Insulating Yourself Is More Efficient Than Insulating Your Home

It's not that high-efficiency, well-insulated dwellings aren't vital to both saving money and being kind to the Earth. But if you're trying to stay warm, layering up with long underwear — specifically the newer, synthetic kind — is mathematically more efficient than messing with the heat or walls.

Low-Tech Magazine offers a fantastically geeky read on the thermal efficiency of personal insulation versus household heat. You'll learn about "clo units", the measure of insulation needed to keep a resting person comfortable at 21C. You'll also see that wearing a form-fitting layer of long undies can keep you much warmer, due to the heat generated by thin air layers, movement and other thermodynamics best explained by the author:

According to the US Air Force Survival Book, one layer of long underwear (long pants + long-sleeved t-shirt) equals a clo-value of 0.6, while two layers of long underwear add a clo-value of 1.5. In other words, the clo-value more than doubles by using only two layers. Combine this outfit with a typical business suit (or a similar, more comfortable clothing ensemble), and thermal insulation rises to 2.5 clo, enough to keep a couch potato indefinitely comfortable at a temperature of only 12.7° Celcius (55°F) - far below the common indoor temperatures of today. This clothing ensemble could yield a reduction in energy use for space heating of up to 80 percent.

Old-school, natural-ingredient long underwear is also pretty handy, the article points out, but the newer, UnderArmor-style synthetics seem to do a better job at trapping heat. If you've got an under-clothing recommendation, or can't believe the numbers you're seeing, let's hear about it in the comments.

Low-Tech Magazine: Insulation: first the body, then the home [via TreeHugger]

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Comments

    Fantastic. I haven't used a heater in three winters now, going for a fourth. I might add some thermal layers to my shopping list for those really cold days!

    I would say Merino is much more efficient than the synthetic stuff. I dont have evidence except from experience wearing both in cold conditions and Merino breathes better and doesnt stink up!

    I go old school & wear a woolen dressing gown on top of my clothes when at home.

    Synthetic Thermals make you sweaty...
    I love my Merino Wool "Icebreaker" shirts in Winter...

    I noticed they glossed over the fact that insulating also cools the house, which no matter how many layers you take off, you can't do on a personal level...

      Yep. Keeping warm isn't exactly difficult, up here in Queensland.

    I thought Icebreaker was a good brand for years, but lately there product is not good at all. The finish of the product isn't what it used to be and they start smelling really quickly.

    Proof,
    I have a t-shirt from 8 years go from them, works wonders. Doesn't stick at all.
    One I bought 1 year ago, 'super-fine', sticks and lost it's shape.

    For underwear leggings, I swear by synthetic, they fit better. Falke is selling now in Australia too. There undies are nice too.

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