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Can You Burn Insulation? (Read This First!)

Getting rid of old insulation is a headache for some. It is hard to decide what will be the smart choice should you burn it or bury it or look for a professional solution. 

Sending it to a waste management facility may cost a few bucks but burning it in the backyard has the immense possibility of creating a fire risk. So here is a proper guide for you to help make the necessary decision.

Can you burn insulation?

Insulation can be burnt, however certain insulation has a considerably high melting point, attaining that high temperature from a typical domestic fire may be impossible. However, burning insulation in the open may not be a smart idea because most insulation releases toxic particles after melting.

Read this section till the end to know what to do with the following insulations –

Fiberglass insulation:

fiberglass insulation is made with fine glass particles strengthened by plastic and other materials. It has a very high melting point, almost 1000°F or 540°C.

Usually, it’s highly recommended not to burn fiberglass, it may release toxic particles in the air and may cause severe damage to the people nearby.

Loft insulation:

There are numerous different types of loft insulation available on the market, including fiberglass insulation, Earth-wool insulation, mineral fiber insulation, and many more. You can determine the effects of burning insulation based on its kind.

Considering mineral fiber and fiberglass insulation have high melting points, it may be hard to burn them in your backyard.

Blown-in insulation:

blown-in insulation is great for reaching tight spaces and it’s quite cheap to install as it takes less effort and less time for installation. You may find cotton, fiberglass, mineral wool blown-in insulation in the market. 

When it comes to burning them, fiberglass and mineral types might not burn that easily but cotton types can be burnt.

Cellulose insulation:

cellulose insulation can easily catch on fire because of the presence of organic materials such as paper, wood, and cotton. Although it is biodegradable, it’s not recommended for households.

Foam insulation:

Foam insulation is treated with chemicals to make it fire resistant but it has a low melting point. You can burn it with less effort.

Is burnt insulation toxic?

Yes, burn insulation releases toxic gas and smoke. Most of the insulators are chemically treated to be fireproof but they can wear off with time. So it might not take that much effort to burn old insulation but you will have to consider the material that insulation is made of. 

It’s better to pay for recycling than burning the insulation in the open. The most common insulation used in households is fiberglass and mineral wool insulation.

Mineral wools might not cause that much harm while burning but fiberglass insulation can create skin irritation and a burning sensation in the lungs, burning fiberglass insulation is sure to bring on more harm than good. 

Cellulose insulation might not be that much harmful as it is made with biodegradable materials but the chemical components might be unpredictable in contact with fire. Boric acid and other borates found in the cellulose insulation are proven to be poisonous to inhale.

What temperature does insulation burn?

To determine the burning temperature of insulation, you will have to consider the material used to make the insulation and the chemical treatment process to make it fire-resistant. 

Insulation made with fiberglass, mineral wool will have generally high resistance to the fire and will take a lot of heat to burn.  

For fiberglass insulation, it will take almost 1000°F or 540°C to burn, and achieving such a high temperature from a normal fire is an impossible task. Mineral wool also has a natural resistance to fire, and it is going to take almost 450°C to 500°C  to burn it.

The foam insulation, a mixture of isocyanate and polyol resin, has a low burning point. It will burn at 700°F or 372°C.

The insulation made with biodegradable organic material such as cotton, paper, wood will have less fire resistance, so chemical treatment is done to increase their fire-resistant capabilities. It is gonna take between 250°C to 300°C to burn cellulose insulation.

How to burn insulation?

This section might help you to learn how to burn your insulation –

Take precautions:

most insulation materials and added fire-resistant chemicals release highly toxic particles that can cause permanent lung damage and irritation in the skin and eyes. 

Wearing proper safety gear is essential, safety goggles and a good quality mask can save you from a lot of trouble while dealing with insulation. 

Pick the burning place wisely: 

burning the insulation near home or in the jungle can lead to devastating fire risks. So avoiding such places and burning insulation in a place where it won’t spread the fire would be a wise decision. 

Using fuel:

it might take more than a spark to light your old insulation in a fire. Adding a little bit of fuel such as petrol or gasoline might come in handy. 

Please don’t overdo it, as petrol and gasoline evaporate in the air pretty quickly, it might create more of a mess than good. So a little bit of fuel just to ignite the fire and then you can keep an eye on the situation.

A fire extinguisher is your best companion:

Remember this line cause you will need it. Pouring water on fire sometimes worsens the situation and there are metals and chemicals which react with water and pack on more heat. 

You should always carry a fire extinguisher while burning anything that has the potential to become a fire risk. 

Don’t mess with fiberglass:

fiberglass and mineral wool both need a high temperature to burn. With a campfire, you may reach 360°C and it won’t be enough to burn that kinda insulation. 

So it’s better to look for community guidelines and ask for a professional recycling agency to take care of it.

How do I get rid of old insulation?

You can do the following to get rid of old insulation –

Asking for professional help:

there are specialized recycling agencies that take care of old insulation. Most insulation is non-degradable, so digging up a hole and burying it won’t be a solution. 

Throwing in the dumpster won’t be a proper solution either so asking a professional to take care of it is the safest and most smart choice. They will make sure it’s recycled or disposed of in a proper way.

Use biodegradable insulation:

Biodegradable insulation is easy to recycle, burn or use as a landfill. You won’t have to pay any extra money to any recycling company to take care of them.

know about the insulation type:

Insulation type is an important factor when it comes to disposing of them. Fiberglass and mineral wool would be hard to burn or burying them in your backyard won’t bring any good to the soil. 

Recycle them:

You don’t always have to get rid of insulation just because they are old. Insulation can last up to 25 to 50 years, so it might not be a smart decision to change insulation pretty often. 

If your insulation is in good shape, you can use it to insulate the dog house. 

Is fiberglass insulation flammable?

No, fiberglass insulation is not flammable. It takes almost 540 degrees celsius to burn fiberglass insulation. Normal household fire can reach up to 340 to 360 degrees Celsius, which is far below the required temperature that can cause fiberglass insulation to burn. 

Even if you can create an atmosphere where the burning temperature is achievable, it would be hard to control such a high temperature. So the safest and wise decision would be to let the proper waste disposal agency take care of this. 

You can cut the fiberglass insulation and put it in a double-layer plastic bag and drop it off in any building waste recycling and disposal office.

Which type of insulation is the most fireproof? 

There are several types of insulations available in the market, most of them are chemically treated to resist fire. Keep in mind that normal fire can reach up to 250°C to 300°C and a campfire can reach up to 340° C, so here is a list with the fire-resistant capability.

  • Fiberglass insulation (Fire resistance up to 540°C)
  • Mineral wool insulation (Fire resistance up to 500°C)  
  • Isocyanate and polyol resin or foam insulation ( Fire resistance up to 372°C)
  • Cellulose insulation ( Fire resistance up to 300°C)

What does burning insulation smell like?

Burning insulation may smell like plastic burning or might have a pinch of metallic burnt. The reason behind the plastic burning smell is most of the insulation is infused or reinforced by plastic. You may have a burnt sugar smell from fiberglass insulation.

Final Thoughts:

Although insulation may be burnt, it is not safe since most insulation emits harmful particles as it melts. Some insulation has a very high melting point, making it impossible to achieve that temperature with a typical household fire. Paying disposal fees may be the most secure way to dispose of it.