The insulation business is the manufacture, trade in and installation of materials used to insulate buildings, walls, geysers or even pipes.
Insulation is needed in various situations:
Thermal insulation, use of materials to reduce rates of heat transfer
Building insulation, thermal insulation added to buildings for comfort and energy efficiency
Insulated siding, home siding that includes rigid foam insulation
Insulated glazing, a thermally insulating window construction
Soundproofing, also known as acoustic insulation, any means of reducing the intensity of sound
There are two major trends I want to look into today starting with the building insulation (ceiling, sidewall and acoustic) trends. We’ve seen insulation evolve from old school coated paper to glass wool (aka “aerolite” in SA). If you are old enough to remember “Think Pink” used to run heavy marketing campaigns to drive awareness of their product.
It’s non-combustible meaning it won’t burn, smoke, or melt in a fire (old coated fire insulation could wash off if you had leaks in your roof and pose a fire hazard), it has energy saving (keeps cool in summer and warm in winter) and acoustic (sound absorbing properties). But in the last few years new types of insulation have emerged (such as those made from recycled PET bottles) and recently an even more interesting concept has emerged: insulation made from popcorn.
Insulation made from recycled PET bottles
In South Africa we have seen the commercialisation of insulation made from PET bottles, we have Isotherm, we have Fabufill and they have been able to produce insulation using PET bottles. Which offers eco-friendly insulation products for roofs, walls, geysers and hot water pipes. Now this is exactly the type of utility I was talking about when discussing plastic recycling in the past, we looked twice at plastic recycling plants, we even looked at rope made from plastic bottles. But I always ask is there a market for the products that you want to produce. The generic Precious Plastic moulds of tiles and pegs and combs is not really a good commercial business. Sure it shows the potential of plastic recycling. But insulation and even soccer jerseys or sneakers made from recycled PET bottles. That is real utility, even if you only processing the bottles into the raw material (and selling it to manufacturers as yarn).
Insulation made from popcorn
Scientists from Germany’s University of Göttingen have made an exterior building insulation material using granulated popcorn. The new insulation is efficient, water repellent, and provides good protection from fire. Just like recycled PET bottles are replacing glass wool, the potential is that the plant based popcorn insulation will replace Styrofoam which is a petroleum based product (styrene).
The potential does not end there, for example: does this mean that popcorn can be used for voidfill? How does it stack up against acoustic sound panels for sound proofing?
There are two facets to success in this type of business: perfecting the manufacturing process and marketing. Once you have done your R&D and you ready to take the product to market. If you can get into hardware stores then a large part of the battle is done. But you also need to educate people on your produce as many people are not familiar with it. In this business you need to look at both the B2B and B2C aspect. Yes, common sense tells you that builders (B2B) need to be familiar with your product but home consumers can also be educated and be able to request your type of insulation.