Which Form of Insulation is Most Effective?

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Updated on Dec 17, 2012


To test the effectiveness of various forms of insulation and to determine which would effectively retain the most heat and serve as the best insulator for warming the human body.

Materials Needed

  • equal portions of wool, flannel, human hair (can be obtained from a barbershop), thermal insulation, cotton, and chicken feathers (enough to pad both sides of the interior of a plastic bag 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick)
  • 7 large plastic resealable bags
  • masking tape
  • 7 pints (3.5 liters) tap water
  • 7 1-pint (0.5-liter) canning jars with lids
  • oven thermometer
  • 7 total immersion lab thermometers
  • refrigerator


Seven water-filled jars will serve as models of the human body. The plastic bags filled with insulating materials will represent the insulated clothing being tested.


  1. Insert one type of insulating material into each plastic bag. Fasten the insulating materials to the insides of the bags with masking tape to equal 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick all around. Leave the seventh bag empty to serve as a control.
  2. Boil the water and fill each of the seven jars with equal amounts.
  3. Immediately take the temperature of each jar with the oven thermometer and record your data. when the temperature reaches 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37

    degrees Celsius) in each jar, drop a total immersion lab thermometer into each jar, and cap it tightly and quickly.

  4. Put each jar into a different insulator pouch (including the empty pouch) and place in the refrigerator.
  5. Keep the jars in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Take the temperature readings of each jar every 15 minutes and cap quickly after each reading. (Some total immersion lab thermometers have to have their mercury columns shaken down for each new reading.) At the end of the 2 hours, compare readings and note how rapidly they changed over time relative to one another.


  1. Was the jar in the control bag colder than the insulated jars?
  2. Which insulating material was most effective?
  3. Which insulating material was the easiest to work with and would be the experiment? most practical in winter clothing? What other insulators could be used in this experiment