How to Insulate a Shipping Container - The Ultimate Guide

27/11/2019
Share:

Shipping containers have become more and more popular alternatives to traditional homes because they are cost-effective and easier to construct. However, how to insulate a shipping container? what kind of material and tools should you choose? What preparations do you need in advance? These can be challenging for a lot of people.

If you are also confused about it, just take it easy and read on! In this article, you will be guided on the ins and outs of insulating a shipping container home. Included in this article are the different types of insulation materials you can use and how to to it!

blue Detachable Shipping Container House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

What Is Shipping Container Insulation

A shipping container insulation is a material used to keep the internal temperature of the shipping container to the desired level. That being said, it can protect you from the harsh cold winter days and the scorching heat of summer. Apart from this, insulation can also buffer noise coming from the outside.

The shipping containers’ insulation materials matter a lot because, unlike the traditional home, the shipping container walls are made of metal. It’s possible that it is more than 30 to 40 percent of heat can be lost. After all, a shipping container home is practically made of walls. This could mean more energy consumption. The more you spend on keeping warm, the higher your electrical bills.

Why the Need to Insulate Your Shipping Container

One of the shipping container home insulation issues is how to keep heat in during the colder seasons, and how to keep it off in the summer. The walls of the shipping container alone cannot prevent heat from transferring. A great insulation material between the walls is a sure-fire solution to keep the temperature at a steady level.

side of a blue Detachable Shipping Container House with windows and a door

That being said, during the hotter months, you don’t want the coolness generated by your fan or air-conditioning unit to seep out to the warmer outdoors. Contrastingly, you don’t want the warmth produced by your heater to get out of your home. Insulation can prevent both situations from happening.

The design of the shipping container is another reason why you need insulation. It has an exterior wall made of steel, a great conductor of heat.

Without insulation, the steel walls make your home hotter. Similarly, it minimizes heat from escaping when the environment is cooler than the container home.

One of the reasons why people shift to insulated shipping container homes is that they want to reduce their carbon footprint. After all, there is a growing trend for environmental awareness.

One way to efficiently save energy is to invest in a great insulating material as this addresses the issues of energy efficiency. An insulated shipping container office or home can radically reduce and ultimately save on electrical bills.

One of the trending preferences of home buyers nowadays is acoustic insulation. A little known purpose for the container home insulation is to keep noise at bay, be it from within or from the outside.

While it may not be the end-all noise canceling solution, insulation materials are always the foundation for any home noise control management system.

Additionally, if you are a home contractor, you may want to suggest insulating shipping container homes to your clients, especially when they want an environmentally friendly home. To insulate a shipping container is a cost-effective way to create more appeal to your buyers. It’s an add-on feature that anybody could not just take for granted.

Insulation for shipping containers poses a slightly different challenge. So how does one go about insulating a shipping container?

How Insulating Shipping Container Homes Work

Notice when it is summertime.

Without insulation, heat easily seeps through your house. It makes your home hotter inside. Also in wintertime, you would want to keep the warmth indoors- and one way to effectively do that is to add insulation.

Insulation controls the temperature or the degree of hotness and coldness in a space. Homes, where occupants live, relax, and work at the same time, need to be cozy and adequately warm in order to be conducive to a relaxed and productive atmosphere.

There are three heat transfer principles you need to understand when learning how to insulate foldable container homes.

Man installing fiberglass insulation

Conduction

Conduction is the movement of heat from one conductor to another. A practical example would be the transfer of heat from the stove via the metal pan to your hands when cooking.

Convection, and radiation. Applying this to the shipping container homes, heat from the outside is transferred inside via the metal wall.

Convection

Convection is the movement of air molecules when air is hot. As the air moves, it carries along with it the heat. You would notice this when it gets too hot. Warm air rises while cool air sinks.

Radiation

Objects that emit electromagnetic waves can also give out heat. The closer you are to those objects, the hotter you’d feel. The sun is the perfect analogy for this. Since the earth is nearer the sun during the summer, the hotter it feels.

