Wednesday, February 21, 2018

3 Reasons Why Spray Foam Insulation Can Help You Create A Passive House

3 Reasons Why Spray Foam Insulation Can Help You Create A Passive House

JANUARY 31, 2018 ADAMB@EVIDENTLY.COM
3 Reasons Why Icynene Spray Foam Insulation Can Help You Create A Passive House
Building a passive house is a massive, but rewarding, undertaking. While there aren’t hard and fast rules to building a passive house, in order to have your home certified as such, you do need to adhere to certain standards. Spray foam insulation like Icynene can help towards ensuring that you meet many of those standards. Here’s how:
  1. Spray foam insulation like Icynene is a high performance insulation, something which is required for passive house certification. This means complete coverage of the building envelope.
  2. Icynene spray foam insulation creates an effective air barrier wherever it’s applied, allowing your home to meet the standard of airtightness which is required in a passive house.
  3. Icynene spray foam in particular is guaranteed for the total life of the home where it is installed. This isn’t a requirement for a passive house, but it reduces the long-term costs associated with building a passive house.
In the end, there a plenty of other reasons to choose Icynene spray foam insulation, but its ability to help create such an energy efficient home certainly makes it a great choice for anyone looking to achieve passive house certification.
Talk to a licensed Icynene spray foam insulation contractor in your area, to find out more reasons why Icynene can help your home become a passive house.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Making sense of energy and environmental housing programs and ratings

Making sense of energy and environmental housing programs and ratings

Energy efficiently design programs can be tough to navigate.
The following blog post was written by Paul Duffy, VP Engineering Icynene for Construction Canada magazine. 

Are you confused by the proliferation of Energy Efficiency and Environmentally Appropriate housing labeling programs? You are not alone. The quickening pace of technical innovation, new materials and systems, along with code changes, and morphing consumer demands has left many builders wondering “What’s next?”
Many builders, particularly the ones with more gray hair than not, remember programs like the R-2000 Program with their lofty predictions that “one day all houses will be built this way” or “one day this will be Code!” and find comfort in the fact that these predictions didn’t come true… or did they?
While it is true that relatively few houses go through the formal process of labeling (unless there is some sort of government grant or utility incentive involved) many of the technical components of super energy efficient construction have become the norm, specifically:
  • Higher levels of insulation
  • Better windows
  • More airtight construction
  • Advanced/high efficiency mechanical systems
  • Mechanical ventilation systems
You would be hard pressed to find any homes being built in Canada without most if not all of these features. The exact menu of preferred features varies by region and even within regions according to availability of products or proximity to certain urban amenities and utilities.  In most regions, builders on more rural sites are more likely to be pushing the envelope on “off the grid” type features.
If you are trying to lead the pack, or get out in front of innovations where should you be focusing your energy? Here are a few things to consider.
Several Provinces have taken to telegraphing where the Code is going in the years ahead so that builders can experiment and get ready for Code changes when they arrive.
  • In Ontario, the last two Code cycles have not only included the new provisions  pertaining to current requirements, but also, how those requirements will change approximately 5 years from now. The Ontario Building Code (OBC) 2022 Code changes have ALREADY been released.
  • In BC, the Province has produced its new “Step Code” containing no less than 5 incremental sets of requirements—Steps on the path to greater energy efficiency. The notion is that a certain percentage of builders will choose to build homes, above the basic level, with guidance from the Code experts as to what constitutes the next STEP.
  • In other provinces, the vision is more traditional—relying on known “Brands” like R-2000 and Energy Star to set forth a package of requirements that goes above Code in what constitutes a step up from Code minimums driving new levels of energy efficiency.  The evolution of technical standards for these programs has become a source of confusion for many builders.  The technical standards for an Energy Star home is not the same in 2017 as they were back in 2010 or 2005 so as a consequence, the meaning of label on the home becomes confusing.
Thus Code change, above-Code programs and labeling are frequently tied together.  In fact, there are several places where various provincial Codes specifically mention some aspect of an above-Code program as a compliance alternative. For example, a registered R-2000 or Energy Star house might be deemed to comply with the energy provisions of the Code, etc.
Is this a problem? The short answer is that a lot of people are not sure. You might ask, if the government writes the code and the above-Code program was developed in conjunction with the government, what’s the problem?

