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Insulating Against Volatility: Boron in Insulation

:: Monday, December 14, 2020 :: Posted By Orion Graham
The change of seasons is often a trigger for changes in our living spaces. In the Northern Hemisphere, cooler temperatures have us reaching for our blankets and noticing drafts. In the Southern Hemisphere, we’re shedding layers and thinking about higher cooling bills.
 
And, with most people spending more time at home worldwide, those seasonal changes are more noticeable. Homeowners are adding insulation to increase their homes’ comfort and efficiency. At the same time, new home construction and sales have been strong throughout the year.
 
As a result, insulation manufacturers have stepped up to meet a strong and sustained demand throughout 2020. U.S. Borax has partnered with those manufacturers to provide the borates they need to ensure their products’ quality and safety.
 

The essentials of boron in insulation

Boron provides multi-faceted benefits in insulation products.
 
Fiberglass insulation (aka glass wool) works much as a cozy wool blanket does, trapping air in its thick fiber network to reduce heat transfer. Borates act as a fluxing agent in fiberglass manufacturing, helping to optimize the creation of the tiny fibers while lowering melting temperature and balancing temperature, viscosity, and surface tension. The result is extremely fine fibers that resist moisture and compression, enabling the insulation to maintain its loft over time. In addition, because borates increase the infrared absorption of glass fibers, it helps to improve the insulation’s effectiveness.
 
20 Mule Team® Borax products such as Dehybor®, Neobor®, and Optibor® are popular choices for optimizing fiberglass manufacturing processes and ensuring a high-quality product.
 
Cellulose insulation is made of a variety of organic materials including wood, cotton, and other plant fibers. This light, highly versatile material is often used as loose-fill for insulating lofts, attics, and cavity walls. It can be deposited by hand or blown in, and spray-on varieties can be applied to ceilings or side walls.
 
These materials are normally highly flammable. However, the addition of borate flame retardants enables insulation manufacturers to meet even the most stringent safety standards. Boric acid has long been recognized as an effective flame-retardant additive for cellulose insulation. When applied to cellulose materials, it prevents smoldering and promotes the formation of char, which in turn reduces air oxidation and helps to prevent flame.
 
Neobor, Polybor®, and Optibor are commonly used in flame-retardant applications for cellulose insulation.
 

Insulation is a best bet for home DIYers

For homeowners, one of the simplest ways to increase energy efficiency of a house is to lower the heat loss to the surroundings by increasing thermal insulation in the house. Because of its high insulating value, ease of application, especially for existing homes, and relatively low cost, fiberglass and cellulose loose-fill insulation consistently provides high value.
 
Year after year, adding insulation ranks as the home improvement project with the highest ROI according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. And, in years like this one, that value is important to all of us, from materials suppliers to insulation manufacturers to consumers.
 

U.S. Borax responds to market fluctuations

Throughout 2020, construction materials manufacturers have been on a roller coaster, seeking to respond to predictions of reduced demand one month and building booms the next. The insulation industry has been subject to those stresses as well. Many industry predictions anticipated a major market disruption in Q2 due to COVID, leading manufacturers to scale back capacity. However, a seasonal uptick and robust housing starts required a rapid shift, putting some organizations in “catch-up” mode.
 
Through this volatile year, U.S. Borax has leveraged its extensive value chain network to build supply chain resilience amidst abundant uncertainty. Our Boron, California mine, our processing plants, and the U.S. Borax value chain network combine to offer agility to accommodate adjusting demand. We are committed to enabling our valued partners to meet their goals and respond during uncertain times. We value our position not only as a supplier but as a strategic partner.
 

Resources

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 500 customers with more than 1,700 delivery locations globally. We supply 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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