Note: post has been updated as of 2/15/2010 due to conversation with Keene Christopher, CEO of AirKrete.
The other day as I was sitting around of table of women at a Super Bowl Party, one of the women commented on how cold this particular winter has been Quickly the conversation turned to how cold their own houses were and the cost of their utility bills. Some were wearing bulky clothing and keeping their homes quite chilly to keep their bills in check. So, I wondered, have you seen your own energy bill soar in the last couple of years?
As many of my loyal Green Talk readers know, I have written extensively about how to button up those air leaks in your house especially in your attic. But sometimes, simply caulking is not enough when you don’t have adequate insulation in your attic, crawlspace or walls.
I am fascinated about different types of insulation, and have been particularly interested about AirKrete, for sometime. This product has been around for over 25 years.
During a recent green exhibition, I interviewed New Jersey AirKrete installer, Fabio Alberti of Alberti Insulation, about the attributes of the product. I urge you to listen to the above short podcast. It is really quite informative.
What is AirKrete? According to Alberti, it is a cementitious foam insulation comprised of
Portland cement high quality magnesium oxide (MgO) cement, ceramic talc, water, and a foaming agent. The Company states that the product is fire proof and mold resistant, and free of formaldehyde, CFCs, asbestos, and all other carcinogenic fibers. It does not off-gas.
In addition, it has an R factor of 3.9 per inch and completely fills all the nooks and crannies within a wall cavity. It does not expand within the cavity like foam, so there is no worry that it will blow out the wall. (See the Material Data Safety Sheet here as well as independent tests and approvals authenticating the Company’s claims.)
According to Alberti, the main difference between ordinary foam and Airkrete is that AirKrete is 100% fireproof rather than containing a flame retardant ingredient. In the event of a fire, AirKrete foam will not burn or create smoke.
As to cost, Kristopher stated a board foot (12″ by 12″ by 1″) on average costs the same as 1/2 lb polyurethane foam. New Jersey based Alberti states that a typical AirKrete installation would cost 20% more than the installation of foam, but would be 40-50% more effective than foam (depending on the installation) since it does not shrink from its original installed state. He claims foam, on the other hand, shrinks.
How is the product installed? Watch the above video. The product fills the walls like other foam applications and cures within a few days. It is ideal for new construction and can be added to existing homes. The beauty of the product, according to Alberti, is left over product could easily be disposed of in your garden.
During my conversation with Alberti, I was impressed that AirKrete could be installed through an exterior wall so less damage would be done to the interior walls of your home. He explained it is the only insulation that can be installed from the exterior as well as through brick veneer.
So, is it really fire proof? The above video shows a penny being burned on top of AirKrete. The foam does not burn. The Penny…well, it did not do as well.
The Company does not maintain a list of installers on their website. If you are interested in AirKrete, simply contact the Company through their email address and they will furnish you with the name of a local installer.
A couple of caveats about the product. While I was writing this article, I thought all types of cement are the same. Creating Portland cement is a heavily embodied energy process. According to the Material Resource Institute at Penn State,
“Concrete is, by volume, the most common manmade material in the world, with 2 ½ billion tons poured each year. In the process of making Portland cement, a main component of concrete, one ton of CO2 is released into the atmosphere for each ton of cement produced, accounting for 7 percent of manmade global emissions.” [Source]
However, what makes AirKrete different is that it is made out of Magnesium Oxide not Portland Cement. According to George Swanson, in his article, ” Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Chloride, and Phosphate-based Cements,”
“Depending upon where they are mined, magnesium oxide and magnesium oxide/magnesium chloride cements require only 20%-40% of the energy required to produce Portland cement.”
Swanson’s article is a must read, comprehensive look at the use of Portland Cement versus magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride cement. Most notably, he explained the health benefits of using magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride cement to Portland Cement.
Inevitably, with greener products, you have to pick your poison. Foam insulation, on the other hand, contains polyurethane, a petroleum based product, which environmentalists have argued depletes a dwindling natural resource.
One caveat about the product. Alex Wilson, founder and executive editor of BuildingGreen, LLC in Brattleboro, Vermont, who I admire very much, wrote in his September, 2009 article entitled “Foam-In-Place Insulation,” that there were few trained installers and it may be more expensive to hire one that was far away from your area. In my situation, Alberti covers New Jersey, and he is reasonably close to me. Like Alex stated, installing AirKrete may not be so easy for you in your area. Christopher confirmed this issue but stated more and more installers are coming aboard.
In addition, Wilson states,
“Other than availability, the biggest problem with Air Krete is that the cured foam is fairly fragile; if exposed to frequent vibration, such as along a busy highway, the foam can begin to disintegrate, reducing its performance. The manufacturer is working to solve this problem.”
Christopher denied this statement and had no idea where Wilson heard this problem.
Keep Alex’s point in mind if your home is exposed to frequent vibrations. Contact the Company to see if they have resolved this situation.
Readers, has anyone used AirKrete ?
Have you found this winter to be worse than prior years? Or are we just getting older and starting to feel the cold?
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