New Insulation Technology
Lets Everyone Breathe Easier

Almost overnight, insulation systems have moved from causing IAQ problems to solving them… from stopping simple air leaks to stopping mold, fire, and smoke… from being hard to handle to user friendly. And new electronic aids let energy auditors and installers conclusively demonstrate those advantages to their clients.

Up to a point, all R-18 insulation is pretty much alike. Or is it? That's the practical question that anyone promoting a more sustainable insulation will have to answer. 

At CertainTeed, ‘Sustainable Insulation' isn't just a generic term, it's actually a trademarked name for their formaldehyde free fiberglass batts and rolls. “Sustainable Insulation™ provides an ideal option for the industry to build more responsibly,” says Paul Valle, president of CertainTeed Insulation. “With Sustainable Insulation we're taking the entire life cycle of the product into account to ultimately reduce our impact on the environment.” 

While the product is notable for what it chemicals it doesn't have, Sustainable Insulation can also boast other advantages that green builders will like: the fiber composition is 35 percent recycled glass and the binder is composed of rapidly renewable plant based materials and contains no phenol, formaldehyde, harsh acrylics or dye.

The newly developed binder is at the heart of its sustainability claims. “The advancement comes from using our organic plant based binder which increases our renewable content, reduces our impact on a carbon level, and also allows us to remove formaldehyde from the process,” said Rob Brockman, Senior Marketing Manager for CertainTeed. That technology has been in the works for years. “We have been looking at alternative solutions for decades, and and that includes access to a wealth of technical resources from other St. Gobain companies (which specialize in glass, polymer plastics, technical fibers, and other building materials) when it comes to developing new fiberglass technology,” he added. 

The product is Greenguard Children & Schools Certified and meets Greenguard Indoor Air Quality standards. It complies with environmental regulations throughout the United States, including California. According Brockman, that has helped generate a healthy initial demand for the product. “There's been a strong push for this on the commercial side, thanks to the LEED criteria, and also CHPS, the healthy schools program,” he said. And there may soon be more reasons for green specifiers to like Sustainable Insulation. “The LCA data we've been collecting since launching the product has been very promising,” he said. “We like what we're seeing, and we'll have more environmental information after we collect and process our data.

Sustainable Insulation is also installer friendly. “There are a lot of contractor features in addition to the sustainability features,” said Brockman. ”It's easier to cut, generates less dust, and the no-formaldehyde advantage matters quite a lot to people who are exposed to the material on a day-to-day basis. One of the things that we are really proud of was hearing a contractor tell us that ‘It cuts like butter.' It's something that contractors have really liked about the product. 

Green builders are typically willing to pay more for products that meet regulatory or certification standards. But will mainstream commercial and residential customers opt to spend extra bucks for a sustainable fiberglass insulation than a conventional fiberglass insulation? 

Brockman says they won't have to. “We came out with Sustainable Insulation with competitive pricing to other fiberglass products on the market,” he said. “Given the economy and the state of the housing industry, we did not want to price this product where it wouldn't be competitive.”

The product line was introduced in California in 2010 and is currently shipping as far east as Colorado. Initially supplied in R-15 and R-38 batts and rolls, Sustainable Insulation is now available in HVAC duct wrap, and CertainTeed is also introducing commercial board and duct board product that use the sustainable binder.

Black Mountain Aims to Ram Sheep Wool
Insulation Back into the U.S. Marketplace
Well before there was fiberglass, there was sheep wool insulation, and the product has never become obsolete. If anything, it may remain a better product in terms of building science. Although sheep wool insulation had nearly disappeared in this country, it has remained popular in the U.K, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations.

It's green appeal is rather obvious: sheep wool is a rapidly renewable agri-based resource produced with a remarkably small carbon footprint, and it is completely biodegradable.

But sheep's wool insulation also provides some intriguing functional advantages, says Brooks Moore of Black Mountain USA. “We emphasize the fact that sheeps wool insulation will absorb up to 20 percent of its own weight in moisture,” he points out. “In a humid environment it will actually absorb moisture from the room, and as the humidity drops it expels the moisture back into the room. During that process, the water vapor does not alter the thermal characteristics of the product at all, or effect its life cycle.”

It also actively contributes to indoor air quality. “It eats formaldehyde,” Moore told us. “A lot of materials that go into residential and commercial construction contain formaldehyde, and sheep wool will simply absorb it from out of the air.” As for life cycle issues, wool insulation should last as long as the the typical building that houses it.

Black Mountain USA offers sheep wool insulation as SheepRolls, SheepBatts, and SheepFill. There's also SheepRock, a wool-based drywall product, and Sheep Rope, for use on the window and door openings in log home construction.

Wool is naturally fire resistant, and all Black Mountain sheep wool insulation products are borate treated for additional protection against mold and vermin infiltration. The products contain no added formaldehyde or VOCs. The products can contribute three different LEED credits.

