How to insulate a Shipping Container

How to insulate a Shipping Container

Modified shipping containers are used for multiple applications and in many regions across the United States—all the way from the heat of a Texas summer to the frigid cold of a Minnesota winter. You may be wondering how to insulate a shipping container to stay calm and warm in these climates.

The solution is simple. Here, at USP Container Shipping you’ll gain insights into four environmentally friendly insulation options to learn how to insulate a shipping container to create a comfortable, climate-controlled structure for all seasons.

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Why Insulate Shipping Containers?

There are many benefits of insulating a modified shipping container. The U.S. But you can drastically improve the energy efficiency of nearly any structure with proper insulation. With the right type and thickness of insulation, you can significantly reduce the amount of time your AC and heating systems in a shipping container have to run, minimizing power consumption – and your utility bill.

While sturdy and durable, a shipping container’s steel walls can get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. That means you’ll definitely need insulation if you intend to use the container as a living or working space, or if you plan to store temperature-sensitive assets such as electronics or perishable goods.

The amount and type of insulation your shipping container requires depends on the climate of your job site and the shipping container’s function. As noted, there are three basic options for creating optimum energy efficiency: Styrofoam, rolled batt, and spray foam insulation.

Each type of insulation has an R-value that indicates its efficacy as an insulator (the higher the R-value the greater the insulation). R-values are also additive: the same way that a Thermos with thicker walls does a better job keeping beverages hot or cold, thicker layers of insulation will have higher R-values, making them more eco-friendly.

Insulation Options for Shipping Containers
Ideal Use Examples R-Value Installation Process Key Benefits
Styrofoam Non-heat producing assets Records storage, Animal feed storage 4 (one-inch thickness) Fast and easy; Requires no framing Highly cost-effective
Batt Living & workspace Mobile container office, Locker room 13 (3.5-in thickness); 19 (6-inch) Fast and easy; Requires framing Cost-effective; High R-value
Spray foam Enclosures for heat-producing equipment Server rooms, Water treatment equipment enclosures 6 (1-inch thickness); 12 (2-inch); 18 (3-inch) Calls for specialty equipment; Requires no framing Water-resistant; Hard finish; High R-value
Mineral wool
Living & workspace Applications that require non-flammable materials Workspaces, living spaces, and storage Living & workspace 13 on a wall, 26 on the ceiling (3.7 – 4.2 per inch) Similar to batt but slightly more cumbersome; Requires framing Non-flammable; water resistant; high R-value


Types of Insulation for Shipping Container Structures

Styrofoam: Ideal for Basic Storage Containers


Fast and easy to install, polystyrene (commonly known by one brand name, Styrofoam) is a cost-effective way to add basic insulation to a storage container and has the added benefit of helping deaden sound. Using Styrofoam as the insulating material doesn’t require any build-out of stud walls to secure the panels (as batt insulation does).

Of the three types of insulation, it has the lowest R-value at 4, so it is most suitable for storage. Standard climate-controlled storage containers come with one inch of Styrofoam insulation which has a 50-year lifespan.

Batt Insulation: Ideal for Container Offices and Living Spaces


Made of finely woven strands of fiberglass, mineral wool, or plastic fibers, batt insulation—the pink cotton-candy-like material you’ve likely seen in attics and crawl spaces—is the industry standard for residential and office structures. Customers usually opt to use batt insulation for container offices and living spaces.

Once the shipping container’s interior wood framing is in place, batt insulation is easy to install and conceal behind a vapor barrier and plywood finish-out. While the insulation itself is very cost-effective, the framing and plywood can add extra costs. However, its superior performance will significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, bringing greater value over time.

Spray Foam: Ideal for Temperature-Sensitive Equipment Enclosures


While not aesthetically pleasing, spray foam requires no framing because it adheres to the shipping container walls. It has a high R-value (R = 6 per inch of thickness) and a long lifespan of 80 years.

The nature of spray foam insulation includes other benefits, too:

  • Acts as a sound barrier
  • Won’t settle over time the way Batt can
  • Resists mold, fungus, and bacteria

Clearly, spray foam has many benefits, but the specialty equipment required for installation also makes it the most expensive option. Spray foam is ideal for enclosures that house highly temperature-sensitive assets, like paper documents, certain types of equipment, and computer network servers.

Mineral Wool: Ideal for Applications That Require Non-Flammable Materials


The installation of mineral wool requires framing, like rolled batt, but steel framing helps with entirely non-flammable projects. An R-value of 13 on the walls and 26 on the ceiling helps deaden sound and provides thermal insulation while repelling water.


We hope this overview of how to insulate a shipping container is useful. To view additional modification options, check out our If you have questions about shipping container maintenance or if you would like to discuss a new cost-effective application, +1 (775) 301-5149  or email us at E-MAIL: SUPPORT@USPCONTAINERSHIPPING.COM We’re happy to discuss your project in greater at USP Container One of our Falcon sales representatives will be happy to help.





Question: What is the cheapest way to insulate a shipping container?

Answer: When using polystyrene as the insulation, no stud walls need to be built out to attach the panels (unlike when using batt insulation). The panels are installed on bars flush with the walls or directly attached to the shipping container’s walls, making this the most cost-effective insulation technique.



Question: What can I use to insulate a shipping container?

Answer: The most popular forms of insulation for insulating your container house during the winter are spray foam, cotton, cork, and wool. Install windows with double glazing. Double-glazed windows can assist keep heat inside your shipping container house since they are energy efficient. Lock the doors to empty rooms.



Question: Do you insulate shipping containers inside or outside?

Answer: The most common solution is inside insulation since it is protected by steel outside walls. Interior insulation’s biggest drawback is that it will reduce your available living, storage, or workspace. Outside insulation might be the solution if this is a concern.


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