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City&Country: Green moves-- Mineral wool insulation keeps homes cool

The Malaysian Insulation Manufacturers Group’s (FMM-MIMG) efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of mineral wool insulation for Malaysian homes have seen some measure of success.

“The group has gained greater awareness in the marketplace, thanks to the government’s push for more eco-friendly methods to increase energy efficiency,” says Thomas Heldgaard, managing director of Roxul Asia Sdn Bhd and vice-chairman of FMM-MIMG.

Formed in 2006 under the auspices of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), the voluntary non-profit organisation comprises the three main insulation manufacturers in Malaysia — CSR Climate Control (M) Sdn Bhd, Poly Glass Fibre Manufacturing Sdn Bhd and Roxul Asia Sdn Bhd.

Insulation is mainly associated with colder climates where it is used to help keep warm air inside buildings while preventing the cold air outside from entering. Here in Malaysia, the opposite can be achieved, keeping hot air out while ensuring cool air stays in.

As a result, the use of air-conditioners can be reduced, helping to save on electricity and cutting energy consumption — in line with the government’s aim to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 40% come 2020, based on 2005 levels.

Mineral wool insulation is made from glass, stone or slag, which is heated to molten form and spun into fibre-like structures like blankets, slabs, rigid, loose-fill or sectional pipes. These products are then used to fill the cavities in the roof or, in some cases, the walls.

The three founding members of FMM-MIMG have been involved in the industry for many years, but their products have mainly been used in commercial projects, such as malls, hotels and airports. Besides helping to save on energy to cool a home, mineral wool insulation reduces noise and can help prevent fires from spreading due to its high-melting point. However, it is rarely used in residential projects in this country.

Heldgaard says that initially, not many developers were aware of FMM-MIMG and its mission to educate the public on the benefits of mineral wool insulation. But now, he says, awareness has increased and there are discussions with several developers on using the product in their residential projects.

FMM-MIMG commissioned a survey in early 2010 to gauge the awareness level and insulation usage among homeowners. The survey was conducted within the Klang Valley, with respondents comprising 100 homeowners who did not use insulation and another 100 who did.

The results show that only 22% of homeowners are aware that insulation can be used to keep homes cool, and only 9% have heard that insulation can be used as an electricity-saving measure.
For homeowners who use mineral wool insulation, 59% noticed that rooms cooled faster when the air-conditioner was switched on, and 71% claimed they used the air-conditioner less to cool their rooms.

The group also commissioned Universiti Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) Faculty of Applied Science to conduct a study to quantify the benefits of mineral wool insulation. The thermal and energy performance of mineral wool insulation in one building was documented and compared with another that did not have insulation. The study revealed that up to 16% savings on the electricity bill can be achieved with insulation because air-conditioners are used less often. The interior temperature can also be reduced by 3° to 5°C.

Heldgaard says FMM-MIMG has known about the benefits of mineral wool insulation all along, but now has proof the product helps reduce energy consumption indirectly. It can be installed in a matter of hours, and costs about RM2,000 for an average-sized terraced home measuring 22 ft by 75 ft. “The product is maintanance free and will last the lifespan of the building,” Heldgaard says. “It also doesn’t promote fungal growth because it is made from stone or glass which is inert.”

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 829, Oct 25-31, 2010

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