Photo courtesy of Icynene.com
Remember, my Top 10 This Next List , where I posted my ten favorite green building products? Number 5 on the list is Icynene®, an open cell spray foam insulation. It basically provides a barrier to prevent drafts, condensation, and outdoor allergens from penetrating the building envelope. From personal experience, this is an amazing product.
Icynene® was installed inside the cavities of our exterior walls including the basement walls. I have a geothermal system and swear that my energy bills are so low because of the combination of the two. I run my house at 76 to 78 during the summer (but at 74 at night on the second floor) and am quite comfortable. In the winter I run the house at 68. My air conditioning never runs in the basement and it never feels humid.It is expensive compared to the other insulations. A couple of years ago, I paid $1.40 for a board foot (northeast prices). A board foot is a 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 inch thick square. For my area, it is recommended that there is 6 inches of depth in each cavity wall. (Each board foot is equal to R 3.6) However, in my opinion this insulation is a superior product to fiberglass or other insulations because of the air barrier.Why open cell versus closed cell? Closed cell is denser and therefore more expensive. However, it has a higher R value than an open celled insulation. We chose open cell insulation because we were told that the closed cell insulation off-gassed chemicals. This may or may not be true at the time we installed our insulation, but I was frightened by the prospect of this being true. In addition, if there was a water leak, I would find it easier with an open cell insulation because water can move through it unlike closed cell. Some people prefer closed cell because of its higher R value and it provides a better air barrier.
Icynene has two different applications depending on whether its use is for new construction or touch-ups. Icynene Insulation System ®, which is used for new construction and major retrofits, has two different formulas: sprayed and pour. “Icynene®’s pour fill variation is an insulation and air barrier that injects the latest building technology into an older building to maximize energy efficiency while still preserving its original architectural details,” according to the makers of Icynene® To view both the spray and pour systems in action, view the videos here. If you have a small project or need a touch up, then Gold Seal 400 ® is the product you would use.
In addition, on their website, there is a chart comparing different insulations to Icynene in certain categories such as damaged by water, R value, and whether or not there are any harmful emissions produced after installation is complete. (Remember, this chart is produced by Icynene, not a third party, so use it as a guide.)
Does it have a downside? Icynene® is a petroleum based product. You may or may not view this as a downside.
There are soy-based foam insulations, but I do not have any experience with these products. When we were looking at the different insulations, soy was getting negative publicity. (I heard it was shrinking inside the walls so the stated R value was diminished.) Was this a marketing effort by the other insulation companies? I don’t know. Does anyone have any experience with the soy-based insulations?
For additional reading about the varying type of insulations, Homepower.com has a nice article. See “Get Energy Smart Insulation Options” written in March 2006.
Regardless of which insulation that you choose, the actual installation is the key. If any insulation is installed improperly, it does not matter what its stated R value is. Obtain recommendations from people who have used your intended installer. In addition, read the literature on the product you are intending on using to familiarize yourself with how it is supposed to be installed. An educated homeowner is a happy homeowner in the long run.
I would love feedback on open versus closed cell insulation, and the product you like best and why.