Foam set to expand: Innovative insulation aims to replace Fiberglas in homes

2005-04-30 by admin ......................................................................................
Calgary Herald
Sat Apr 30 2005
Page: J15
Section: New Homes
Byline: Jeff Pappone
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: For CanWest News Service

An Ottawa insulation company hopes to blow away the competition with its expanding foam that promises to change the way houses are protected from the elements.

Designed to be sprayed on during construction and eliminate the labour-intensive process of cutting and laying Fiberglas, Icynene Insulation has already gone into dozens of homes in the Ottawa region.

"When it first goes on, it looks like paint, but when it makes contact with the air, it expands to 100 times its original size," says Sam Marrello, sales manager for Comfort Insulation, which sells Icynene in Ottawa.

"Builders are using it in the ceilings of garages if there's a room above it because that's a cold area and spraying it underneath the joist space gives the homeowner a warmer room."

The current solution is to pump hot air into the joist between the two, which has most of the energy counteracting the frigid air below.

The insulation, which looks like angel food cake when cured, creates an air and vapour barrier that helps reduce energy costs by between 30 and 50 per cent, while its water-based formula eliminates a number of possible health risks associated with other products, says Marrello.

Comfort Insulation brought the foam to Ottawa in October after signing a deal to distribute the product with Icynene Inc., the Mississauga-based company that makes the foam wall fill.

Unlike some insulation on the market, Icynene contains no formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons, or synthetic blowing agents, and there is no off-gassing 24 hours after it is applied.

Its moisture-resistant cells also prevent mould growth.

Icynene's environmental friendliness has made it the choice for projects for health-sensitive individuals, including the American Lung Association's demonstration Health Houses and Rose Cherry's Home, named for the late wife of hockey commentator Don Cherry.

The Milton, Ont., Rose Cherry's Home will provide pediatric hospice care and respite services for Ontario families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Campanale construction manager Arpad Szinegh praises the Icynene offering because it gives builders three features in one product: insulation value, vapour barrier, and air barrier.

The builder is testing the product and will consider abandoning all other insulation should the foam perform as expected. Maple Mountain, Minto, Patterson, and Tamarack have also put Icynene in their homes.

"The real advantage of the foam is that it reaches every nook and cranny because it expands into the space and air seals the area," says Szinegh.

"That's the biggest problem with the areas above garages: You can never get a proper air barrier and you end up heating the outdoors."

Although Icynene costs about 2.5 times more than Fiberglas, construction savings in other areas balance the added front-end expense, says Marrello. "For example, by spraying Icynene in the garage overhang, you eliminate the drop ceiling and

the lumber to build it, the cold air return and the duct run from the furnace to the room above, and Tyvek, which is used commonly used as an air barrier."

The less labour-intensive process also requires only two workers to get the insulation into the walls, with one person operating the machine and monitoring the flow of the components while a second does the spraying. The two chemicals mix in a specially built machine and are applied in a predetermined thickness, depending on the depth of the space to be filled.

A pour-foam version of the product is also available, which is designed for injection into the wall cavities of older homes. The foam's R-value of 1.4 per centimetre combined with its air sealing qualities means that if the right thickness is put into the walls during construction, Icynene alone will ensure a warm home even in the depths of winter, says Marrello.

"The whole principle behind Icynene is that it seals, so once you reach an R-40 value, you don't have to include additional insulation."

While the technology has been around for roughly 20 years and has been featured on the PBS renovation show This Old House, the spray-on foam is only now finding its way into the Canadian market.

The Canadian invention first found success in the United States in states with less prescriptive building codes. "Our product is rated air barrier and insulation in one, so when a building code asks for R-32 in attics, we can put in half that R-value and still outperform. But in Canada, we had to put in R-32 even if was overkill," says Brian Pickard, Icynene sales manager.

"So, we had easier access to the U.S. market due to these issues and we had to prove ourselves there before coming back to Canada."
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Comfort Insulation is Ottawa's exclusive dealer for ICYNENE®, the industry-leading "green" spray foam insulation product. ICYNENE® is 100% water-blown, HFC and PBDE free, odorless and can save homeowners up to 50% on heating and cooling costs.