Alpha Spray Foam

Indoor Air Quality - Healthy Living and Breathing

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality is one of the greatest health concerns in the nation. In fact, the number of Americans with respiratory ailments is steadily increasing. The latest statistics show that more than 50 million U.S. citizens suffer from allergies.

As all of us spend significant time indoors, we need to consider designing homes and offices with proper consideration of the indoor air.

Why is indoor air so bad?

Here are some reasons:
  • Indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde emissions from carpets to fiberglass
  • VOC (volatile organic compounds) in paints, varnishes, and other materials
  • Uncontrolled air intrusion through the building envelope, including external pollutants, allergens and pathogens
  • Excessive moisture transfer through the building envelope, resulting in condensation and mold

How can Spray Foam insulation help?

To start: zero emissions are produced by Spray Foam insulation systems. Spray Foam is made without formaldehyde, and does not contain any ozone-depleting substances. This is true for all Spray Foams, including the higher density varieties. Spray Foam is, chemically speaking, inert, meaning that the installed insulation foam will not react with anything. Spray foam is best described as a light-weight artificial wood.

The next big area of concern would be moisture intrusion through the building envelope, along with associated condensation issues and mold growth. One of the most important benefits of Spray Foam is the perfect air seal which prevents uncontrolled vapor transmission. Accordingly, even small air conditioning units can much more easily keep the humidity level down and drastically reduce the mold growth risk. This is a huge benefit for the home occupants' health. Builders and architects love Spray Foam because mold-related litigation is virtually non-existent when homes are foamed. Mold comes to life whenever there is condensation or if relative humidity levels stay above 60% for longer periods of time. Spray foam makes it easy to manage the humidity level and thus helps avoid condensation.

All buildings must be ventilated, and this also applies to homes with spray-applied foam insulation. In this case, mechanical ventilation assures the proper air exchange. Since this is a controlled or managed mechanism, the air intake can be equipped with the proper filters for those who suffer from allergies. Another benefit of controlled ventilation is great energy savings. The ventilation can be run through a heat exchanger, which recovers a high percentage of the energy contained in the air being exchanged between inside and outside. Obviously, such ventilation is also very effective at removing other pollutants emitted from carpets, paints and other sources.

Why is spray foam better than fiberglass blown in or batt insulation in my attic?

Firstly, fiberglass insulation either blown or batt is applied on top of the ceiling. This type of insulation method is designed to prevent heat from rising up out of the rooms below. Typically, this is not what we want in Florida.

Fiberglass insulation is by nature, not air tight. Air can pass through fiberglass, carrying heat and moisture with it. It is very difficult to seal the ceilings inside a building, especially around light fixtures, A/C vents and plumbing pass throughs etc. On windy days, air pressures will move much more air (and humidity) though your house due to this 'loose' nature of fiberglass.

Spray foam is applied to the underside of the plywood roof deck, preventing up to 87% of the Suns heat from entering the building.

By sealing the roof and attic to the entire perimeter of the building, your attic becomes part of the air conditioned space, and is no longer vented. It is no longer necessary to seal the rooms at ceiling level. This action reduces convection and lessens the amount of heat entering the living space within your house. The warmest air in your house can now rise up into the attic as it is displaced by cool air from you're a/C system.

By containing the entire A/C system and all of its ductwork within the air conditioned envelope, the system is no longer fighting those 150 degree attic temperatures, and will operate more efficiently. Typical attic temperatures in a spray foamed house are only 3 – 10 degrees warmer than the interior, as opposed to around 70 degrees warmer in a non spray foamed roof space.

Fiberglass, and particularly old fiberglass contains all the nasties that you would not want inside your home. Mold, Mildew, Dust, Dirt, Animal Droppings etc. The atmosphere inside your attic with all this detritus can be choking, especially if you are asthmatic or generally dust sensitive. Doing any kind of work in a attic like this is unpleasant at best. If your home has spray foam insulation from new, then the attic floor, on top of the ceilings, will be clean and cool, and the atmosphere far more pleasant to move around in.

