Why Build With Foam?
FOAM INSULATION: IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO
We have created many strong believers in foam insulation throughout our years in business. Building and homeowners throughout the east are reaping the benefits of being built with foam. Most builders that we work with today tell us that they continue to use foam because they have seen it makes a difference. They know the value that it adds to a home, and the comfort it will provide for years to come.
There are, however, still the non believers; the misinformed, the fearful, and the cautionary. These are the builders who are uncertain or who haven’t used foam because they just don’t know enough about it. This area was designed for those builders to gain the knowledge they need to start offering clients spray foam insulation as an option.
GETTING OVER THE STICKER SHOCK
A frequent obstacle to overcome is the sticker shock! The primary reason why many builders baulk at foam is the difference in price from conventional fiberglass. “My client has budget issues and they will never go for that,” is a statement we often hear. While the initial investment for foam is higher than fiberglass, the cost savings over time and the additional benefits make it a worthwhile investment. The following is an example of how your customers will save money with foam.
Let’s assume you are building a house that the owners will be carrying a $300,000 mortgage on. Let’s also assume that to insulate with fiberglass is going to cost $6,000, and to insulate with foam will cost $15,000. In the example these costs have been added to the mortgage to show the monthly difference in payments. Even at a $9,000 initial cost difference, this is how your owners will be saving from day 1!
Fiberglass Insulated Home Foam Insulated Home
Mortgage = $306,000 Mortgage = $315,000
Mthly Pmt on 30 year loan @ 6% : $1,834.62 Monthly Pmt on 30 year loan at 6% : $1,888.58
Avgas. Heat/Cool Cost/mth: $300 Avgas. Heat/Cool Cost/mth: $180(40savings)
Total Mortgage+ Heat/Cool: $2,134.62 Total Mortgage + Heat/Cool: $2,068.68
$2134.62 - $2068.68 = A Savings of 65.94 every month!
In this example we are assuming a 40% energy reduction by using foam over fiberglass. In studies performed by Closed Cell Structures on our own homes, and in reference to third party data, the 40% savings is a very conservative estimation, and can be even greater in the New England climate zone. There are also several other savings associated with the use of foam. For one, you are able to resize heating and cooling units to smaller and less costly systems. It is also safe to assume you will get a longer life out of your heating and cooling systems, as they will not be running as hard. Secondly, foam never sags or settles, so it’s performance is good for the life of the home. Fiberglass on the other hand will diminish in it’s effectiveness over time due to dirt, air infiltration and sagging. Lastly, these numbers are based on energy costs today. As energy costs rise in the future, savings will increase exponentially!
It is realistic to assume that savings in one’s lifetime could amount to Several Tens of Thousands of Dollars, not to mention, the comfort level, and lack of drafts, will be second to no other insulation material on the market.
With this in mind, why wouldn’t you offer FOAM as an option?
OTHER BENEFITS OF FOAM
BETTER INDOOR AIR QUALITY
Less air infiltration means less dust, pollen, mold spores, moisture, unwanted outdoor odors, and insects or rodents. The shear density of the product makes it a deterrent to insects and unwanted animals. Many homeowners want to know how to take care of these issues and would be interested in these additional benefits. Have you ever opened a wall up for demolition and found a nest for birds, squirrels, rats, mice, wasps? Closed cell foam will close the gaps to prevent animal and insect infestation.
A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO R-VALUES
Most people know that R-value is a measurement of heat transfer. It is important to understand however, that the ASTM test created to determine R-value was designed as a method to measure fiberglass, rock wool, and cellulous; not foam, glass or even cork. The tests are done today in a laboratory and do not factor in moisture, air movement or wind. Tests show that just 8 MPH of air movement, or wind, reduces the R-value of fiberglass insulation by 30%. Many people don’t know that the R rating of fiberglass will actually diminish significantly on a windy day, or that over time fiberglass insulation can sag, settle, get dirty, get wet, host mold, and create large gaps in the insulation in your walls. On the other hand, closed cell foam insulation is not affected by wind, and it will never sag to leave gaps.
