Sheep's Wool Insulation: A Sweater for Your House


Don't waste our wool! (© iStockphoto.com/muha04)

Not much of the U.S. wool supply gets made into Donegal hats, Pendleton throws or $800 lamb vests. According to Fast Company, 90 percent of it is simply thrown out -- too coarse to make cozy clothing or textiles.

But you can imagine that if people try to repurpose waste products like dryer lint or clipped human or dog hair, they'd also search for a way to use that 90 percent of throwaway wool. Wool's already a wonder fiber of sorts -- it absorbs moisture (see how much water you can wring from your wet sweater), it's flame-resistant and it's considered allergen-free. It's also insulating: Even the finest layer will up your ability to face biting cold. That's why it seems like a natural insulator not just for your person, but for your home.

Several companies have tried turning wool fibers into insulation, but always in conjunction with plastic, making it a fiberglass alternative, not an all-out eco-friendly product. San Francisco startup Bellwether Materials has figured out how to use wool on its own, though, with just a little boric acid added to enhance the fiber's natural attributes. According to the company, it works just like the pink stuff, without the necessary careful handling and installation.

If you like the sound of wooly insulation over fiberglass alternatives like microbound fungi, you won't have to count too many sheep while the product goes through R&D. According to Fast Company and Bellwether's founder, Priscilla Burgess, the American-milled insulation should be ready for commercial production by January.

You can keep up with Stuff from the Science Lab through the official Facebook and Twitter feeds, or with me by following Stuff You Missed in History Class on Facebook and Twitter.