Energy conservation is an increasingly important issue for the residential sector. Therefore, attention towards the thermal performance of building materials, particularly thermal insulation systems for buildings, has grown in recent years. In this study, a literature review on determining the optimum thickness of the thermal insulation material in a building envelope and its effect on energy consumption was carried out. The results, the optimization procedures and the economic analysis methods used in the studies were presented comparatively. Additionally, a practical application on optimizing the insulation thickness was performed, and the effective parameters on the optimum value were investigated. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.