What to Consider

Start by considering that the folks who write the Code are primarily responsible for public safety, while the folks who design energy programs are primarily responsible for energy policy, you begin to get some idea of where this alliance might take you in some weird, if not undesirable, directions. If the policy folks are pushing energy efficiency, why not require that all appliances in the home be energy efficient (say Energy Star labeled) appliances.  When did it ever become the mandate of the Building Code to tell consumers what computer or kitchen appliances to buy?  Sure it makes the work of the policy people a lot easier, but is that really the role of the Building Code?
Then consider that many energy efficiency programs are delivered, not by the government, but by industry associations and even private delivery agents who carry out and are responsible for the work. It’s not difficult to imagine situations where the referenced program, and therefore the Code, would default to requiring contractors to be members of a particular trade association, buying group or contract with a particular supplier.  Even the more liberal thinkers might have a problem with where this could go.
Finally, there is the issue of who owns these programs and what are their motivations.  Often people don’t realize when they are crossing the boundary from a government run and overseen program to a program driven by a private sector business plan with less transparent objectives.  It’s worth noting that the names of some of these programs and labels are often very confusing, appearing at first to be aspirational if not even noble objectives, but not always clear as to how the programs are run and where/how they derive funding.
  • R-2000 is a program developed by the federal government in conjunction with the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA). The feds provide some funding but the CHBA raises other revenues though fees to builders, consultants and others tied to the program. Membership in the CHBA is not a requirement but it is encouraged.
  • The Energy Star program was originally developed by the Department of Energy (DOE) in the US. The federal government licensed use of the name and technical requirements of the program and in turn negotiated regional delivery arrangements with “service organizations” across the country. Some are industry associations, others are private companies. There are also arrangements with utilities and others to promote energy efficiency goals under the Energy Star banner. The Energy Star label is used to describe a variety of products that go beyond houses, including so-called “white good” appliances, consumer electronics and other energy consuming products.  Each product category is its own program with different financial arrangements and delivery mechanisms.
  • The LEED program is one developed by the Canadian Green Building Council, a private organization of stakeholders with interests in energy efficient / green construction. It is self-funded through fees, sponsorships and training revenues.
  • The Net Zero Energy Program was developed by the Net Zero Energy Coalition and the Canadian Home Builders Association.  The program receives major funding from several major sponsors with specific interests in promoting their products and/or their proprietary technologies.
  • A number of smaller programs with links to regional associates and private interests including Built Green, Green Globes, and other programs keying on words like Green or Environmental  to describe attributes they seek to highlight.
It comes as a surprise to many people that words like Green Building, Net-Zero, LEED or even R-2000 are labels that might have proprietary owners, private sponsors and even copyright protection.
The fact that something might have a proprietary owner, private funding or non-governmental affiliations doesn’t make it a bad thing. What is problematic is when this is not clear, not transparent, and not subject to the same kind of scrutiny we give all private sector claims.  The key is disclosure. And when the disclosure is less than well known, the operating assumption has to be buyer beware.
Most home builders are small businesses with limited marketing and name recognition in their markets. The idea of piggybacking their brand on a better known brand or label holds significant appeal.  I have heard of several builders who adopt the attitude of building their brand on the credibility of major suppliers, utilities, mechanical suppliers, door and window companies, insulation companies, etc.  Their advertising is reminiscent of what I like to call the NASCAR approach—labels and logos scattered liberally across the page in the belief that somehow this builds name recognition or credibility for their brand. 
Others focus on one or two key features, unique or premium features in their market, to underscore their commitment to quality.  In today’s market, that might be something related to high tech electronics, an indoor air quality package, or something unique like spray foam insulation to set them apart.
Consequently, an energy label —a label adding third-party credibility to the unique product they are building—might have applicability and usefulness to both approaches. But are any of these labels going to dominate particularly in the medium to longer term? That is difficult to answer. The pace of code change is becoming too rapid to predict with any degree of certainty so programs that are above code are even more difficult to forecast. This is leading some builders to question the value of a label.
Others are questioning the value of energy programs.  At the core of several rating programs, is an underlying bias against fossil fuels and a bias towards electrical fuel sources.   The reasons for the bias are varied, but, often they relate to the belief that electrical energy can come from “non-polluting” or green sources. However, the dollar cost of “green” electricity is quite high. So, while energy savings might be achieved, cost savings are not.  It is difficult to justify energy efficiency if the investments in energy measures aren’t at least partially off-set by cost savings.
A growing trend is simply energy rating buildings without necessarily opting into any energy efficiency program. This avoids paying fees for labels, listings, and other services that are difficult to assess in terms of added value.

What's happening in the USA?

