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Superinsulation is a technique to achieve extremely low energy use, most often applied to buildings, which is the focus of this article. For its application to refrigeration, see superinsulation in refrigeration.
Superinsulation is the application of thermal insulation and airtightness in construction and retrofitting, so that unwanted heat loss or heat gain is reduced to a tiny amount. See also House insulation.
The PassivHaus standard is one approach that includes superinsulation as well as other design methods to minimize energy use.
Superinsulated buildings generally use a range of design methods including:
- Very high R-values of insulation (e.g. R40 walls and R60 roof)
- Attention given to insulation continuity, especially at common heat leakage points such as where walls meet roofs, foundations, and other walls.
- Airtight construction.
- Heat recovery ventilation (heat exchanger) to provide fresh air
- Avoidance of large window area (Windows are more acceptable where high R-value insulated glazing is used, but this tends to be very expensive).
- Reduced size of heating and/or cooling systems. In milder climates these may be eliminated, or reduced to a small backup system.
Airtight construction, especially at windows and doors, greatly reduces heat loss, but results in much less air circulation. If not averted, this commonly gives rise to the invisible problem of indoor air pollution, and results in a less pleasant indoor smell.
Air quality is improved through:
- An air heat exchanger (high efficiency, counter-current) to recover as much of the indoor air's heat as possible before venting (or coolness in a hot climate).
- Opening up the house during times when air temperature and quality is good. This may be done through automated vents.[verification needed]
- Avoidance of materials and activities which cause indoor pollution, e.g. by using natural paints, natural floor coverings (taking care to avoid fire hazards) and electric heating and cooking rather than natural gas. This will help, but most people would find it impractical to remove all synthetic materials, as plastics in utensils and and foam in mattresses offer so many benefits.
Retrofitting superinsulation to a older buildings, as part of "weatherizing" is particularly desirable as older buildings can be energy inefficient, drafty and suffer from wide swings in temperature .
- Adding layers of rigid exterior insulation, in a continuous form to minimize leakage.
- Building new exterior walls with space for insulation.
- Continuous air barriers is almost always worth adding to minimize air leaks.
- Vapor barriers - but take care to ensure that incidental moisture can dry out.
- Superinsulation in refrigeration
- In physics, the unusual ability of some substances in some circumstances to completely block electric current.
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