Aerogel insulating panels (AIPs) exhibit extensive prospects for application in aerospace, industry and buildings as excellent energy-saving thermal insulators owing to their ultra-low thermal conductivity. This work aims to numerically and experimentally investigate the thermal performance of AIPs in building energy efficiency. The AIPs were prepared and used as an insulation layer in an insulating cell. Three insulating cells with three different insulating materials as the insulation layer were prepared to measure and comparatively analyse their thermal performances. A resistance-capacitance thermal network model to predict the thermal performance of the insulating cells was developed and validated with the experimental data. The thermal indices of cells, i.e. the time lag, decrement factor and daily heat loss, were explored under periodic disturbances of exterior air temperature. Furthermore, the thermal performance of AIPs for exterior walls was predicted by adopting the typical wall structure in the hot summer and warm winter zone of China. The results showed that the AIP wall has decreases of ∼20% and ∼40% in the fluctuation amplitude of the internal temperature and heat flow, respectively, compared with the traditional insulating walls.