When constructing a shipping container home, it is imperative to understand that insulation is an integral part of the process. For optimum comfort and energy-efficient living, Insulation of any home is an unavoidable necessity. However, the insulation methods used in regular homes may not be as effective on shipping container homes.
Homes made of steel shipping containers present unique challenges. Given that metal is a good conductor of both sound and heat, this kind of homes will normally require extra shipping container insulation. The main challenges, when putting up a shipping container include:
Radiant Heat and Cold
Metal is an efficient conductor of both heat and cold. Therefore, the chilly winter weather is likely to make the metal container very cold, hence making the interior of your shipping container home feel like a freezer. Likewise, during hot weather, the sun rays on the metal container will swiftly radiate the heat into your home. This will make it feel like an oven, due to excessive heat and humidity.
When any metal shipping container is not properly protected, its interior might be as moist as a tropical rainforest. Condensation will always happen, whenever warm air gets in contact with a cool metal surface. Water vapor is usually able to travel through conventionally framed walls, just like water can sip through a submarine screen door. The presence of moisture leads to mold, rust as well as corrosion.
The 10 Best Shipping Container Insulation
To avoid any of the above problems, ensuring that your shipping container home gets proper insulation is the most logical thing to do. When choosing your insulation solution, it is always imperative to consider the local climate. Below are the 10 most effective shipping container insulation solutions that you can choose from.
1. Insulation Panels
Any insulation panel is made of an insulation barrier, sandwiched between two fused panels. The good thing about the panels is that you can make them fit any size that you want. This minimizes any losses that may occur during the insulation of your shipping container home. All you need to do is order your panels in line with the exact measurements of your shipping container walls and fit them accordingly. You can easily fit the panels in between stud walls. Insulation panels can be used together with other insulation solutions, like vapor and air barriers.
2. Spray Foam Insulation
Spray Foam happens to be one of the most commonly used kinds of insulation for shipping container homes. Other than being one of the quickest and easiest methods of container home insulation, it also offers a great deal of insulation, since it can get into every nook and cranny. You can easily spray this insulation material directly into both the exterior and interior walls of your shipping container.
This type of insulation is capable of preventing condensation from occurring because a semi-permeable barrier is formed after the application of the foam. However, even though it is among the thinnest forms of insulation that you can use, it is slightly expensive compared to the other options. Spray foam is normally great for cold and wet climates.
Icynene is a good example of spray foam insulation. It is a water-blown product that expands on hardening, hence insulating the container walls using tiny plastic bubbles, which form in the insulation’s interior. As much as their price tags might be higher, insulation products that come with expansive properties will save you more energy – hence money – over time. They are very good when it comes to sealing and insulation, as compared to most of the other products.
3. Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS) Insulation
Sometimes, EPS is wrongly referred to as Styrofoam™. However, it is a closed-cell insulation, which is made through the expansion of polystyrene polymer. Any closed-cell high-density foam insulation is more robust and capable of carrying heavier loads when compared to open-cell foam since it is not porous. This ensures that no water vapor or air can pass through it.
This kind of insulation also offers double the insulating resistance to heat flow (R-value) per inch. The greater the resistance to heat flow (R-value), the higher the insulating power. Since it is inert, the closed-cell foam is not subject to any chemical or physical breakdown over time.
4. Glass Wool Insulation Blanket
Other than being readily available, this type of insulation is rather affordable. You have the option of choosing between mineral wool and glass fiber. However, the former is more natural, though more costly. The insulation blanket is normally purchased in pre-cut butts or rolls. The rolls afford you the liberty of cutting the blanket, depending on your needs.
However, given that shipping containers have the shape of a box, you are better off using pre-cut butts. For you to get the best results, you need to apply two layers of the insulation glass wool blanket. Unfortunately, this might make your walls thicker than necessary, but still, this is a very affordable shipping container insulation solution that is easy to use.
5. Plastered Finish
The plastered finish is normally made of sand or cement, clay, and sand plaster. You can finish your walls with this mixture, which comes with good insulating properties. To strengthen the structure, you need to add more sand to your plasters. Besides, clay plasters are not recommended for people who live in wet and cold climates.
On the other hand, if you live in a wet and hot climate, then cement plasters are the best option for you. Under normal circumstances, cement plasters should be used on the interior of the walls while clay plasters need to be used on the exterior. Plastered finishes are fairly affordable and this is one of their biggest advantages.
6. Reflective Roofs and Walls
This insulation solution prevents heat loss through the use of radiant surfaces. Corrugated steel roofs are great for this. This kind of roof is put atop the container home roof, where it reflects the sun rays, and hence allowing air to circulate freely.
Reflective roofs are the best when it comes to cooling down shipping containers, especially in tropical areas. When the cool breeze hits the raised roof, it takes away the hot air, hence reducing the temperature in the container.
7. Eco-Friendly Insulation Materials
When building a shipping container home, it is easy to use eco-friendly insulation materials. The advantage of using such materials is that they have no adverse effects on the environment and our health since they are non-toxic. This reduces the risk of the air within your shipping container home, being contaminated.
Some of the eco-friendly insulation materials that you can use include organic ones such as sheep wool, straw bales, or just natural cotton. Some of the inorganic eco-friendly insulation solutions that you can use include Aerogel and Icyene.
8. Cotton Insulation
It is always imperative to use sustainable means to construct your container home, by reutilizing as much as possible. Many contemporary companies produce regular, cotton-based materials for insulation. Such materials include recycled, post-consumer cotton and denim, obtained from second-hand jeans and many other used clothing products.
The R-Value of cotton insulation is 3.5 per inch. This is the same as that of more conventional fiberglass insulation solutions. Additionally, insulation made of commercial denim is normally treated using boric acid, which is naturally a fire retardant.
However, one of the downsides of denim-based insulation is that it requires a vapor barrier. Hence, if it gets wet, it becomes quite dense, loses a number of its insulation characteristics, and takes very long to dry.
9. Live Roof and Walls
Living walls and roofs are made up of surfaces that hold living plants. A good example of this is a roof garden. Such shipping container insulation solution significantly reduces the temperatures inside the container. A living roof is capable of dropping the temperature, in a container, by six to eight percent. This is likely to cut down the costs that emanate from using an air-conditioning system.
A live roof needs to be elevated to enable proper air circulation. It is also advisable that the weight of the live roof is not allowed to rest on the container’s roof. As for the container walls, a planted trellis can be fine protection against heat. Natural vines and climbing plants are normally a good choice for this kind of insulation. Other than creating beautiful aesthetical value, they also offer a shield against the tropical heat.
10. Renewable Materials
One of the most common renewable materials that are good for home insulation is cellulose. It is a product of paper, especially newspapers. To make it, you need to shred newspapers into tiny pieces and spray them onto the targeted surfaces. However, cellulose is susceptible to dampness, pests, and mold. Also, it is highly flammable and can also be destroyed by water.
Another material that is good for the insulation of shipping container houses is recycled plastic. The best thing about the use of renewable materials is that they not only are cost-effective, they are also environmentally friendly since they reduce waste accumulation. However, most of the recycled materials are not considered to be proper insulation approaches; they are more of temperature regulation solutions.