By Jeff Miller
Even though this has been the hottest year on record, leaves are beginning to turn, and we face yet another season of biting cold, snow, sleet, and generally miserable winter weather.
And as is the case almost every winter, there is a renewed interest in finding the best way to insulate your home, business or virtually any facility where protection from the elements is critical.
Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation is rapidly growing as the insulation of choice throughout North America. But how much do you know about this amazing product, and all of the benefits? Below is a list of features and benefits of SPF, and a look at the many uses of this versatile product.
For starters, much of the heat loss (and cold intrusion) in a home can be attributed to attics. They are a huge source of energy loss. In the northern climates (or anywhere you may get snow or ice) a very big and dangerous problem is an ice dam.
Ice dams and resulting icicles occur when accumulated snow on the roof melts, runs down the roof and then refreezes near the edge. The problem arises when part of your roof warms above freezing and becomes warm enough to melt the snow. The edges of the roof, generally not affected by the interior heat rising through the attic, remain below freezing. The resulting ice dame and icicles present a danger if they fall on humans, pets, cars, and more. The key to preventing ice dams is simply to keep your attic and roof cold by eliminating the flow of heat from the attic to the exterior roof. SPF will do just that . . . and more.
“A poorly insulated attic greatly contributes to problem of ice dams,” said Ted Medord of Profoam, a leading provider of SPF products and services. “Spray foam can eliminate this problem when installed in attics. The interior of the home stays warm, while the attic is allowed to adjust to the outside temperature enough to keep the dams and icicles from forming. In addition to eliminating that problem, spraying attics with closed cell foam can also dramatically increase the strength of a home.”
Medford pointed out that the increased strength means a stronger wind resistance for the roof, something that can come in handy not only with extreme winter storms, but in coastal areas where hurricanes can be a yearly event.
Moving from the top of the home to the bottom, spray polyurethane foam insulation can and should also be used in crawl spaces and basements to keep out moisture, rodents, and even bugs. And as it does with roofs, closed cell foam insulation adds strength to the building to help prevent shifting.
But homes aren’t the only structures that can benefit from SPF. Commercial building owners have understood the benefits for years.
One important factor in commercial buildings is how they stack up in being environmentally responsible. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is a worldwide “green” certification initiative that helps building owners and operators be environmentally accountable and use their resources efficiently. Certification is based on a point system.
Spray foam insulation adds LEED points in the energy category in three ways: 1) by providing high-quality insulation; 2) the design flexibility easily accommodates ducts in conditioned space; and 3) the air tightness after SPF application is typically 0.05 – 0.20 NACH (natural air changes per hour). And again, as in previous instances, although not a consideration for LEED certification, using closed-cell foam makes walls three times stronger than traditional insulation.
So now we know what SPF does for residential roofs, but what about commercial roofing?
“Roofing is one of the major areas of use for spray foam on commercial buildings,” Profoam’s Medford said. “It can be used on flat or slow-slope roofing on the exterior and greatly helps prevent leaks. And there are so many other uses as well. It acts as an air barrier by keeping cool air from escaping. That saves money, since air exchange is a main cause of higher energy bills. It also can help to mitigate damage and reduce surface degradation due to the UV rays of the sun.”
There are many other industrial uses for SPF as well. The list is almost endless. Customers are developing new uses for the product almost on a daily basis. Most have had great success. For instance, SPF can be used as a pipeline coating in the oil and gas industry, or virtually any other type of pipe that handles product between minus 200 degrees to plus 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It also works as an erosion control method when building a pipeline,” Medford said. “The rigidity of the spray foam makes it very effective in keeping pipelines in place, replacing the old method of using 50-pound sandbags. Can you imagine the physical toll that placing hundreds of sandbags takes on pipeline workers? SPF is not only faster, but it saves the company money and time, not mention lots of sore backs.”
SPF is also used in cold storage warehouses as a way to keep cold in and heat out. Trucks, tankers and railcars use it for the same reason. And because of the rapid deployment of SPF, some companies have even used it successfully as a means of temporary spill containment.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) companies have taken notice of the advantages of SPF as well. “Contractors who do HVAC work are adding spray foam to their repertoire,” said Medford. “It solves lots of energy loss in homes and businesses. Even the old rules of thumb don’t apply anymore when SPF is used. Homes become so air-tight that where the contractor may have used a 7-ton unit in the past, he can now use a 3-ton unit. That saves the end-user huge sums of money, not only in initial costs, but in their electric bills down the line.”
Even industries you would never imagine are getting into SPF. Restaurants and bars are using spray foam for their walk-in coolers. Even vintners are using it for their tanks when making and storing wines. And in a move that would make Willy Wonka happy, a chocolate factory that needed constant temperature used SPF to insulate their production facilities.
One last interesting fact about SPF: those giant rocks and caves that you see in movies and TV shows like The Smurfs and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, they’re all made with spray polyurethane foam.
So while the rocks may be an illusion, the plethora of money-saving uses for SPF isn’t.
For more information about how you can save energy with SPF, or if you’re interested in learning about business opportunities in the industry, visit Profoam’s website.