For all the above reasons, we recommend removing old fiberglass insulation on retrofit installations. Alpha Spray Foam can provide this service for home owners wanting to improve the air quality within their home.

How does spray foam affect my air conditioning system?

Ever notice that initial blast of hot air every time your system turns on? That is because your entire A/C systems ductwork is basking in an average daytime temperature of 145 degrees inside your attic. The temperature of your home when insulated with fiberglass is only controlled below ceiling level. Above ceiling level is an oven being subjected to a continuous bombardment of radiation from the Florida Sun. Your air conditioning duct work will hot soak up to whatever temperature is in your attic in between every run cycle. So the first thing it must do when it cycles on, is cool the ductwork and the air inside it to bring it down to an operable temperature to allow the system to begin cooling your rooms.

In a typical retro fit or remodel, the air conditioning system will remain unchanged. So the cooler temperatures in the attic will reduce the necessary run time and reduce the number of cycles necessary to maintain your desired indoor temperature level.

On new construction, the complete air conditioning system can be re sized at the design phase by either down sizing the system, or reducing the number of systems required in larger homes. Thus offering reduced construction and installation costs as well as ongoing energy bill savings.

Do I need to ventilate my attic?

Once the attic has been sealed with spray foam, and is now a part of the buildings air conditioned envelope, it is no longer necessary or desirable to ventilate the attic. On existing homes we will seal the entire attic. On new construction we seal the perimeter of the roof to the top of the walls and separate roof spaces over non air conditioned areas such as garages, front porches and lanais. It is no longer necessary, or required to install vented soffit.

Why does it cost more?

The cost of spray foam installation equipment and raw materials are naturally higher than fiberglass. Traditionally spray foam has been a lot more expensive, but as it has become more the norm, particularly in new construction, costs have reduced and stabilized. A full spray foam rig represents a significant investment on the part of the installer, as opposed to a few hand tool required to install fiberglass batt. However, it will probably never be cheaper than it is now to have spray foam installed in a building. To the discerning buyer, the benefits of spray foam will out way the additional initial costs anyway when viewed from an ongoing comfort and quality point of view.

How much will I save?

Certainly the financial advantages of spray foam over traditional insulation methods are well documented. But it is always difficult to verify the ongoing cost saving of switching from one system to another in any given situation. For years the industry has banded about the 30-50% savings numbers when installing spray foam. These numbers are real, but if you have a recently installed high level of fiberglass insulation in a modern tighly built house, and you pay to have it removed as part of the spray foam installation contract, your annual energy savings will be less than an older home with a few inches of deteriorated trampled fiberglass and rat droppings laying on the ceiling. 50% savings are quite feasible in these circumstances.

In new construction the reduction in air conditioning system size as well as the elimination of roofing vents and soffit vents and associated labor costs will offset some of the initial cost significantly. A newly built home will automatically take full advantage of the benefits of spray foam due to its tighter construction and modern building code implementation.

How will spray foam help me if I only use my home during the winter?

During the summer months the likelihood of mold growth is higher due to the increased level of humidity in the atmosphere. Traditional insulation methods allow that humidity to enter and languish inside your attic. Fiberglass and screwed up newspaper are a nightmare scenario when trying to rid your home of moisture related issues as well as other little friends that love to live in your attic. I have yet to find an older home that does not have any sign of rodents, bugs or birds living in the attic. Fiberglass makes a great nesting material, and the end users don't seem to care about long term breathing and health related issues.

Spray foam insulation seals out the outside air and maintains a reduced humidity level in the attic even during lower levels of use, thus hugely reducing the likelihood of mold growth.

Can spray foam only be used on new construction?

No! Spray foam is an ideal insulation material for all types of buildings, new and old. In fact, older buildings can gain significant structural improvements if closed cell foam is used. The advertised tripling of roof and wall strength is a huge factor to consider when deciding whether or not to install closed cell foam inside an older building. Modern buildings have been designed to withstand hurricane wind loads, but old buildings will not be constructed to modern codes and will be inherently weaker.