Factors to Consider When Insulating
a Container Home

You just don’t immediately go ahead and buy the first insulating material you found. There are certain considerations worth noting before buying a shipping container insulation kit.

1. Climate

Your location plays a big role in how much insulation should be installed in your shipping container home. When you live in colder regions, you need thicker insulation to keep heat in during the wintertime.

When you live in a hotter region which is more prone to typhoons and other extreme weather conditions, you might want to focus on weatherproofing your detachable container house than insulating it.

2. Air Infiltration

There is a connection between air infiltration and insulation. If outside air can get through your shipping container home via cracks and small holes, this is air filtration. This can pose a problem to shipping container walls because water from air can cause rust. You can prevent this from happening if you use fiberglass and mineral wool.

3. Home Layout

The surface area affects how much heat is absorbed. That being said, it means the larger the area, the more insulation is required. Relatively, the more asymmetric the home layout is, the more insulation this design requires.

4. Insulation Materials

Any insulator does its job well in insulating container homes if carefully selected and properly installed. However, there are considerations you need to take note of. Not all insulators are the same.

5. Thermal Resistance

Thermal resistance or its R-value determines how well the material can insulate your home. R-value is also the ability of the insulator to withstand heat. As a rule of thumb, the higher the R-value, the better the material to resist heat. It is dependent on two factors: the thickness and density of the insulating material. The thicker the insulation, the higher the R-value.

On the other hand, higher R-values can be disadvantageous. For example, doubling the R-value means heat has little chance to get into your insulated storage container- and out of it too. A higher R-value insulating material may not be sensible for homes in warmer regions.

Additionally, some insulation materials can compress due to its weight, especially when you stack them to increase its density. When the R-value is relatively high, the material may not allow heat to pass through. Chances are, you are going to use some heat source to provide warmth, incurring additional costs.

You also need to take note of thermal bridging or the transfer of heat through bolts and other components.

That being said, R-values are not the same in all spaces when you insulate shipping container homes. You can have a full-rated R-value on your walls but not where there are windows because of possible spaces and metal parts where air or heat can pass through or transferred.

6. Fire Protection

Container house insulation materials can also have fire retarding capacities. You should be aware that others have a temperature breaking point, while others have reduced flammability features.

7. Impact on Health

Some insulating materials contain isocyanates that can irritate the eyes and lungs. These can also cause asthma attacks in sensitized individuals. Always check the ingredients of the shipping container insulation spray foam for these compounds.

Insulation Materials for Shipping Containers

There are many kinds of insulation materials to utilize, each with its pros and cons. But not all insulating materials are alike nor how much heat is retained and the likes.

There are unconventional insulation materials such as straw which are valued for its eco-friendliness. Common insulation materials include spray foams.

Cellulose

This material is often made from recycled paper or waste newsprint, which has been cut into tiny pieces so that fibers are extracted.

Fifteen percent of it made up of boric acid or ammonium sulphate, fire retardant elements.

When manufacturers want it fire-proof and insect-proof, they add borate or ammonium sulfate.

Cellulose can be considered as a smart alternative to fiberglass.

 

cellulose blocks insulation

Source: Insulkings

Pros:

• This product also hinders airflow.
• The fibers do not absorb moisture.
• With the right installation practices, cellulose does not  settle

Best Used For:

• Loose-fill in open installations such as the attic
• Dense packing for building cracks and crevices

cementitious foam

Source: Induceramic

Cementitious Foam

This is a foam-spray type with that made of cement that can have a shaving cream consistency. This can trap air bubbles in the insulation in its rigid form once it dries.

It is cement-based and can be used both for thermal and acoustic insulation. The R-value of this material is akin to that of fiberglass.

Known for its consistency, it is usually preferred by builders also because its cost is almost the same with polyurethane’s.

