With the trend in building “net zero energy” construction throughout the United States, nowhere is there greater interest than in environmentally friendly Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles County. A home or commercial building that qualifies as “net zero” generates more energy than it loses.
A requirement for LEAD certification is that a home must be foam insulated. For new construction, builders spray foam into the walls before the drywall is installed. With older homes, built prior to 1978, without any insulation in their walls, there is only one “net zero energy” option for remodeling the property without tearing out the drywall. It’s called injection foam insulation. We at Burton & Clark Construction, Inc. are one of the very few contractors in the state that provides this very specialized product.
Foam for insulation can either be sprayed or injected. Most of the time foam insulators spray the foam, either in new construction, or remodeled buildings before the drywall has been added. For many older buildings, it doesn’t make financial sense to tear out all of the drywall just to insulate. If there’s a way to insulate the property without completely tearing the building apart down to the studs, this is clearly preferable.
This is where injection foam becomes a huge advantage to contractors. It allows one to inject the same foam that one would spray on the unfinished walls, into the existing walls with the least amount of damage to the drywall. Insulation specialists like Keith and his team simply drill small holes in the walls and ceilings and stick an injector into the hole and shoot. The foam goes in like liquid and quickly forms into the type of material you would find in your pillow.
Because of this amazing injection process, like spraying, it fills all of the gaps in the space, making a total air seal. So unlike other forms of insulation, where you can still expect some air leakage, you won’t see any with foam technology.
Injection Uses Open-Cell Foam
There are two types of foam used by insulation experts like Burton & Clark Construction, Inc. One is open-cell and the other is closed cell. There are a number of technical differences between these two types of materials, but the major points one needs to know, as it relates to injection foam, is that the only type that can be injected is open-cell. The reason for this is that closed-cell forms too rigidly. The installer risks blowing out the drywall.
Open-cell foam is kept at 135 degrees when spraying. It can be cooled to 90 degrees, which causes it to react slower, giving it more time to seep down the walls and sloped ceilings, filling the entire open cavity. This quality of the material makes it the right choice for injection into existing walls.
Advantages of Injection Foam Insulation
There are a couple of basic advantages to injection foam, for the sole fact that you’re using open-cell rather than closed-cell foam.
- Open cell is cheaper than closed-cell, so it’s not nearly the cost as many spray foam projects can be.
- Open-cell foam is a superior noise barrier to closed-cell.
Incredible Sound Barrier
Injection foam is without question the most superior sound barrier you can put in the walls in your home. It has an STC rating of 42. This makes it wonderful for homes or businesses on busy roads or in the city. Immediately after installation you will see that your space has become a structure of solitude.
Many struggle with allergies here in our Pacific Coast area. Imagine living or working in a building that allows no airflow. That’s what foam insulation offers. As a consequence, it’s a marvelous option for anyone with asthma, allergies, emphysema, or any breathing condition.
Improves Pest Control
It also reduces insects in your building. Not only does this make your home or commercial location a healthier place, but definitely a more pleasant environment.
When we’re injecting foam into homes and buildings we feel and notice the temperature change in the short time that we are in the rooms that we’re working on. It’s that obvious. With injection foam insulation you will observe:
- Lower temperature.
- Lower humidity.
- Less dust.
Your space will have an intangible sense of luxury that’s hard to define. Friends, family, or colleagues will be drawn to your location, sensing a magical atmosphere of wellbeing that they can’t quite put their finger on. You’ll know why.
Injection Foam Insulation Provides Significant Energy Cost Savings
It almost goes without saying that injection foam has a tremendous effect on your energy costs. We’re talking about a 40% reduction in total costs. Manufacturers estimate that you should see a return on investment from energy savings in about three years. Combine injection foam with a full “net zero” strategy to your remodel and you could be looking at a home that ends up making money in a few years with energy production.
Requirements for Foam Injection
Not all remodel projects are right for injection foam. Many projects work better with spray foam insulation. Some projects will use both types. Here’s the conditions that must be met before injection can be considered.
Walls Must Be Completely Empty
A building must have zero insulation in the walls to be a good fit for injection foam insulation. You can’t inject foam into a space that has some other type of insulation in it. And removing insulation in an existing wall, without removing the drywall is more labor than it’s worth. It’s more practical to simply remove the drywall, spray the foam, and add new drywall.
Injection Will Only Work on Vertical Walls and Vaulted Ceilings
Foam injection can only be successful if the walls are vertical and the ceilings are sloped. This allows the foam to be pulled downwards by gravity, filling the space in between the studs completely.
If the foam is injected into a flat ceiling it will pool around the hole where it’s injected, not spreading thoroughly throughout the space. As it forms, it can blow out the drywall.
Other Options Besides Injection Foam
Often when property owners think about insulating existing walls, they are imagining the process of blowing insulation into their walls using a product called cellulose. This product is vastly inferior to foam insulation.
It’s essentially chopped up newspaper that is blown into existing walls. It tends to settle down into the walls, requiring that it be replaced in a decade or so.
And the worst part is that it doesn’t provide very good energy savings or comfort!
Compare that with injection foam, where property owners are likely to see 40% reduction in costs, and significant, noticeable, meaningful changes in comfort and health. Frankly, the two products aren’t even in the same ballpark.
R-Value Isn’t Relevant With Foam Insulation
For years cities have required that insulation be measured by its R-Value. This form of measurement is built on an old-fashioned belief that all insulation allows some form of heat loss. R-Value measures how long it takes heat to make its way through the material.
In the case of foam insulation, however, there is no airflow. It’s a total air barrier and doesn’t allow any heat loss. So technically speaking, there is no R-Value appropriate to assign foam insulation.
To keep their processes consistent, the city and inspectors have assigned rather arbitrary R-Values to the different types of foam. But it’s frankly not relevant. What is relevant is to understand that foam insulation is a new, superior technology to old forms of insulation. It’s so innovative that it provides a total air barrier, preventing all movement of air and heat.
This technology is so advanced that we don’t have a proper way of measuring its effectiveness. Any claims to high R-Value by an insulation company are irrelevant now that we have foam insulation as an option. If one is shooting for “net zero” as their goal, or even trying to get close to it, foam insulation is really their only option.
How to Get Rebates for Using Foam Insulation
Burton & Clark Construction, Inc. can be an integral part of your energy preservation process, including getting rebates on your building project. Your first step in the process of seeking rebates is to hire an energy inspector. They will come to your property and perform a full evaluation. They will determine a baseline on your building’s current energy efficiency.
The inspector will make recommendations, including our role of foam insulating. We will then come to your home or commercial location and conduct our part of the process, executing the insulation.
When we are completed the inspector will return and re-test the structure and determine the level of energy conservation. Those results are then sent to the city so that rebates can be issued.
If You Qualify—Injection Foam Insulation Is a No-Brainer
When you consider the amazing results of injection foam insulation and the fact that the product basically pays for itself in three years, it’s hard to understand why an owner of an older building with existing walls and vaulted ceilings wouldn’t make this smart investment.
It’s a free gift of comfort, health, and better living. Not a small promise; not a small value!