Spray Foam Insulation: All-Star Performer
Spray foam insulation is a hot buzz word in the energy business right now. As home energy experts, Dr. Energy Saver uses foam insulation, as well as blow in, batt, rigid board and other types of insulation. We help you choose which type makes the most sense for R-value and price depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
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The Insulation "Team" - Fiberglass Batt, Cellulose, Spray Foam
A Dr Energy Saver technician installs spray foam insulation
- rapidly becoming the most popular ingredient in just
about any home energy upgrade.
The insulation "team" that's supposed to make our homes comfortable and energy efficient is truly a motley crew. In the old days, sawdust was sometimes dumped inside walls to slow heat loss. Then came vermiculite - porous lightweight pebbles with the look and feel of kitty litter. Today we still rely on an old-timer, Fiberglass Batt, made from spun glass fibers. Then there's Mr. Cellulose, who will forever be the greenest team member thanks to his recycled newspaper origins. Batt and Cellulose are still in today's insulation lineup - these R-guys are reliable performers in certain applications.
But if you're looking for a star player on the insulation team, a standout with qualities that the other guys can't touch, it's got to be Spray Foam. More specifically, we're talking about closed-cell polyurethane spray foam.
Applied from pressurized cans (1-part foam) or from paired containers that hold resin and catalyst compounds (2-part foam), spray foam is rapidly becoming the most popular ingredient in just about any home energy upgrade. Here's why:
Poly spray foam has a higher R-value per inch that any other commonly used insulation - R-6.2 or higher, depending on the formulation.
Spray foam air-seals and insulates in one step. Its ability to expand and fill gaps and cracks make it an ideal air-sealing material, and it stays in place because of its super-adhesive qualities. Spray foam is often spot-applied as an air-sealing treatment prior to filling an attic with blow-in insulation. But when applied in more generous amounts, it can eliminate the need for other types of insulation.
Moisture will soak its way through fiberglass and cellulose insulation, but polyurethane spray foam stops it cold. Its closed cell structure means that water can't migrate from one tiny cell or bubble to a neighboring one.
Did you know that a void (missing insulation) of just 5% of an insulated area can diminish insulation performance by as much as 50%? It's very difficult to install fiberglass insulation perfectly, so voids are not uncommon. But spray foam's expanding, supersticky characteristics just about eliminate the possibility of voids. And once the foam cures, it's not going to settle or shift like fiberglass or cellulose can.
Limitations of Spray Foam Insulation
OK, there has to be some downside here, right? Yes, it's true. So here are a few things you need to know about the limitations of spray foam insulation:
- Expensive. Well, you expect to pay an all-star salary for all-star performance. When spray foam is used as a complete insulation treatment and not just for air-sealing, it can cost two to three times as much as installing comparable levels of fiberglass or cellulose insulation.
- Tricky. There are different formulations of spray foam that expand at different rates. Applying high-expanding foam around a window or door jamb can bow the frame and make the door or window inoperable. It takes experience to get the feel of applying spray foam. An inexperienced user is going to have more overspray that requires cleanup and more wasted foam.
- Temperature sensitive. Cold temperatures affect the chemistry that causes the foaming action. It's critical to keep spray foam cans or (with two-part foam) canisters within a specific temperature range for successful application.
With a comprehensive Home Energy Audit, Dr. Energy Saver can help you decide which insulation type is right for you, whether or not you require more insulation, and if adding insulation will actually help you save money on your electric and fuel bills.
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