On the face of it, the current surplus of wool should provide a greater opportunity to make insulation from British sheep’s wool. However, putting this into practice is more complicated than it first looks. In this blog we look at the issue and tackle some of the challenges we face.
Global demand for British wool has fallen sharply this year but supply of British wool has remained constant. This has caused the price of most wools to plummet and the market to grind to a near halt. Naturally, farmers are now looking at new end-uses for their wool. They’re also seeking to stimulate traditional end-uses such as carpets, fabrics, and knitwear.
All wool isn’t the same
Natural crops vary widely in their type, form, and application. Wool is no exception. Wool types range from very fine to very coarse, short to long and light to dark. These properties affect the grade, price of the wool and end-use. It’s just like timber that ranges from softwoods such as pine to fine hardwoods such as walnut. Each has their own properties and uses, some functional and some aesthetic.
Established more than 20 years ago, Thermafleece is a very effective use for coarse dark wool. The sort of wool unsuitable for traditional applications such as fabrics, knitwear, and carpets. Coarse dark wool is suited for wool insulation because it doesn’t need to feel very soft against the skin and it doesn’t need to be dyed. For wool insulation, the dark colour and coarseness aren’t a problem. It’s also the lowest cost of all wools making the final insulation competitive.
Will wool insulation save the day?
Farmers now see insulation as an alternative outlet for their surplus wool. Thanks to the success of Thermafleece and the government’s recent focus on energy efficiency. But is this viable?
Much of the surplus of wool is higher grade than typical coarse dark insulation wool. The higher grade wool is destined for higher value items such as carpets, fabrics, and knitwear. Using higher-grade wool in insulation is like using walnut or rosewood to build your garden fence according to many. Others believe the wool is sitting doing nothing so what better use than insulation.
Higher grade wool at a high-grade wool price can form wool insulation. The insulation is significantly more costly compared to coarse dark wool insulation. What’s more, there are no added benefits using higher grade wool when it comes to insulation. It’s a conundrum. How can you make competitive insulation from higher grade wools and give the farmer a fair price for the wool? In short, you can’t without subsidising the cost of the insulation or the cost of the wool.
Luckily, the Green Homes Grant Scheme launched will substantially subsidise the cost of having sheep’s wool insulation installed in your home. But why would you use wool insulation made from higher grade wool when coarse dark wool insulation does the same job at a lower cost? Our conundrum resurfaces. How do we make competitive insulation from higher grade wool and give the farmer a fair price for the wool?
More importantly, we should promote the benefits of British wool as a fantastic high-quality raw material worthy of many high value end-uses. Insulation is a great end-use for coarse dark wool and other low grades of which there is plenty. But we should focus on higher value-added end-uses for higher quality wool rather than insulation. British wool is one of the best materials in the world. It produces high quality durable, functional and beautiful products compared to man-made fibres or wools of other origins. And that’s where the wool industry’s efforts need to be.
Want to find out more about British Wool:
Visit our Help and Advice Page for application notes and further information: https://naturalinsulations.co.uk/help-advice/