All of those benefits add up to higher retail price points, but Moore contends that wool insulation is a higher value product. “In this economy, our challenge is to get establish more product awareness,” he said. “As we do, market share will follow.” Black Mountain Insulation is planning to establish a two-step distribution network, or it can ship directly from its east-coast distribution center.

Mr. Insulate Offers the Look, 
the R-Value, and the Feel of Cotton
It's a unique name – Mr. Insulate! Thermal Cotton Insulation – for a product that is almost unique. Manufactured by Applegate Insulation, Mr. Insulate! is a cotton batt insulation made from recycled denim. The batts can be easily installed between 2x4 or 2x6 studs in sidewalls or attic spaces in R-13, R-19 and R-21 insulation values. 
Mr. Insulate‘Easy' is the operative term. An installer will not need to wear gloves, mask, or eye protection gear because the product is soft to the touch and does not itch or irritate the skin, nose, or eyes. 
The product is also easy to handle and easy to tear by hand or cut with a knife. “This is extremely important to the contractors and consumers because the existing cotton blanket had to be cut with a table saw,” said Dave Renbarger, National Sales Manager for Applegate. “We were very determined to overcome that, so Mr. Insulate does cut very easily around conduit, piping, and fittings.”
A customized ‘weave' of the fibers, coupled with enhanced rebound action, leads to higher R-Values per ounce of cotton then comparable products. And at 14.75 inches wide, Mr. Insulate is easier to fit into place than other cotton batts. “It easily form-fits into place, and has great memory so it rebounds quickly and holds its own width,” said Renbarger. “That saves about 10 percent per cavity.”
Applegate is best known for its recycled blow-in cellulose insulation, so developing a recycled cotton insulation wasn't a huge step for them. The denim was readily available as post-industrial scrap and it offered some demonstrated advantages over fiberglass. “Fiberglass will break down, but the treated cotton won't,” Renbarger declares. “It will last as long as the building it goes into and it won't start losing R-value after 5 to 10 years like fiberglass. We wouldn't need to deal with formaldehyde, there are no VOC issues to worry about. There are no health hazard warnings with the product.”
Mr. Insulate is rated as a Class-A fire retardant building material. Applegate is borate treating the cotton, a non-toxic approach that is also used on the company's cellulose insulation. 
Acoustic testing is not yet complete, but the product also seems to demonstrate very good noise blocking performance. “The standard on an uninsulated wall is a 35 fcg, and if you put fiberglass in that wall it takes that number to a 38 fcg,” said Renbarger. “If you use cellulose you'll jump to a 44, and it looks like our cotton is a 45.” 
In terms of price, the end consumer will pay anywhere from $1 per square foot to $1.50 per square foot, depending on where they're getting the product. That's less expensive than foam and comparable to installed cellulose. But unlike those materials it is not labor or equipment intensive, and there is no waiting for the material to dry or cure. Transport costs are an important consideration. Mr. Insulate ships from Georgia, which can lead to savings for east coast dealers. 
Applegate will stock the product at all its U.S. distribution centers.

Fomo HandiFoam Ignition Barrier 
for Spray Polyurethane Foam

When spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is used in crawl spaces and attics, building codes now require an ignition barrier coating to be applied to any and all exposed foam surfaces. Fomo's new Handi-Foam® Ignition Barrier, is a white, latex-based intumescent reactant designed to complement the company's SPF insulation into a system that will achieve regulatory compliance.
For example, it can be sprayed applied as surface surface coating for the company's Handi-Foam E84 Class 1 spray foam, forming a finished system. That system will react to fire by creating a carbon layer that either prevents a fire from igniting, or delays the progress of the fire and gives inhabitants more time to exit the building. 
After application, the product will be dry to the touch within 20 minutes in a regularly ventilated area; it requires one hour to completely dry; and it has no additional re-entry regulations, as its compounds are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic with low VOCs.

Energy Audit Technology
The cost of thermographic imaging equipment has dropped immensely in recent years, but not to the point where it's become an everyman too. However, contractors could definitely take advantage of a handy diagnostic device that would quickly indicate any thermal gaps in an insulation/sealant system, and energy auditors would benefit from a tool capable of performing an instant show-and-tell for their client. 
That's where General Tools' new IRT-C50 Energy Audit IR Thermometer/Scanner comes in handy. The unit is designed to perform a progressive scan over a pre-determined area – a wall or ceiling, for instance – and look for temperature variations. After a set-point reference temperature is established and stored, the user can select one of three reference ranges: plus or minus 1°, 5° or 10°. As subsequent readings are taken, tri-color light and buzzer alarms indicate if those readings are within, above or below the selected range. 
“The specs on this are good enough that you could use it to perform quality control on a food assembly line,” said John Javetski, product engineer for General Tools. “It's really easy to use and it has some really good specs.” With a suggested list price below $60 it may become a must-have tool for anyone in the construction trades.

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