While the spray polyurethane foam (SPF) industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the course of just a few years, most people think about SPF as an insulation used primarily in new home construction, commercial buildings and roofing. Its capability to ward off moisture and keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter has made it the choice insulation type by builders and contractors everywhere.
But SPF has applications far beyond homes and commercial buildings. Spray foam is now being used by a diverse number of industries. Farmers and ranchers have begun to see how SPF can drastically change their operations as well.
And that’s why Profoam, one of the nation’s leading providers of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) products and services, takes agricultural SPF insulation very seriously.
How do farmers and ranchers use SPF?
Spray foam’s most obvious agricultural application extends its traditional use in dwellings to keep barns, farrowing houses, poultry houses and other farm buildings warm in the winter to protect animals from cold weather in northern climates. But it’s not just used for cold weather. Farm buildings, like houses, can get life-threatening hot in the summer as well, and SPF keeps out the blazing hot sun and cuts down or eliminates the need to provide cooling for those same structures in summer.
Profoam uses a closed-cell foam insulation that goes on as a liquid, filling the cracks and crevices prior to expansion, adhering to virtually any clean and dry substrate and creating a fully adhered, seamless insulating system. The result is a product with extraordinary insulating performance that will reduce energy costs substantially.
“SPF can be applied to most types of construction materials to form a completely seamless, air and water-tight membrane,” said Ted Medford, president of Profoam Corporation. “This reduces operating costs by effectively eliminating unwanted air infiltration, since side walls, end walls, and ridge caps are sealed and insulated effectively.”
Since SPF can be used on almost any building, farmers and ranchers saw its potential for use in several types of applications. Here are just a few:
Pole Barns, Sheds, and other Metal Structures
One of the greatest benefits of using SPF in metal structures is to increase a building’s structural integrity. By using SPF, a building’s strength is increased by around 400 percent. Using closed-cell foam on the underneath the metal roof deck is like putting a second roofing system underneath the existing roof, increasing the life of the roof exponentially. The spray foam holds the separate portions of the roof in place, preventing movement that often causes the fasteners to loosen and pull apart. The structure becomes resistant to strong winds, heavy snow, and anything else that might cause a roof to fail.
“Essentially, we call it ‘putting the roof to sleep,’” says Medford. “When you put that metal foam underneath there, you’re going to stop that roof from moving, stop those fasteners from moving, and stop leaks from ever happening in the first place. Once you put closed cell spray foam up against the roof in those buildings, they can withstand hurricane-force winds. The individual metal sheets tied together with small, metal fasteners become one seamless, monolithic foam panel that’s extremely strong and durable.”
In addition to adding strength to the structure of the roof and walls of a pole barn or other metal structure, SPF can prevent leaks when a coating is applied to the top. Just as SPF is applied to roofs to successfully prevent leaks and water damage in other commercial buildings and flat-topped roofs, metal buildings also stay watertight by applying SPF to the roof.
Livestock Housing and Barns
Just like people, animals suffer when exposed to extreme heat and cold. Spray foam keeps temperatures within livestock housing moderate and consistent, keeping animals from cooking in the hot summer sun and keeping cold, snow and wind out during winter. Animals are less stressed, healthier and happier. Dairy barns, farrowing houses, and cattle barns kept free from extreme weather conditions allow animals to grow faster as they’re prepared for market. Horse barns and riding stables are more easily kept at moderate temperatures.
- Grain Storage and Silos
It’s not just animals that need a clean, dry environment. Livestock feed is also kept free from moisture and dust when grain storage bins and silos are lined with spray foam. SPF seals up cracks that cause moisture to enter, causing rotting and waste of food and grain. Like pole barns and other buildings, silos and bins gain structural stability when SPF is added, and older buildings can be refurbished instead of replaced, saving significant amounts of both time and cash.
- Food and Produce Storage, Cold Storage, and Freezer Applications
Similar to grain storage, SPF can be used to insulate any structure that is used to store food for human or animal consumption. Potatoes, for example, have a shelf life that can be extended by controlling humidity and temperature that keeps them from rotting. This allows growers to provide potatoes for consumption much longer than when traditional insulation, or no insulation at all, is used. Other food storage facilities have realized this benefit as well. Vegetables and grain all see longer lifespans.