Pros:

• Cheaper than most insulating materials
• Non-toxic
• Non-flammable
• Contains sea-extracted minerals
• Superior soundproofing with STC 37-39 rating
• Pest-resistant
• Does not settle or shrink
• Ignites at 700°F

Cons:

• Requires a trained professional to install
• Needs support while it dries

Best Used For:

Walls but when there are retrofitting tasks to be done, this is best sprayed in the external part of the walls instead of the interior so the foam won’t damage components.

Fiberglass

This is one of the most common materials used for insulation.

This material is produced by melting glass and then spun or blown as fibers and mixed with plastic.

Owners and builders prefer the fiberglass material due to its non-combustible feature.

Methods of installation for fiberglass can be loose-fill, blanket, rigid boards and duct.

Checking the energy efficiency of their house by measuring the thickness of fiberglass insulation in the attic

Pros:

• Can be made of 40%-60% recycled glass
• Inexpensive
• Mold resistant
• Can be fitted between studs and beams
• Heat, cold and sound insulator
• No curing time so no moisture present during installation
• Can be a DIY project
• Suitable for spaces that have no obstructions
• Has STC (Sound Transmission Rating) of 43

Cons:

• Does not resist airflow
• Small particles can come off and irritate certain parts of the body of sensitized individuals
• When particles are inhaled, it can cause respiratory ailment
• Susceptible to mold growth
• Not suitable to be touched with bare hands

Best Used For:

• Unfinished walls, floors, and ceilings
• Opens walls that don’t have any obstructions

Close-up of worker hands in white gloves insulating rock wool insulation staff in wooden frame for future walls for cold barrier

Mineral Wool

There are two kinds of mineral wool available in the market.

These are rock wool that is made of basalt or diabase, and slag wool that is made from blast furnace slag.

Mineral wool is known for its safe use and manufacturing. Also, it is easy to install as long as the recommended procedures are followed. It can be used not only for structural, but also for piping insulation.

Pros:

• Fire resistant
• Moisture resistant
• Can act as a flame barrier
• Mold resistant
• No need to cure

Cons:

• Particles are minute that it can be inhaled
• Needs special gear during installation
• Inhaled wool slives can cause cell mutation and possibly cancer

Best Used For:

• All kinds of walls and ceilings

Natural Fibers

These refer to more fibers used in other insulating purposes but now have been found to be effective in insulating a shipping container home.

Two of which are cotton and wool materials. The R-value (or thermal resistance) of natural fibers amount to R-3.4 per inch.

These materials are surely non-toxic and sustainable for your shipping container’s insulation.

natural fiber insulation

Source: MGM Timber

Cotton

An insulating material made of cotton is often a mix of recycled cotton and plastic fibers. This mix is treated with borax to increase its value by being a fire retardant.

Pros:

• Fire Retardant
• Less carbon footprint during manufacturing
• Pest Repellant

Con:

• More expensive than fiberglass insulation

Wool

This is made from sheep, wool is often mixed with chemicals to suit requirements needed by insulation materials. Often, this is mixed with borax to increase its value.

Pros:

• Flame Resistant
• Pest Resistant
• Mold Resistant
• Can hold a large amount of water
• High R-value

Con:

• Borate can leach when wool is subjected to frequent wetting and drying

Phenolic foam thermal insulation 16:9

Source: Archiexpo

Phenolic Foam

This was a popular choice when it was manufactured in its rigid board form. It is deemed one of the optimal material choices for thermal insulation.

Its features include fire retardant and water resistant properties. It also produces low smoke level.

Nowadays, it is often sold in foam form which shrinks up to 2% after curing.

Polyisocyanurate

Otherwise called polyiso, polyisocyanurate is a thermosetting polymerPolyiso is a cost-efficient and energy-saving thermal insulation material.

This material is set once heat has been applied and curing has been done. It is normally produced as a foam.

 Another introduction of heat does not change its initial figure.