How safe is this product in my home?

Bayer recommends venting the house with an air change every hour for the first 24 hours. After that, the space can be re occupied. Some off gassing will occur at an exponentially reducing rate for the first few hours after installation, and in some cases a small amount of gas is produced for up to 30 days. Spray foam insulation is rapidly becoming the industry standard throughout the USA for new construction. Bayseal products have been developed for use in homes and occupied buildings and have been thoroughly tested for safety and to meet and exceed modern building codes.

When would I choose closed cell spray foam insulation over open cell?

Open cell spray foam is the industry standard for dry roof and wall cavities. It has excellent insulation properties and sound attenuation capabilities. A normal application under a roof deck would be an average thickness of 5 ¼ inches. At this thickness, open cell spray foam absorbs 95% of heat penetrating the roof. As its name suggests, the individual bubbles that make up the foam are broken – or open. Open cell foam is light and spongy, and weighs approximately ½ lb per cubic foot installed.

The pricing of spray foam insulation is based upon how much raw material is used in the application times the sprayed square footage of the job. Closed cell foam as it's name suggests, consists of closed bubbles – or cells of foam which do not allow moisture penetration. To achieve closed cell performance, the material is much denser and is expanded to approximately 25% the proportions of open cell. So to achieve the same thickness would require four times as much material as open cell. However! Closed cell foam has a far greater 'R' value (a 2-1 ratio) per inch of thickness than open cell. Therefore only half the thickness is required to achieve the same insulation value when compared to open cell. This is still twice as much raw material, so closed cell typically costs double that of open cell.

The nature of closed cell is to be hard and tough once cured. Closed cell foam will massively improve the structural rigidity of a framed and sheathed structure. It is also considered a secondary moisture barrier when used at least 1 inch thick. So if you have risk of moisture or want to improve the structural rigidity of your building, closed cell would be the spray foam insulation of choice.

Can I use spray foam insulation under floors?

Spray foam insulation is often used under floors to add structural rigidity and sound deadening. It is common in two storey buildings to insulate under the second floor to prevent sound transmission throughout the house, and open cell foam is ideal for this application.

Mobile homes, wood decks and wood sub floors under crawl spaces that are typically exposed to moisture laden outside air would best be insulated with closed cell spray foam. The added benefit of the built in moisture barrier would be essential on what is basically an outdoor or exposed surface.

Can you inject spray foam into my walls?

No. This is not a practical use for spray foam insulation. As the title suggests, spray foam is a sprayed on process, not an injection process. The rapid expansion of the foam as it is spent from the gun would prevent proper filling of cavities leaving trapped voids and un-insulated areas. It is necessary when spraying foam to have complete access to the area being sprayed.

I have cathedral ceilings. Can these areas be spray foamed?

A tricky one! The area above a cathedral or vaulted ceiling can be very tight. Too restricted for a man to enter safely and operate a spray gun and guarantee full coverage of the area to be sprayed without creating voids that would risk trapping moisture laden air. Quite often we will recommend that the drywall be removed from the ceiling under these areas. Sometimes only a small strip needs to be removed, but to be sure of proper coverage, we will insist on proper access. The drywall can normally be repaired by a qualified craftsman, and we can make a recommendation if required.

What is the 'R' value of spray foam?

We spray two types of foam. Open Cell, and Closed Cell. Open cell provides R-3.6 per inch of thickness, and Closed Cell provides R-7 per inch. So a typical 5 ¼ inch thick installation of open cell spray foam insulation under your roof deck gives you an R-19 value. At this thickness the foam is 95% efficient at absorbing the heat penetrating your roof. Combined with the tight seal provided by a spray foam installation, no amount of traditional insulation can give you this level of efficiency. 3 inches of Closed Cell Foam will give R-21. These are the typical thicknesses we recommend for use in most residential and commercial buildings. The building plans for your project may require a different thickness, and we can spray whatever thickness is specified.