Green Living in your Home and Life

It’s now easier than ever for homeowners to transform their homes into models of green living thanks to the growing availability of affordable, energy-smart building products and materials. From replacing incandescent light bulbs to reviewing the energy rating on new appliances, more homeowners are making informed decisions on how to cut energy consumption and boost efficiency.

Homeowners who are serious about boosting their home’s energy efficiency should consider working with a certified building inspector who does not target one product but evaluates the individual home to assess the best path forward for you to save energy. These professionals conduct a series of tests to assess a home’s energy efficiency to provide an overall efficiency rating in much the same way that appliances are rated. Armed with this information, homeowners can make home improvement decisions that further boost their home’s energy efficiency.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for about 56 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home. While using lighting sensors and smart thermostats, which can help correct daily energy use, homeowners should consider how reducing the air infiltration into their home.   The balance comes when evaluating energy efficiency and air quality.  A indoor air quality professional looks at what makes sense in your home to ensure that sealing your home too tight does not promote bad air quality.

Understanding the factors that contribute to air leakage is essential for improving efficiency and lowering monthly bills. One of the key areas to consider is the home’s insulation.  There are many types of insulation to reduce your heat loss.  As a building scientist and air quality expert I would not recommend spray foam, closed or open cell, in any situation.   


Dangerous toxic ingredients

Unacceptable fire hazard

Is it really too much to ask that our thermal insulation not be a fire accelerant? After all, thermal insulation can (and should) continuously and completely envelop the buildings we occupy. Foam feeds fires. Foam fails.

According to Doug Stewart of Federated Insurance of Canada, the insurance industry refers to foam insulation as “solid gasoline”.

Foam not only feeds fires, but when spray foam is improperly installed it can actually start the fire. As reported by Martin Holladay in 2011 on GreenBuildingAdvisor, the results can be devastating:

“The Massachusetts Division of Fire Safety (DFS) is investigating the causes of three house fires that were ignited while insulation contractors were installing spray polyurethane foam.

According to Tim Rodrique, the director of the DFS, investigators suspect that the fires were caused by the exothermic reaction that results from the mixing of the two chemicals used to make spray foam.”

What other possible insulation materials might we use?

 Mineral wool? Non-combustible.

 Cellular glass? Non-combustible.

 Wood fiber? Fire retarding.

 Cellulose? Fire retarding.


Degrading thermal insulation values                                                                  Polyisocyanurate (polyiso), XPS and spray closed-cell foams substantially degrade over time as the insulating blowing agent gases diffuse out and plain air diffuses in. How much does it degrade and at what rate? To answer, industry has come up with something called Long Term Thermal Resistance (LTTR) testing. LTTR testing takes into account degradation by providing R-values measured on a time weighted average over the “long term”.

What do you suppose is meant by long term? 100 years? 75 years? 50 years? 25 years? No. According to industry “long term” is 15 years. 

So as opposed to foam where you don’t know what you’ll have 25 years from now, look at dense-pack cellulose and fiberglass, mineral wool, wood fiberboard, cork and cellular glass – insulations that will, when properly installed, maintain their R-value indefinitely; and in their reliability, provide true high performance.  Spray foam is not a product that has proven it’s reliability over time….and with all the improper application (2 day training) and potential health hazard within your home ….this is a chemical process not a roll of fiberglass.

If you need more reasons………

Counterproductive vapor retarder/barrier                                                                 Terribly hydrophobic                                                                                                      Excessive shrinkage                                                                                                       Inflexible and prone to cracking                                                                                 Difficult to identify and repair air leaks                                                                         Weak and unpredictable air control                                                                          Hypersensitive on-site manufacturing                                                             Irredeemable global warming potential                                                                     Intolerant of adverse job site conditions                                                                           Unhealthy off-gassing

 If you have any questions about spray foam and other insulation options please call  TP Environmental 207-991-0171…..We are building scientist and air quality experts.