Polyisocyanurate material for thermal insulation on white background

Source: The Roofing Store

Pros:

• Has low heat conductivity feature caused by the thermal-efficient  hydrochlorofluorocarbon-free gas
• Available in different insulation forms
• Inexpensive when in foam board form
• Foam board form has more coverage ability
• Can act as a radiant barrier when used in open air space
• Can be used to make SIPs ( structural insulated panels)
• Up to 40% better insulation when using polyiso SIPs
• More resistant to condensation
• More stable than thermoplastics
• Harder than thermoplastics
• STC 37-39 rating
• Ignites at 700°F

Cons:

• Thermal drifting happens over time due to the replacement of gas in its cells with regular air
• Short optimum lifespan of 2 years
• Needs facings to stabilize R-value

Best Used For:

• Overall use
• Open air space

How to Make Your Own Structural Insulated Panel Using Polyiso

You need to use the liquid foam form for this project. Get two thin slabs of wood. Inject polyiso foam between the two slabs of wood. Add pressure. Wait for this to harden.

Depending on which part of the house you’d use this project, the finished wood panels should have these standards:

For walls: Should be 3.5 inches thick
For ceilings: Should be up to 7.5 inches thick

polystyrene material for thermal insulation

Source: Uline

Polystyrene

This is also known as styrofoam and it is thermoplastic. Thermoplastic materials need heat to mold to the desired figure. It can be molded again when heat is reintroduced. R-values are density-dependent for this type of material.

There are four popular types of polystyrene used to insulate stacked container homes. These are MEPS, EPS, XPS and GPS. Graphite polystyrene (GPS) is a relatively new product in the market.

Pros:

• Lightweight
• Inert
• Water-resistant
• High impact resistance as in the case of EPS

Best Used For:

• New shipping container homes

Cons:

• The bead form charges easily
• Hard to control
• Non-biodegradable
• Easily attacked by organic solvents and certain types of bacteria
• Flammable
• Cancer suspecting agent

Difference between MEPS, XPS, EPS and GPS

Molded expanded polystyrene (MEPS)

These are made of small standalone beads or glued together.

Common Forms:

1. Foam beads – only used as add-on in concrete blocks and hollow wall cavities.

2. Foam boards – more common form

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

Beadboard is its common term. Commonly produced as blocks. Quite similar to MEPS and this is closed-cell insulation. The only difference is how the two are manufactured. It is made up of 98% air and 2% plastic. This a material used in making SIPS.

Extruded Polystyrene (XPS)

To produce XPS, polystyrene must be melted first. It is then pressed to a mold to form sheets. XPS is prone to thermal drifting due to its gases being replaced by common air. XPS has a higher R-value compared to EPS. This can also be used to make SIPS.

Graphite Polystyrene (GPS)

GPS has graphite added to give its distinctive grayish color. Its gray beads are molten and shaped into blocks or sheets. With graphite hindering heat transfer, using GPS makes your container home more energy-efficient.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is the product when isocyanate has a chemical reaction with a polyol blend.

This insulation material for shipping homes has high thermal resistance.

There are three types of polyurethane used to insulate a shipping home.

It can be made into panels, blocks, and foam.

polyurethane material for thermal insulation

Source: Ustramedia

Pros:

• Low conductivity
• Lightweight
• Low water permeability factor
• Slow expansion for the foam type
• Fire-resistant and retardant; ignites at 700°F
• Good air sealing
• STC 37-39 rating

Cons:

• The open-cell foam type has low R-values
• R-value of the closed-cell form can drop over time due to the escaping of gas inside its cells and being replaced by common gas
• Needs support to stabilize R-values and to slow the effects of ageing

Best Used For:

• All around insulation material for both new and retrofit homes

Types of Insulation

As the number of insulation types varies, so does its types. However, the ones listed below are only applicable on how to insulate a storage container. You can use this table below to check what insulation type is best for your needs.

