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Save Energy with SPF

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Saving on Energy Costs with Spray Foam Insulation

When it comes to residential and commercial building energy costs, heating and cooling the space is number one by a wide margin. In fact, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), the average home spends $1,300 annually on heating and cooling costs. Studies show 40% of that energy is lost due to air leaks and heat loss. It stands to reason anything one can do to make heating and cooling systems more efficient would save money on energy.

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A US Army study findings showed spray foam used on the exterior of a building can reduce energy usage by over 80%.

Spray foam insulation is a proven champion when it comes to keeping energy costs down. This type of insulation—called SPF or simply spray foam—has been used in both residential and commercial building for over thirty years, has a high R-value (just one measure of insulating quality) and more importantly, as we talked about in The “R” in R-value Doesn’t Stand for “Real-World, is an excellent air barrier far superior to some traditional types of insulating in the rugged day-to-day conditions a building can face.

Closed-Cell spray polyurethane foam has been shown to offer improved life-cycle analysis and environmental performance, in addition to superior control of the building enclosure and the indoor environment.” — GREENGUARD, one of the leading green certification groups, in their whitepaper “Green Building Insulation: The Environmental Benefits”

SPF provides superior energy efficiency and helps save money on energy costs because:

  • It has a higher R-value per inch than other insulation options
  • It acts as a thermal break and stops air infiltration
  • During its liquid application it moves and expands to fill every little tiny nook and crack in a space—unlike other types of insulation, which must be pre-cut to the approximate size of a space
  • It’s extremely durable and rarely needs to be replaced, not only lasting for the lifetime of a building but, in some cases, becoming part of the actual structure of the building and adding integrity to the construction

LEED and Other Green Certification Measures

Consumers, business owners, real estate professionals, builders, architects, and governmental overseers—we’re all worried about energy consumption and energy costs these days. When a building is being designed, constructed, or renovated, the materials used to create energy efficiency are top of mind. LEED certification used to be a “nice to have;” more and more it’s simply a “must have.” The American Institute of Architects (AIA) predicted 90% of architects would incorporate sustainable elements into their designs by 2012.

LEED, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a “green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle, recognizing best-in-class building strategies.” The LEED program is a third-party rating system that measures buildings based on a complex algorithm of factors that assign credits for such things as:

  • Sustainability in terms of ecosystems and water resources
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality

Spray foam insulation covers several of these categories—particularly indoor environmental quality—and thus helps qualify a building for LEED credits.

But while LEED credits are certainly a wonderful thing to have in a building’s repertoire, the real benefit of spray foam insulation is a home or building owner will see significant energy cost reduction as a result of using spray foam as a main insulating material.

Energy efficiency is a complex issue that involves nearly every individual system in a building, as well as consideration for the entire building as a whole system. However, engineers and designers versed in energy-efficient construction agree that efficiency begins with building envelope performance.” — GREENGUARD’s “Green Building Insulation: The Environmental Benefits”

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Concrete Evidence Spray Foam Works

In 2012, The Spray Foam Polyurethane Alliance (SPFA) released a pioneering Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) report showing how the energy and environmental benefits of spray foam insulation outweigh any potential impacts over its lifespan. Based on operations data from various major spray foam manufacturers and vetted by a panel of independent third-party experts, the report concluded:

“The energy and environmental benefits from spray foam insulation use in new residential construction and commercial roofing retrofits far outweigh the embodied energy and embodied environmental impacts. [The results] also show the energy and impacts ‘invested’ to make, install, transport, and dispose of the insulation at end of life are minimal compared to the substantial use-phase benefits.”

The LCA report offered quantifiable evidence of spray foam’s energy-saving performance, but for builders and building owners who have been using spray foam as an insulation material for years, the good news was not surprising.

A National Institute of Standards and Technology study shows the inclusion of an air barrier system in non-residential buildings can reduce air leakage by up to 83%, representing a large reduction in energy consumption and operating costs: potential gas savings of greater than 40%, and electrical savings of greater than 25%.

The bottom line is energy costs continue to rise and consumers and business owners are becoming move environmentally aware, either by choice or by imperative. Building and energy codes are constantly changing to reflect our collective concerns over the rising cost (and impact on the environment) of most forms of energy. More than ever, engineered building materials play a huge role in creating more energy efficient buildings and keeping energy costs down. Spray foam insulation is at the top of the list.

No matter how a building is powered—gas, electric, solar, wind, wood, geothermal, or a mix of any of these—saving money means conserving energy. Because of this, energy-efficient building materials like spray foam are in high demand.