Are Metals Good Thermal Insulators?

Tuesday 13th February 2024

Ellen Warren

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Pipes covered in aluminium thermal insulation

CONTENTS

People know metals best for their conductivity, but not for keeping heat in or out. But, certain metals can provide unexpected advantages in keeping our homes warm and well-regulated.

At ICE Thermal, we can conduct thermal insulation installation on your property, whether it be at work or home. We will utilise the most suited methods and materials for your property, ensuring a well-regulated space and reduced energy bills overall.

Read on to learn more about metal insulating materials and how they improve energy conservation.

Fundamentals of metal thermal insulation

Understanding the core principles behind metal thermal insulation begins with three key concepts: conductivity, reflectivity, and emissivity. Understanding the role of conductivity, reflectivity, and emissivity is essential for anyone aiming to enhance their home's ability to retain warmth or stay cool by blocking heat transfer.

Conductivity

Experts measure the thermal conductivity of a metal by its ability to conduct heat. Metals like copper and aluminium are high conductors, which means they are not naturally good insulators. 

However, when treated or combined with other materials, their insulation properties can significantly improve. The trick lies in using these metals strategically within composite materials or coatings that reduce their natural tendency to transfer heat.

Reflectivity

Metal surfaces excel at reflecting radiant heat away from your home because of their shiny surface. The higher the reflectivity of a metal surface, the less heat it absorbs from sunlight and other sources. 

Aluminium foil is an example of an effective reflective barrier against heat; placing it on roofs reflects solar radiation away before it heats indoor spaces. This characteristic makes certain metals ideal for inclusion in insulation systems designed to keep homes cool during warmer months.

Emissivity

Emissivity measures how effectively materials radiate absorbed heat back into the environment rather than trapping it inside your home. Low-emissive (low-e) coatings on metallic surfaces can dramatically decrease this radiation process, maintaining cooler interior temperatures without using air conditioning units. 

Emissive coating technology is at the forefront of modern building design practices because of its impact on reducing cooling costs over time while keeping comfort levels high indoors.

Types of metals used in thermal insulation

The innovation of metal-infused substances is reshaping our approach to maintaining the ideal temperature in our living spaces, swinging between warm and cold. However, not all metals are equal regarding insulation.

Aluminium

Aluminium keeps temperatures stable, thanks to its ability to reflect heat rather than absorb it. By bouncing back solar heat, aluminium is best used in attic areas where the sun could otherwise cause temperatures to soar. 

Aluminium does more than protect your home from the summer heat, it also bounces back the warmth in winter to keep your home warm. Using aluminium foil as an insulator is seen in various applications, from lining roofs to wrapping around hot water pipes to prevent heat loss.

Copper

Copper might be more costly compared to other metals, but offers unmatched thermal conductivity properties. This makes copper an ideal choice for systems requiring quick and efficient heat distribution like underfloor heating systems or radiators.

In addition to its ability to conduct heat effectively, the resilience of copper ensures that insulation systems crafted from this material endure over time, resisting wear and tear with remarkable fortitude.

Enhancing home energy efficiency with metal insulation

Metals have unique properties that make them useful in keeping heat where you want it – inside during winter and outside during summer. You may be less likely to use your air conditioning or heating system, which reduces energy bills.

Aluminium foil, for instance, reflects radiant heat instead of absorbing it. By lining your attic or walls with it, you are wrapping your home in a thermal blanket. Research indicates that employing reflective metallic barriers can slash air conditioning expenses by 10% to 50%.

Metal-based materials are incredibly durable and resistant to moisture and pests. Their low emissivity surfaces also inhibit heat transfer by radiation while their high reflectivity keeps solar heat away.

Comparing metal insulation to traditional materials

Effectiveness

Metal insulations can reflect radiant heat, making them good for maintaining warmth in winter and keeping it cool in the summer. This reflectivity is something traditional materials struggle with, as they mainly focus on slowing down heat transfer rather than reflecting it.

The unique property of metals also dissipates heat quickly, meaning they can maintain a stable indoor temperature without working your heating or cooling systems over time.

Cost

While metal insulation might have a higher upfront cost compared to some traditional options, its durability means you will not replace it often. Additionally, the reduction in energy expenses over time transforms this investment into one that yields significant financial returns by lowering monthly utility costs.

Environmental impact

Metal insulation often contains recycled material and is fully recyclable at the end of its life cycle — something that is not possible with fibreglass or foam boards. Additionally, by enhancing energy efficiency within homes significantly reduces carbon footprint over time.

Innovations in metal insulation technology

Recent advancements in metal insulation technology are transforming how we think about energy efficiency and thermal regulation in homes. By pushing the boundaries of material science, these innovations offer a glimpse into a future where our buildings stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter, all while reducing energy bills.

Revolutionary materials redefining insulation

Aerogels have changed our approach by merging with metals to create a great advancement. When aerogel combines with metals like aluminium, it creates an insulation material that is effective and lightweight. Merging aerogels with metals boosts heat resistance, keeping constructions light.

An exciting development comes from research focused on micro-encapsulated phase change materials (MPCMs). These MPCMs are integrated into metal sheets or paints to create surfaces that absorb heat during the day and release it at night. 

This dynamic approach to temperature management promises to improve home comfort levels by utilising natural temperature fluctuations more effectively.

Sustainable solutions

In addition to boosting efficiency, metal insulation is increasingly focusing on eco-friendly practices. We now repurpose recycled materials as part of innovative insulating solutions, turning waste into valuable resources for improving home energy efficiency.

Furthermore, coatings derived from nanotechnology offer another avenue through which metal surfaces can improve their reflective capabilities. This reduces cooling costs during hot months while minimising environmental impact. 

Frequently asked questions

What are the 4 best thermal insulators?

Fiberglass, wool, polystyrene foam, and polyurethane foam are considered the best thermal insulators.

What is the best insulation for metal?

Reflective foil insulation or spray foam insulation on metal structures are best because of their moisture resistance and high R-values.

What is the best insulator for thermal energy?

Aerogel has extremely low density and high porosity, making it an effective thermal insulator material.

What is the best thermal resistance insulation?

Polyisocyanurate (PIR) boards have impressive R-values per inch, making them best at resisting temperature changes.

Get in touch

If you require thermal insulation installation services, you can rely on our team at ICE Thermal. Whether you require new insulation or need to replace old materials, our team can step in and help. We utilise the best and most advanced materials for your property, ensuring a comfortable and energy-efficient environment.

To learn more about our thermal insulation services, get in touch with our team today at 020 3376 4802 or [email protected]. We can give a free, no-obligation quote over the phone and book a site survey at your earliest convenience. Our team are stationed nationwide, 24/7, 365 days a year.

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