Type of Insulation

Commonly Used Materials

Building Part to Apply

Method of Installation

Advantages

1. Blanket Insulation

Fiberglass, Mineral wool, Natural fibers

Floors, ceilings, unfinished walls

Between beams and studs; fitted

DIY; inexpensive

2. Foam Board Insulation

Polystyrene, Polyiso, Polyurethane

Floors, ceilings, unfinished walls

Cover first with half an inch gypsum board for fireproofing

High R-value
Blocks thermal short circuits

3. Rigid Fiber Insulation

Fiberglass, Mineral wool

Unconditioned air ducts; areas that need insulation but with high temperature

Specialized technicians and certified professionals

High-temperature resistance

4. Loose-Fill Insulation

Cellulose, Fiberglass, Mineral wool

Areas that are hard to reach and other methods cannot do

Poured; blown

Additional insulation; areas with obstructions

5. Spray Foam Insulation

Cementitious, Phenolic, Polyiso, Polyurethane

New wall; existing walls

Use small spray cans or large pressure sprayer

Additional insulation; areas with obstructions

6. SIPs

Foam board with OSB

New wall; existing walls

Specialized technicians and certified professionals

Superior insulation; less time to construct

Blanket Insulation (Batt and Rolls Insulation)

– These are roll type kind of insulation material.

– It is often made of fiberglass, mineral wool or natural fibers.

– You can hand-cut or trim this  material to suit shipping container dimensions.

– You can add facings such as air barrier or vapor barrier for added protection.

blanket insulation roll

Source: JM

Check the table below for a general comparison of batt thickness and its correlating R-value.

Batt Thickness

R-Value

3 ½

11

3 ⅝

13

3 ½ high density

15

6 – 6 ¼

19

5 ¼ high density

21

8 – 8 ½

25

8 high density

30

9 ½

30

12

38

Foam board insulation

Foam Board Insulation

– Can be used practically in all parts of the house

– Its r-values can be twice as high when compared to other insulation materials of the same density

– Rigid boards can also reduce heat transfer from other house components such as studs and joints.

– Commonly used materials for this insulation type include polystyrene, polyiso, and polyurethane

Rigid Fiber Board Insulation

– Often made of fiberglass or mineral wool

– Often installed by professional contractors

– Used for insulating air ducts

– These can withstand higher temperatures too.

– fabricated from resin-bonded and inorganic glass fibers

Rigid Fiber Board Insulation​

Source: Alibaba

Loose-fill Insulation​

Loose-fill Insulation

– Often made up of small particles of fiber or foam

– Suitable hard to reach areas or those areas where other types may not be applicable

– Cellulose, mineral wool and natural fibers are often the common materials used.

– Two common issues with this type are compression and settled densities

– Look for the indicated initial and settled thickness.

Spray Foam Insulation

– The foamed-in-place type is best used for floors to increase insulation and reduce air leaks.

– Produces high R-values

– Can easily get into small cracks and spaces such as the space between the walls and windows

– Spray foam can be made from cementitious, phenolic, polyurethane, polyiso and icynene.

– Costs more than batt insulation.

technician spraying foam insulation using plural component gun for polyurethane foam

Difference between Closed-Cell Insulation
and Open-Cell Insulation

You would come across these terms as you seek out how to insulate a storage container. These are the mechanisms on how air is trapped in the insulating material.

In the closed-cell system, the cells of the insulating material are often filled with certain types of gas. This gas makes the cells expand, filling the spaces around it. With the closed-cell type, you get higher R-values and greater resistance to moisture. However, this is more expensive.

On the other hand, the open-cell system has a spongy texture because it is filled with air and it is not as dense as the closed-cell type. While it is less expensive, it can easily absorb water.