In the US, where the housing market is even more fragmented than in Canada, there are many more labeling programs available for builders to pick and choose.  Faced with a virtual smorgasbord of choices for labeling their houses, the Leading Builders of America (LBA), a group comprised of the top 100 builders in terms of numbers of houses built, have opted to energy rate all their houses. The LBA claims to represent the builders building 80% of the new houses built in the US.
In the US, the rating scheme of choice is the Home Energy Rating Scale or “HERS” scale for short.  Every point on the scale represents a one percentage point change in energy consumption relative to a home built to the 2006 Building Code. Move from HERS 100 to HERS 80 and that represents a 20% saving in energy. HERS 0 aligns with zero net energy consumption.
The rationale for rating your houses is simple; the prescriptive measures in the Code add numerous costs that are not necessarily justified on any particular house in terms of the energy saved.  By measuring performance, you naturally focus on measures that deliver the most savings per dollar spent and you logically end up with a more cost-effective, energy-efficient home for your specific site.
In the US, the rating scheme is HERS. In Canada, the scheme could just as easily be based on EnerGuide ratings, or fuel savings. Michael White, President of RGL Building Consultants, an energy rater who has done thousands of home ratings for the EcoEnergy Program as well as for Energy Star compliance, estimates that in the near future the majority of his clients will be rating their houses specifically for Code compliance not for participation in any energy program.  Michael’s team uses Hot2000 software (used for the EnerGuide scale) specifically for this purpose.
John Godden, President of Clearsphere consultants, has gone in a different direction. His team has pioneered using the HERS scale in Canada. He indicates that his client list includes many of the major builders in the Greater Toronto Area, and they are all seeing the need for and benefits of rating their houses for Code compliance regardless of whether they ever receive a label relative to a specific energy program. He points out that, for the last two Code revision cycles, the Ontario Building Code has specifically recognized the HERS software, specifically programs like RemRate and Energy Guage, to evaluate code compliance.
Both Godden and White are active in CRESNET, a non-profit organization aimed at professionalizing and promoting the benefits and skills required to rate houses.  While energy programs, home labels and government grants come and go, the skills and tools required to rate houses remain constant and continue to grow.  CRESNET promotes training and accreditation related to:
  • Computer modeling
  • Air tightness testing
  • Inspection skills and tools
The world of energy programs may look like it is not going to get sorted out any time soon, but my guess is that the business of rating house performance as a basis for implementing cost-effective energy efficiency is only going to grow.  So too the need for skilled evaluators and raters, to carry out those assessments, will become an important part of house design and quality control.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hurricane and Super Storm Aftermath – Repair and Prepare With Icynene

Hurricane and Super Storm Aftermath – Repair and Prepare

Home flooding from hurricanes can leave extensive damage
Within the past decade, extreme weather events such as hurricanes and super storms have become far more prevalent across the United States leaving trails of destruction and damage costing millions and millions in clean-up and repair. Catastrophic events such as Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Super Storm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina leave thousands stranded as flood waters infiltrate their homes causing irreparable damage. The aftermath as well as the repair and prepare strategy is one of the important factors for consideration by not only homeowners but also architects designing buildings in areas prone to these kinds of events.
The damage sustained from these extreme weather events, either  wind-driven or water-driven, can be extensive and expensive to repair.  A repair and prepare strategy is one that many living in these areas should consider as part of their recovery efforts. Assessment of the damage caused by hurricanes and flooding is critical in understanding how to approach the next steps. Once the extent of the damage is determined, removal can begin. It is recommended that a qualified clean-up contractor assess the removals required. 
Thorough and proper cleaning, drying and disinfecting of some materials that are porous can take a while to complete. It is important to understand that mold can thrive in as little as 48 hours in such situations so the likelihood of many porous materials requiring removal is greater. It should be a qualified remediation contractor who makes the determination as to which materials need to be removed.

What is a flood-resistant material?

FEMA(link is external) has release a comprehensive technical fact sheet that details what is considered a “flood resistant material” under their criteria:
Flooding accounts for a large percentage of the damage caused by a coastal storm. Building materials exposed to flooding must be resilient enough to sustain a certain amount of water exposure in order to avoid the need for complete replacement after the flood.  
FEMA defines a flood-resistant material as any building material capable of withstanding direct and prolonged contact with floodwaters without sustaining significant damage.
Flood-resistant materials identified by FEMA can include, but are not limited to, corrosion resistant coated steel, pressure-treated wood, epoxy formed-in-place flooring as well as closed-cell spray foam insulation.  A complete list of materials can be accessed via the FEMA website(link is external).
Due to its resilience, spray foam insulation can be a key component in the design of building assemblies against future disaster-driven damage. Closed-cell spray foam, like Icynene ProSeal(link is external), can be used as a water-resistant barrier to help deflect moisture away while offering additional performance advantages useful in extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