It is also interesting to note that studies by Oak Ridge National Laboratory have shown that even the most perfectly installed batts “lose 11% of their labeled R value, and that “commonly installed fiberglass batts lose 28% of their labeled R-value just from installing them in a wall.
The earth’s climate is the real world laboratory. If you are building in an area that has air movement, wind, rain, sleet, snow or heat extremes, your clients should know that the effectiveness of their fiberglass batting (in exterior walls) will greatly decrease, and can be rendered virtually useless. These are things clients should know in order to make an informed decision on how to insulate their home.
For a great article explaining the R Value principle, please click here.
R-Values for most commonly used insulation products today:
Closed cell foam has the highest R-value per inch of any residential insulation product today.
BUILDING WITH STRENGTH AND CONFIDENCE
Why wouldn’t you use closed cell foam to insulate if you were certain it would strengthen your project by as much as 50%????
A strong well built home has some distinctive characteristics that you notice as soon as you enter it. You can see and feel the difference. Have you ever been in a weak design-build project? You can listen and hear everything. The walls are thin and the floors actually feel like they are flexing. You hear and feel every sound and wind that blows. The monolithic seal that closed cell foam gives you, at 45 PSI tensile strength per square inch, deadens noise and literally makes the building stronger.
Some builders today are going back to the boldness of strength in craftsmanship and they are doing it with closed cell foam.
BUILDER COMMON BELIEFS AND MYTHS
"If I use foam I won't be able to add any electrical fixtures later."
The only walls impacted by the foam are exterior 2X4 walls. With building and energy codes as stringent as they are today (R-19 required in exterior walls), closed cell foam is the only product able to meet code requirements in a 2X4 framing. Most homes in our region are designed and built with 2X6 framing. At 3 inches of closed cell foam (R-21), there will still be a gap to snake wires between insulation and drywall. There is still plenty of room for add-ins later, but even with completely filled stud bays, there are options for ad-ins in the future.
"It is a fire hazard, it burns like crazy."
On the contrary. Closed cell foam has a Class 1 fire rating, and meets all code requirements. Independent labs have tested the 2 lb. closed cell product, and although there is some confusion with it all, the fact remains in order for matter to burn there needs to be a fuel source. Two pound closed cell foam will char, blacken, and smoke but will most often self extinguish because there is a lack of air. To meet most code requirements closed cell foam like many other insulation material requires a 15 minute thermal barrier. Half inch Gypsum wallboard is an acceptable covering. In accessible attic areas and crawl spaces sprayed with foam that are not covered with wallboard or an acceptable equal product should be covered with an approved ignition barrier.
"I need to vent, I can’t build without vents."
Because closed cell foam is a moisture barrier as well as an air barrier it changes the dynamics of conventional venting principles within the building envelope. Conventional building principles tell us to use roof, proper, and offsite vents. However, this was a design model that relied on heavy air movement to remove moisture, and was in place for years with the use of fiberglass and other insulating materials. With closed cell foam, we eliminate the need for these vents. An attic in the summer can reach heat levels above 150F. When we are blowing cool conditioned air into this environment via AC ducts, or at night when the area cools, condensation occurs and moisture problems arise. Venting was designed to allow this moisture to escape. The problem here is that the primary source of heat loss in a home is air leakage. Venting is nothing more than intentionally designed air leakage. It allows heat to move unhindered out of your house When we spray the rafters of a house with foam, we are conditioning that space beyond the AC ducts. An attic no longer has the large temperature swings, and it eliminates the need to remove moisture, as it is never produced.
By doing this, we have also made heating and cooling systems far more efficient. You are no longer trying to send 60 degree air through a 130 degree space in the summer, or 70 degree air in a 30 degree space in the winter. The attic will remain close to the same temperature as the rest of the house.
Air turns in a home built with foam are reduced. You do still get air generation and infiltration with a home sealed in foam, but not as often. Today the chant is to “build it tight, seal it right”. In other words, the tighter the better when it comes to energy conservation. It is far better to change the air in your home mechanically with HVAC systems and windows than with uncontrollable unwanted air infiltration. It is estimated that 40% of a homes heating or cooling loss is from unwanted and uninvited air infiltration.