Sheep wool insulation has become a popular form of insulation for camper vans. Living in the close confines of the camper van, you are in close contact with all the materials used to build the van. When you spend so much time in a small metal box, you want to make sure that everything used to customize the box is safe.
Is sheep wool insulation safe? Sheep wool is one of the safest forms of insulation for a camper van. It is no more dangerous than a wool sweater. Not only is wool safe, but it also improves the environment inside your van. It is the best insulation you can use for air quality and moisture control.
Benefits Of Wool Insulation
Insulation is important for keeping your camper comfortable in hot and cold weather. However, many kinds of insulation can cause problems. These problems include releasing toxic chemicals into the air, trapping moisture leading to rust, and fire danger. Wool insulation does not pose any of these risks.
Wool is hair from sheep. It is 100% natural and does not pose any risks. Wool is one of the safest kinds of insulation you can put in your van. Various types of insulation can cause problems with air quality, flammability, and moisture-trapping. Let’s see how wool stacks up against some of the common issues with other types of insulation.
Some forms of insulation can contain chemicals that can be toxic or carcinogenic. During installation, some of these chemicals may be released. The motion of a moving van releases some and some are continually released throughout the life of the insulation. Wool contains no toxic chemicals. In fact, wool can help purify the air.
Studies show that wool can absorb contaminants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde. Some kinds of man-made insulation emit these gases. Because of this, wool insulation makes your van safer. Using wool insulation will help reduce some of the nasty compounds released by other items in your van, such as vinyl. If you would like to explore these studies in more detail, click here.
When warm, humid air inside the van comes in contact with cold metal walls, water vapor condenses on the walls. Some kinds of insulation seal this moisture against the metal. As we all know, wet metal rusts and rust can be a big problem in a van. Not only does wool not trap moisture, but it also absorbs moisture from the air when humidity is high. Even better, it will release moisture when the humidity is low. These features of wool help prevent moisture trapping.
The ability of wool to trap and release moisture helps fight rust. Instead of letting the outside wall of the van get wet and trapping water there, wool helps keep the camper van’s walls dry. As a bonus, wool does not lose its ability to insulate when it’s wet. Some kinds of insulation do.
Rust starts as a small problem; however, if left unchecked, it can cause significant damage with costly repairs. We have a post about why vans rust, if you want to learn more, you can read it here.
Some forms of insulation are highly flammable. Wool is not. In fact, wool insulation is a flame retardant. Should a fire break out in your van, wool will help slow the fire down. It’s not fun to think about what can go wrong, but you’ll sleep better knowing you have taken some steps to prevent fire.
Reducing the possibility of fire is always the best option; nonetheless, should a fire start, make sure you are prepared by having a fire extinguisher in your camper van that is designed specifically for travel.
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But How Well Does Sheep Wool Insulation Work?
The safest, most moisture and flame-retardant materials in the world are useless as insulation if it doesn’t insulate. How does wool stack up in the heat-holding department? Very well. In addition to holding heat, van insulation should be easy to fit into the oddly-shaped spaces that make up a van wall.
Have you ever seen a cold shivering sheep? Wool is terrific insulation; that’s why we use it to make sweaters and coats. The heat-trapping power of insulation is measured with R-value. Wool has a higher R-value per inch of insulation than the pink fiberglass insulation that contractors commonly use in homes. It is one of the best heat-holders you can get for your van.
Not that this is related to heat—but it’s nice to know that wool also helps block noise!
Vans often need special insulation products because there are lots of weird little gaps and compartments in the walls. Homes are built according to standard specifications, so insulation products are designed to fit these spaces. To insulate a van, you must adjust the insulation to make it fit what you have. Wool is great for this, too.
Fiber insulation is excellent for vans because you can bend, cram and poke it into all kinds of nooks and crannies. It is much simpler to install fiber insulation than rigid products like foam boards. Wool is terrific for this. Since it’s a fiber, it’s easy to adjust the size of wool insulation. You can pull pieces off the roll for the small spots, or if you want to be neater, you can cut it with scissors.
Unlike rock wool or fiberglass insulation, you can install wool insulation with your bare hands. It won’t cause itching or allergic reactions. You peel it apart, poke it where you want it, and you are good to go.
One more benefit of wool is that it doesn’t settle. Some other kinds of fiber insulation will slump down over time, leaving bare spots with no insulation. You will have to either be cold or open up the walls to add insulation. Wool will hold its shape for decades – likely longer than your van lasts.
Wool is also an excellent sound blocker. Foam panels and radiant barriers don’t block much sound, so you will hear everything that is going on outside your van at night. Wool keeps the noise away and lets you get a good night’s sleep.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of wool, check out this factsheet.
Wool is also a good choice for sustainability. It’s a renewable resource because sheep grow new wool every year. Processing wool for insulation requires very little energy input. Technically, the wool itself is solar-powered, since the sheep eat grass to make it.
Wool also sequesters some carbon dioxide. The carbon to make the wool fibers comes from the grass sheep eat. The carbon in the grass comes from the carbon dioxide the plants pulled from the air. By using wool to insulate your van, you are helping fight global warming!
Wool has a better end-of-life disposal process than other forms of insulation, too. Since it’s just hair, old insulation can be composted instead of dumped into a landfill. From beginning to end, wool is easily the most sustainable form of insulation for your van.
Wool has advantages over most kinds of insulation for vans, but it’s not without its drawbacks. The first is the price. Wool tends to be a bit more expensive than other kinds of insulation. If you are trying to pinch pennies, different types of insulation might be a better fit.
Also, if you have a sensitive nose, wool can smell a bit “natural” when it’s new. It isn’t unusual for any new insulation to have an odor, and that smell is better than a chemical smell. Fortunately, the slight odor dissipates with time. If you’re concerned about the odor, you might want to contact the distributor and see if they will send you a sample.
Wonders Of Wool
Wool is the safest form of insulation you can put in a camper van. It improves air quality, helps prevent rust problems, and is flame-retardant. It is warm, soundproof, easy to install, and sustainable. If you are converting a van into a camper, wool is the best insulation you can get.
After hours of research on insulations, sheep wool insulation is what we chose to use in our camper van DIY project. The installation was easy. Plus, we didn’t have to worry about off-gassing that you get with some other materials that are on the market.
The van interior stays cooler on hot days and warmer on cold, which is what we wanted. The sheep wool insulation quieted down the noise in the back of the van while traveling on the road. It also made it quieter when sleeping at noisier locations.
If you are considering insulating your camper van or even your home, you might just want to consider the great benefits that sheep’s wool can provide.