Foam insulation is a type of building insulation which is applied in the form of spray. Hence it is popularly known as Spray foam insulation. “Spray foam insulation is a two-part liquid containing a polymer (such as polyurethane or modified urethane) and a foaming agent.”1
To form this type of insulation, fibers like cellulose and fiberglass are generally blended with an adhesive or foam. The mixture thus formed would be resistant to solidification and remains in liquid form. This liquid can then be easily applied via a nozzle spray into the walls, ceilings and floors of the buildings. Upon application, spray foam insulation materials usually spreads out and seals every crack and corner in the building.
In most of the cases, spray foam insulation is applied by skilled insulation installers by means of special equipments dedicated for the purpose. These installation equipments are capable enough to execute the functions of measuring, mixing and applying the insulation into target places. The installation procedure can be performed by unskilled personnel too with the help of do-it-yourself spray foam insulation kits available in the market but it would require a little more care.
Types of Foam Insulation
Two commonly used forms of foam insulation are mentioned below:
“In general, open-celled foam allows water vapor to move through the material more easily than closed-cell foam. However, open-celled foams usually have a lower R-value for a given thickness compared to closed-cell foams. So, some of the closed-cell foams are able to provide a greater R-value where space is limited.”2
Foam Insulation Materials
Common materials used for applying spray foam insulation are listed below:
- Polystyrene, for example, Styrene, EPS etc.
EPS is extruded and expanded polystyrene which utilizes recycled plastic resin. Amongst all the foam insulation materials, polystyrene is the best one since it can be simply melted down and recycled into new stuff. One of the easiest ways to recycle an old EPS is to break it down into little pieces and then melt and mold them again into suitable shapes. Styrene is another type of polystyrene insulation. The use of this material can result in various kinds of discomfort like
- Problems related to eyes, nose, and respiratory system
- Pain and weakness
- Lightheadedness and disorder
- Liver damages and reproductive effects
Earlier, it was a usual practice to blow polystyrene with chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs which are detrimental to the earth’s protective ozone layer. Later, extruded polystyrene (XPS) were introduced which made use of hydrochloro-fluorocarbons (HCFCs) instead of CFCs. Although these HCFCs are less hazardous than CFCs but still their use is not safe for ozone layer. However, some other foam insulations have been manufactured which do not employ either CFCs or HCFCs. They are:
- Icynene: It is a soft foaming agent composed of carbon dioxide and water. Although this type of foam insulation doesn’t present any environment related problem (like polyurethanes) yet one has to put up with its poorer insulation rating capabilities i.e. R-value.
- Air Krete: It is inorganic in nature and prepared from magnesium oxide which is mainly taken out from sea water. A microscopic cell generator is employed along with an air compressor for foaming it under pressure.
Spray foam insulation is widely employed in following applications:
- For retrofitting applications
- For insulation of parts having uneven and irregular shapes
- For areas involving obstructions and cracks
Following are the major limitations linked with the use of foam insulation:
- As compared to fiberglass insulation, use of spray foam insulation proves to be around twenty percent costlier.
- The application of spray foam insulation is not a very clean and orderly process since the foam can be sprayed accidentally in the unintended places.
- Excessive use of foam insulation can result in collapsing of wall due to expansion of foam.
Key benefits offered by foam insulation methods are given below:
- Unlike long pieces of fiberglass, foam insulation can be easily applied in the form of spray. Hence, the spray foam insulation can reach each and every corner of the house resulting in high quality insulation.
- By applying spray foam insulation in a building or house, one can expect a cutback in utility bills since this method of insulation provides an air barrier too. This air barrier allows no escape of heat in winter and hence keeps the house warmer. Similarly, it keeps the house conditions cooler in summer season.
- Since spray foam insulation can get into all the little gaps and cracks in the building, there is no chance for pests and bugs attacks into the home. This results in reduction on annihilation bills.
- Another advantage is their ability to stick to the walls and floors which results in greater resale value for homes. Besides, spray foam insulation can provide protection from beneath.
- Application of spray foam insulation doesn’t cause any adverse effects on environment since foam insulation materials do not contain any hazardous air floating particles like fiberglass insulation.
- Spray foam insulation methods are extremely durable and long lasting.
- Unlike fiberglass insulation, no itching or burning effect is experienced while touching foam insulation materials.