Flooding and water penetration through walls

The strong winds of a hurricane and threat of wind-driven rain and flooding can be confidently addressed with the use of spray foam insulation.  Icynene spray foam insulation products are considered air-impermeable materials that help deflect wind and wind-driven rain. Light-density spray foam is able to reject water penetration and have a low water absorption (less than 5%) while medium-density spray foams are considered water resistant barriers with very low water absorption (less than 1%). Additionally, medium-density spray foams are able to provide additional ‘racking’ strength to help resist the high winds of a storm, super storm or hurricane.

What about roof damage from wind and water ingress?

While closed-cell spray foam insulation is ideal for use in areas close to the ground (or underground such as basements) due to its ability to provide structural strengthen and reject bulk water ingress, spray foam insulation including open-cell spray foam can help play a role in other areas of the home in protection against extreme weather.
Water ingress is one of the most common  insurance claims. An unvented roof designed around spray foam is one easy solution to protect from roof damage during extreme weather events like hurricanes and storms.  An unvented roof has fewer openings, therefore the chance of water penetration is reduced. 
Icynene spray foam insulation is able to help provide several roof protection benefits:
  • Open-cell spray foam insulation, like Icynene Classic Max, can rapidly expand up to one hundred times its initial volume, upon application, to provide a superior air barrier that seals and insulates the roof space.
  • In the event of a roof leak, open-cell spray foam is vapor permeable allowing for bi-directional drying allowing leaks to be detected and repaired immediately. Bi-directional drying helps protect the roof sheathing from rot and moisture damage.
  • Closed-cell spray foam can be used as a water resistant barrier to deflect water, especially wind-driven rain.
  • Where additional hurricane hold-down resistance is required, all Icynene spray foam products benefit from an unvented roof by eliminating upward pressures from pressurizing the attic via roof vents.
Inclusion of spray foam insulation in homes and buildings in areas prone to extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes and super storms can help protect homeowners and building owners against future extreme weather events which are likely to become more prevalent as our environment evolves and the effects of climate change become known.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Customer Q&A

Thank you. I'm interested in doing this project. Though I have some questions and want to do a touch more research. 

I'm a bit concerned about humidity in the home. Can you speak to the product and "sealed" attic and how it may relate to humidity in the home. 

It should require a little less AC than required today, right?  But I already have AC In place. If AC runs less it may increase humidity?  I wonder if you have any information about this. Or opinion. 
This is theoretically correct, and could be an issue although likelihood is low.  Essentially, the attic becomes part of the AC home and the efficiencies of the Icynene would allow for 1 HVAC to cover 800-900 Sq. Ft.  Retrofit homes such as yours may be “oversized”.  To offset this potential if you own variable speed units, these units will work at their lower speed and longer which will service to de-humidify the entire home and attic.   A post application test may be done to evaluate the relative humidity of the attic.  My experience so far is very few homes have this issue as most of the homes are leaky in other areas

Please keep me in loop of conversation.

I'll reach out to my AC contractor for their opinion. We've added window tinting on north and south windows of the home - this in theory makes the home more efficient too. 

I'd like to do the project. I'm a little concerned that I'm "over air conditioned" in the home. I know reducing humidity makes it feel cooler; and AC's running longer reduce humidity. I'll ask AC people to measure the home and give me recommendation for AC. 

Any help or advice regarding these concerns would be appreciated. 

Thanks,

Doug

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What is low VOC and why is it important to understand?

Posted: 26 May 2017 08:00 AM PDT
Low VOC spray foam insulation for residential homes and construction
Volatile organic compounds ( VOCs ) are gases that are emitted from certain solid or liquid materials. They can include a variety of chemicals. High VOC emissions from consumer and commercial products are significant contributing factors in the creation of air pollution in urban areas and can be harmful to health when present in large quantities.
The ultra-low-VOC Icynene spray foam products are based on protocols and procedures developed by a task group of the American Chemistry Council – Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (ACC-CPI) - and follow months of extensive research, testing and third-party evaluation. 
Discover more about VOCs and why it's important to seek low VOC products when choosing building materials for use in your home in the infographic below.
What is low VOC and why is it important?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What are VOCs and How Do They Affect Homeowners?

