Charleston Home and Design Magazine Spotlights an Energy One America Project!
A more recent innovation in home insulation, spray foam has become a top choice for insulating homes across the Lowcountry. We at Charleston Home + Design took a moment to visit one of Energy One America’s projects in I’On Village constructed by Cook Bonner Construction, Inc., where Dean Paulk answered some of our questions regarding this revolutionary product.
From our understanding, there are two different types of spray foam products—open cell and closed cell. What are the differences between the two?
Dean: Both foams are going to give you the same high-quality, thermal protection properties and conductive heat reduction benefits, meaning that both open and closed cell foams will offer dramatic energy savings. The biggest difference between the two is that closed cell foam will actually add structural integrity to the home by increasing its wall assembly racking strength by 2.5 times. The added benefit of open cell spray foam is that it is a great noise abatement product. It’s used a lot in sound studios and homes close to airports to block outside noise from entering the home. The final difference between the two types is that closed cell spray foam is a water barrier, while open cell is just a vapor retarder, meaning a leak can sometimes be easier to detect than with closed cell.
How should homeowners decide where to put closed cell foam and where to put open cell foam?
Dean: Closed cell foam all over the house—in the subfloor, attic, and walls—will provide the sturdiest enclosure for your home. However, this can be very expensive. Open cell spray foam is a little less expensive and by using it strategically, homeowners can save a little money on the installation. We recommend that you use closed cell spray foam in the attic to increase the strength of your roof, especially along South Carolina’s coast, which is highly susceptible to hurricanes. Then, install the less-expensive open cell foam in the walls to decrease sound transfer from room to room, and put closed cell in the subfloor or crawlspace to add strength and reduce moisture intrusion into the home.
If you had to rank them in order, what are the most important spaces to insulate with spray foam?
Dean: The biggest culprit responsible for energy theft is the attic. The attic is where most of your home’s conditioned air leaks out of the home. The second place is under the home, and third place is the walls. You can save massive amounts on your energy bill just by installing spray foam in the attic. If you think about going into your attic on a summer day, you know the space will be sweltering hot. However, with spray foam, the attic will be drastically cooler, many times remaining within10-12 degrees of the temperature of your living space. In addition to heat reduction, spray foam will keep the humidity out, which leads to mold growth. There are basically three types of heat transfer that occur in the attic: conduction, convection, and radiation; spray foam eliminates all three of these factors.
Can spray foam be installed in new construction and retrofitted for existing homes?
Dean: Spray foam insulation can easily be installed in new construction at the same time the contractors would normally install traditional insulation, like in this home constructed by Cook Bonner Construction, Inc. Existing homes are easy to do as well. If it’s a completed house, obviously, the sheetrock prevents us from getting to the walls, but you can get a lot of energy savings from retrofitting the attic and crawl space, which is normally easily accessible, making it a simple process to install spray foam insulation in that area. The existing home market also enjoys many rebates from local utility companies, local grant programs, and IRS incentives. For example, homeowners are currently able to discount the average existing house installation of spray foam by up to $3,050 through grant and rebate programs for homeowners.
How do you know that the spray foam has covered any and all nooks and crannies from which conditioned air can escape?
Dean: The best way is to perform a blower door test. When you create an enclosed attic space with spray foam, it’s easy to get it 99% right. However, that one percent will come back and bite you. The blower door test will ensure that it’s a hundred percent right and no cracks or holes are missed. Energy One America provides this blower door test as a complimentary service on every install.
What other insulation tricks can homeowners use to save on their energy bill?
Dean: If homeowners want to take their insulation a bit further to save more money in the long run, they can have their crawl space enclosed (in both existing homes and new construction). Enclosing the crawl space brings the envelope of the home all the way down to the earth, so the earth becomes a component in the insulation of your home.
We’ve seen kits at Lowes and Home Depot to install spray foam yourself; is this recommended?
Dean: While it’s possible to install spray foam on your own, I don’t recommend it for the safety reasons. The product, once dry, isn’t harmful at all, but the installation process can cause problems if the wet foam comes in contact with your skin. It adheres like glue and can be extremely painful if you try to remove it. In addition, the foam expands about 170 times per second. If even a droplet gets into your eye, it will expand rapidly, and you can only imagine the problems this would cause. Our installers wear both masks and full-body, protective suits to prevent such injuries from occurring. It is almost always more expensive to complete the installation yourself, as well, because the price of materials at the retails level is quite costly.
Coming to Terms:
Envelope of the Home: The envelope of the home is essentially just the exterior, including the roof assembly, the exterior walls, and the subfloor. It’s easy to compare it to an actual envelope that you receive your mail in. It wraps the entire letter, airtight, all the way around.
Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): VOCs are harmful toxins in building products that may affect those living in the home’s environment, especially young children and pets. Fortunately, spray foam insulation has zero VOCs.
Conductive Thermal Heat Resistance: Conductive thermal heat resistance is the rate in which your home is resisting energy loss. Just over three inches of closed cell spray foam insulation has a 96.4% conductive thermal heat resistance rate—that means it’s blocking 96.4% of energy that would normally escape through the attic, subfloor, and walls.
For more information, or to speak with Dean about their spray foam insulation and crawl space enclosure process (also, mold protection and prevention), call Energy One America at (843) 388-6260 or visit energyoneamerica.com. To learn about the contractors who worked on this project, contact Rick Bonner, Vice President or George Cook, President of Cook Bonner Construction, Inc. at 843-795-9301 or visit cookbonner.com.