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2011 - Volume 1 Issue 2
Casas Bonitas
New Home Construction
Article: Bob Skolnick
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Insulation has become a key factor in the battle for energy conservation. Properly applied in combination with a tight envelope for the home, it makes a significant difference in heating and cooling expenses. Various types of insulation are superior to others at resisting temperature change and maintaining their rated value. R-value is the measurement of thermal resistance and defines the effectiveness of insulation.

per inch (approximate)

3.0 - 3.8
Fiberglass – batt
and blanket

3.0 - 4.0
Blown-in hi-density

6.0 - 7.3
Spray polyurethane
  "Insulating interior walls
and the floors of second
story levels contributes to
noise control and effective
temperature zoning."

Robert Baeza,
RC Baeza & Associates
  "Creating airtight homes
with air conditioning supply
and return ducts in the
conditioned area may be the
most important step toward
energy efficiency. Spray
foam insulation in the roof
area contributes to that
end and is standard in
our homes."

Danny Andrus,
Trinity Homes

AirTight Spray Foam
PO Box 220794
El Paso, TX 79913

PolyTech Spray Foam
124 W Castellano St.
El Paso, TX 79912
Fiberglass batts and blankets are by far the most common form of insulation and among the simplest to install. The material must totally cover the intended wall or ceiling cavity to be effective. The thickness of the material affects the R-value and unfortunately, it is compressed for shipment and often further compressed to fit behind wires and outlet boxes, diminishing its ability to resist temperature change. The wider 2 x 6 wood frame walls allow for thicker batts and blankets and provide a lower percentage loss from compression. Properly installed, fiberglass batts and blankets are effective and cost the least of the three options.

An upgrade from batts and blankets is loose fill insulation, which is meant to be stuffed or blown into a covered wall stud cavity. Blow-in insulation is literally blown into the walls and attic through a large hose by a professional insulation contractor. This insulation is made typically from the same fiberglass or cellulose materials as batt and blanket and can include an adhesive to ensure compaction and minimize any settling. Because of its ability to completely fill a wall or ceiling cavity tightly and evenly, blown-in insulation produces a better R-value rated barrier than the batt and blanket type of insulation.

The current top of the line process is spray foam insulation. It is polyurethane foam that is sprayed into the wall cavity or between ceiling beams. It has almost twice the R-value per inch as the more common fiberglass or cellulose materials. As it is applied, it expands into the cracks and crevices, providing a tight seal and an effective moisture and insect barrier. It is a product that is resistant to mold. Typically it is applied in layers and is taken to a depth to fill the standard wall cavity between wood studs, which is generally three and a half inches deep. The deeper the fill and denser the spray, the better the R-value achieved. The spray foam application process is the mixing of two chemicals under pressure with air. The mixing occurs at the spray nozzle and is applied directly into the wall or ceiling cavity to be filled. During application, vapors occur and the spray foam operator wears a respirator. The product congeals instantly but the wall cavity should be left open for several days to allow all of the vapors to dissipate from the house. Spray foam insulation is fully tested and certified safe for use. It is the specified insulation for government and military buildings. The product has been around since 1943 when developed for the military for airplanes and tanks as a very lightweight insulator. Spray foam insulation has been used extensively in commercial building and now is becoming more prominent in residential construction.

Spray foam insulation is more expensive than batt and blanket and blown-in insulation, but its superior R-rating goes a long way toward qualifying your home for an Energy Star rating with resulting tax credits and rebates. Its superior R-value rating will allow your heating and cooling contractor to specify a smaller system, which saves you money initially in the air conditioning and heating equipment cost and more importantly in energy consumption over the months and years you reside in the home.

Another option is rigid foam board insulation, which is made from a number of different materials. These rigid panels are used in new construction where they may be installed as wall or roof sheathing. These panels may have foil facings on one or both sides to reflect heat or cold.

Insulating your walls is essential to develop an efficient thermal envelope or tight house, but you must also keep in mind that the primary source or heat gain or loss in your home is from your roof. It is the top of your environmental home envelope. Two steps are very important in providing an energy efficient roof. The first step is the decision for the type of roof surface you select. Tile roofs are common in West Texas and are typically on a pitched roof with eves and cupolas. Before the tile roofing materials are applied, a heat and reflective barrier such as the rigid foam board insulation needs to be installed. Your builder has several options in materials that have a reflective property.

On flat pueblo style roofs that are common in Southern New Mexico, a white reflective roof with an elastomeric paint or a rubber roof with a reflective barrier are essential. Inside the building envelope the underside of the roof should also be insulated. Insulating the interior of the roof will act as a barrier to keep the radiant heat penetration down in the summer and help to retain your heated air in the winter. You can use one of the four types of insulation identified earlier with spray foam giving the best results. Please keep in mind your air condition and heating ducts typically are placed above the ceiling and below the roof. Keeping this space under temperature control is essential for heating and cooling systems to work efficiently, which translates to saving you energy cost operating expense over time. ///
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