Posted: 28 Mar 2017 05:00 AM PDT
Low VOC spray foam insulation from Icynene
VOCs – otherwise known as volatile organic compounds – are defined as gases that are emitted from certain materials, whether they are solid or in liquid form, and can include a variety of chemicals. According to the EPA, VOCs can typically have higher concentrations indoors, in some cases up to ten times higher, than outdoor concentrations. These emissions can have varying degrees of short-term and long-term health effects.  Nowadays, consumers are increasing becoming aware of VOCs and their effects on humans. As a result, consumers have become savvier in understanding the various types of products available in the market and selecting products that identify as low VOC.
While VOCs do not sound appealing, there have been significant developments by manufacturers of chemicals and building materials that reduce the exposure to building occupants.

Where are VOCs found?

The EPA states that VOCs can be found in an array of household products and materials from paints, waxes, aerosol sprays, cleaners, pesticides, craft materials, office equipment, furnishings and building materials including insulation. You may find many of these everyday household materials and products after a quick search through your home. 
Effects from exposure to VOCs can vary between individuals depending on the chemical as well as length of exposure and level of VOC emissions. Effects can include irritation of the nose and throat, nausea, dizziness and headaches among other effects.
Although the presence of VOCs and their effects are not pleasant, there have been steps taken by many manufacturers to reduce our exposure to VOCs. For example, the paint industry has been very active in developing paints and varnishes that are considered low VOC. These active steps by manufacturers are helping to ensure that consumers are aware of what VOCs are and how they can reduce their exposure to such emissions.

How to reduce exposure to VOCs

The EPA offers consumers an array of recommendations to reduce exposure to VOCs.  There are several recommendations including:
Do not mix household products together
Increase ventilation when using a product
Only purchase in quantities that will be used immediately
Avoid storing open containers
Meet or exceed label precautions
Keep out of reach of children and pets

How is the spray foam insulation industry responding to VOCs?

Like the paint industry, the spray foam insulation industry is responding to VOCs and developing products are considered low VOC. As the spray foam insulation industry leader, Icynene has been committed to the responsible development of spray foam chemistry for over 30 years. Icynene’s leadership position in the category has seen the development of several spray foam insulation products including Icynene Classic Max, Icynene Classic Max Select, Icynene ProSeal and Icynene ProSeal LE. Each of these spray foam products is identified as a low VOC spray foam insulation material. And it doesn’t stop there; chemists and building scientists at Icynene continue to develop spray foam innovation to meets the ever changing requirements of modern commercial and residential construction as well as the demands of architects, builders and homeowners alike.
Icynene has gone further to ensure that their spray foam insulation products are evaluated by UL Environment to gain and GREENGUARD Gold certification.  Icynene Classic Max, Icynene ProSeal and Icynene ProSeal LE have received GREENGUARD Gold certification. Furthermore, Icynene spray foam insulation products meet the criteria set by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS).
As a result of Icynene’s low VOC innovation, building occupants are able to re-occupy a home or building after just two hours and in some cases 1 hour after the spray application following active ventilation as prescribed.

What is GREENGUARD?

GREENGUARD Certification has been widely adopted as a trusted standard for low-emitting products. More than 400 green building codes, standards, guidelines, procurements policies, and rating systems recognize or reference GREENGUARD Certified products.
The GREENGUARD Gold Certification standard includes health based criteria for additional chemicals and also requires lower total VOC emissions levels to ensure that products are acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.

What is CHPS?

CHPS is a collaboration to address energy efficiency in schools. The program covers all aspects of school design, construction and operation. CHPS develops tools that help make schools energy, water and material efficient, well-lit, thermally comfortable, acoustically sound, safe, healthy and easy to operate.  CHPS sets a specific set of criteria that must be met by building materials to allow for use in the construction of schools.

Where does LEED fit in?

Low emitting materials  are addressed in LEED v4 with the intent to reduce concentrations of chemical contaminants that can damage air quality, human health, productivity, and the environment. Architects can receive credit toward LEED certification in addressing low emitting materials including interior paints and coatings, flooring, interior adhesives and sealants as well as ceiling, wall, thermal and acoustic insulation.

How can architects and builders help?

Architects, designers and builders can all take steps to encourage the adoption of a low VOC approach in design and construction. Through educating and working with their clients in understanding what VOCs are, how they affect building occupants and the low VOC options that are available in the market, architects and builders can create high performance, energy efficient and positive spaces to live, work and play. 

For More Information Call Therma Seal- 561.775.9703 or visit us at www.thermaseal.net