Structural insulated panel 3d illustration

Structural Insulated Panels

– Energy efficient

– Surface and edges must be smooth to ensure better attachment

– Have noise-canceling and high customizable properties

– Can have varying dimensions according to client preferences

Structural Insulated Panels or SIPs are prefab panels made of oriented strand board (OSB) and a kind of polymer board. In between two OSBs is a foam board which ranges from 4-8 inches in thickness. There is a facing glued to the foam board and the two panels are also tightly pressed to bond to the core foam and facing.

Additional Shipping Container Insulation System Requirements

You might think insulation is enough.

Given the climatic conditions, you should also include other barriers after adding your shipping container insulation materials.

These additional materials are not necessarily required but they can dramatically lessen heat in certain conditions.

Insular facings, radiant barrier, and vapor barrier also play an integral role in the insulation process. They act as a shield that protects your insulation materials, reduces radiation and lessen humidity in your shipping container.

Fiberglass insulation installed in the sloping ceiling of a house

Insular Facings

Insular facings are add-ons that are attached to the insulating material. These can either protect the surface of the insulator, hold the insulator panels together, or hold the insulation to the building components. Facing materials include kraft paper and vinyl.

Radiant Barrier

One unique condition that many homeowners might encounter in shipping container homes is radiant heat. Having a coat of a radiant barrier can effectively reflect the invisible rays of the radiation energy. When installing a radiant barrier, make sure the reflective side faces the air surface.

Vapor Barrier

Humidity can wreak havoc to your container home. Metals are prone to water condensation especially when there is an abrupt change in temperature. When this happens, metal becomes susceptible to rust. Vapor barriers can help keep moisture at bay. These are placed on one side of the insulation material.

Insulating a Shipping Container - A Step by Step Tutorial

Ever wonder how to insulate a shipping container? While this may can a DIY project, to ensure optimum protection, better leave this task to the professionals. Much relies on the proper installation to ensure the maximum R-value.

Depending on your preference, you might want to take a look at these other factors such as the cost of installation, indoor air quality among others.

Whether you want to know how to insulate a shipping container for a living or simply trying to DIY the installation project, there are three things you need to remember:

1. Understanding the many kinds of insulating materials
2. Knowing the actual R-values
3. Being skillful at installing the insulation

You might be wondering how does one choose the best way to insulate a shipping container. Two factors come into play:

1. Determine where you need to add the insulation and how much insulation you need.
2. Know the right R-value for the areas that need to be insulated.

Tools You Need to Insulate Shipping Container Homes

1. Utility Knife
2. Table Saw
3. Skill Saw
4. Foam to seal cracks and small openings
5. Construction Adhesive

Step #1: Think of the Kind of Insulation Materials to Use

general insulation materials

There are several types of insulation materials that can be used: foam sprays, foam boards, insulation panels, and some other insulation materials.

Know what best suits your purpose.

How to insulate shipping container homes means you have to consider the R-values of your insulation material.

Step #2: Consider the Design of Your Shipping Home Container

Shipping container home design

This is with regards to how you can efficiently reduce energy consumption.

Know where you should add insulation. For example, you need to add insulation on floors with vents underneath or floors that are directly on the ground.

Foundation walls should also have insulation.

Step #3: Consider Moisture and Airflow Control

Stack effect and ventilation system diagram

Source: SimScale

Step #4: Build and Internal Frame

Build and internal frame of shipping containers

Before you start putting insulation materials, include in your list how to seal your shipping container from the air.

Moisture can impact some kind of insulation materials. Furthermore, air also carries heat.

The frame would serve as the barrier against constant direct contact with the insulating material.

Also, the space between the shipping container walls and the internal frame serves as the area where heat is spread out.

Step #5: Fill the Space Between Internal wall and Metal Container Wall with Insulation Material

You need to add insulation that is corrosion resistant or won’t encourage condensation.

Moisture is the number one enemy of shipping containers.

Conclusion

Insulating a shipping container can be made a DIY project, or you can hire a certified professional to do the job. JJC is a manufacturer and supplier of customized shipping container homes. Request a quote from their customer service representative now.

Blog Classification

Recent Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *