. Strangely enough, this is how several scientific discoveries are often made! Scientist Dale Kleist attempted to create a vacuum seal between glass and discovered the thin glass fibers that resulted. Slowly, this material was discovered to have incredible capabilities in temperature control and was used on buildings and became the preferred insulation material in America. 

Modern Innovations in a Post-War America

Post-war America was known for its many innovations in the world of industry, steel production, and more. This was also the case in terms of cellulose. Cellulose became a popular type of insulation as well. It was made out of newspaper, cardboard, straw, sawdust, or cotton. With the rise of manufacturing, manufacturers had discovered a way to make this flame retardant. 

When the harmful effects of asbestos were discovered, some changes had to be made in terms of what was used as insulation material. In 1965, the U.S adopted building codes that required insulation in walls for new homes. Since then, of course, requirements have changed and shifted but today buildings are still required to have some kind of insulation in a home or commercial building. The health consequences associated with asbestos skyrocketed the demand for fiberglass and cellulose insulations. In the 1980s, the installation of insulation was also improved with the advent of Spray foam insulation. 

Today, the top insulations used in homes include fiberglass, cellulose, and foam. When it comes to materials used in HVAC pipes or industrial settings, there are also a lot of options that include fiberglass, rubber, specific types of aerogels, and more. The question of energy efficiency is a major concern for commercial property owners and homeowners alike. 

Our Insulation Options

Here at C&E Industrial, we use several options for your insulation needs and offer the two main categories of rigid foam or flexible insulation. Today’s HVAC needs vary depending on various factors, the nature of your building, structure, etc. Some of the materials we work with include:

  • Rubber
  • Foam 
  • Fiberglass
  • Aerogel 

At C&E Industrial Services, Inc, we specialize in providing businesses with the best materials to provide the best insulation. That’s because adequate insulation often depends on the specific needs and the materials you are insulating. Make sure you call professionals to install proper insulation so that you don’t put your facilities in danger.

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