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Cavity wall insulation is used to reduce heat loss through a cavity wall by filling the air space with material that inhibits heat transfer. This immobilises the air within the cavity (air is still the actual insulator), preventing convection, and can substantially reduce space heating costs.
During construction of new buildings, cavities are often filled with glass fiber wool or mineral wool panels placed between the two leaves (sides) of the wall, but many other building insulation materials offer various advantages and many others are also widely used.
For existing buildings that were not built with insulated cavities, a fibrous material, polystyrene beads, or sometimes polyurethane foam can be installed in the cavity to reduce heat loss. The fibrous material often is cellulose insulation or glass wool blown into the cavity through suitably drilled holes until it fills the entire wall space. Although some foams used in the past, such as urea-formaldehyde, are no longer used (some people are allergic to this material, which is very difficult to remove once inside the wall), others, such as polyurethane, have taken their place.
Cavity wall insulation also helps to prevent convection and can keep a house warm by making sure that less heat is lost through walls; this can also thus be a more cost-efficient way of heating a house. About a third of the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through its walls.
Cavity wall insulation in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, grants from the government and from energy companies are widely available to help with the cost of cavity wall insulation. The Affordable Warmth Objective (HHCRO) provides help for low income and vulnerable households to improve the energy efficiency of their properties and reduce heating bills.
A large number of properties that had the insulation installed by successive UK government-backed schemes were installed incorrectly or were unsuitable for the property. Incorrectly installed cavity wall insulation (CWI) causes water to seep into a properties walls, causing structural problems and damp patches that may also manifest into mould. In some cases, the damp and mould resulting from CWI can cause health problems or exacerbate existing conditions, particularly respiratory conditions. This has led to the formation of the Cavity Wall Insulation Victims Alliance (CWIVA). On 3 February 2015 the CWIVA took the debate to the houses of parliament discussing the cavity wall insulation industry.
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- Cavity wall, Energy Saving Trust
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- Cavity Wall Insulation Victims Alliance