#29: Inflatable insulation

I’ve just spent a few days insulating our loft space in opposition to Winter’s application for permanent residency. I thought, as I sat there with a mouthful of glass fibre, that it would be much more convenient not to have to deal with all that hellish stuff. Mostly, I was working with foil-backed bubble wrap anyway but this material is pretty hard to unroll and cut to shape in the restricted space available.

Today’s invention is to make use of foil balloons instead. When only slightly inflated with air, these are able to maintain their condition for a long time -probably years. (If you were concerned about deflation you could arrange that all of these connect via pipes to a single plenum which would allow convenient repressurisation -but that is way too fussy: the whole point is to keep the balloons at such a small overpressure that deflation takes forever).

These offer the following advantages:

  • Flexibility: their small size allows them to be located within very narrow gaps and inflated whilst in place.
  • Cheapness: I can buy 18 Bob the Builder balloons for £2 (I’m sure that the price could be slashed by buying Santa balloons in January or something).
  • High thermal efficiency: thin layers of air held in place with impermeable foil has got to work.

If you were in search of complete thermal comfort, I’d suggest applying some velcro patches, so that the balloons form a continuous blanket.

It’s been suggested to me that surplus wine box bladders would be an even more effective approach, with the obvious added advantage that a glass or two of wine helps you stay warm whilst doing the work.

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