Processing plants, warehouses, and distribution centers in which food needs to stay cold, or even frozen, now practice widespread use of spray foam insulation in their facilities.
“There’s a reason that closed-cell foam is the only product that’s used in every walk-in cooler, every refrigerator, every freezer in the world. You’ll never find open-cell foam, fiberglass, or cellulose in any of those. It’s the greatest thermal insulation by far. Plus, it’s got the benefit of increasing structural strength and low permeability to not let moisture transfer through,” says Medford. It forms a water barrier, sealing the agricultural structure to thwart moisture penetration. It also blocks air movement and has a low water vapor permeability, which controls moisture vapor movement.
“It’s revolutionary,” says Medford. “It’s changed the way farmers can regulate temperature, store food, and keep it fresh longer. It’s really increased the window of availability for food items and other commodities to get into the marketplace.”
Medford has applied SPF to both new structures as well as existing poultry houses that are in need of extensive repair in order to update poultry operations. Traditional poultry houses are built with a non-insulated fabric curtain to let fresh air in, making it difficult to keep the houses warm enough to keep freshly hatched chicks warm enough to survive.
“Imagine trying to heat a building to 110 degrees and you’re heating it with fuel and it’s 15 degrees outside. If you know anything about heating with fuel, hot air always moves from hot to cold, and all that heat you’re putting in is going right out the curtain back into the cold. You’re spending thousands of dollars per week per house to try to keep that house warm,” says Medford.
While some farmers add vinyl-backed insulation to existing structures, a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, Medford said SPF can be applied to an entire poultry house in less than half a day. Plus, fiberglass insulation is susceptible to temperature and moisture whereas SPF is resistant to wind, rain, snow and humidity, becoming rock hard instantly after application.
“The results are staggering,” says Medford. “By taking a static pressure reading before and afterward, you can see how loose the house is before and the impact you’ve made afterward. The air tightness you create in that house is amazing. It means fuel savings for the farmers.”
Typically, a farmer can recoup the cost of the SPF in one flock of birds, maybe two. The payback, Medford says, is very quick.
Liquid Storage Tanks
Liquid storage and containment tanks can be insulated using SPF by spraying it directly on the exterior of any shape of vessel. Since SPF creates an airtight, watertight barrier, spills are virtually eliminated. SPF can help eliminate contamination by using it on waste containment tanks, creating a healthier, safer environment on farms and ranches.
In other agricultural operations, SPF can be used for storing water, oils, and fats, but also in the wine, beer, or other beverage industries. Medford said winemakers in Napa Valley use spray foam for insulating vats of wine. SPF allows for easier regulation of the temperature of wine tanks. External factors, such as temperature and sun, have far less effect on tanks protected with SPF. One California wine maker reported that quality of wine was enhanced since insulation on the tanks enabled them to closely monitor and control the fermentation process, which creates heat, in order to produce a better tasting wine. SPF is also used to insulate and control the temperature and humidity of wine storage rooms in other commercial and residential buildings, such as hotels and restaurants.
Grow Houses and Greenhouses
One agricultural application of SPF that is fast growing is in the insulation of grow houses, specifically in states where the production and distribution of marijuana is now legal. Closed cell SPF is used to regulate temperatures so that the permeability rate is very low and moisture isn’t allowed to enter the building. Using spray foam insulation allows growers to produce heat and moisture-sensitive crops in an environment not typically suited for its cultivation. In very hot and dry climates, like Arizona, proper insulation of a grow house is imperative to the health and quality of the product.
For more information about the agricultural applications of closed cell SPF, contact Ted Medford and the SPF experts at Profoam. With over 30 years in the SPF business, Medford’s industry knowledge is unmatched by any other applicator. He’s also helped hundreds of people get started in the spray foam business. The uses and applications of SPF reach every industry from agriculture to commercial roofing to oil and gas. Wherever your expertise lies, Medford can help you figure out how SPF fits into the picture.
Contact Profoam today by visiting their website or calling 706-557-1400.