Q. What is the difference between closed cell and open cell?
A. Closed cell foam offers superior thermal performance and its texture is very rigid. It carries a higher ‘R’ value because it has more density (about 2 lbs. per cubic ft.) and is appealing to a home owner because it will not interfere with the insulation that is currently in the home and can exist within a vented area. An added benefit is that it is not porous therefore, no water can get through this material. Otherwise known as a vapor barrier. Closed cell foam typically consists of hydro fluorocarbons (HFC’s) which has a high potential to affect global warming. With these high risks, many ‘green’ contractors and conscientious home owners will not use this type of foam. These calculations were made by The Green Building Advisor.
Open cell is a soft, porous material that is broken and air fills the open spaces within the material. The density of open cell foam is typically around .50 to .75 a pound per cubic feet. This foam needs to be encapsulated within an enclosure because it is vapor permeable. A vapor retarder paint over gypsum board may be used to help with the permeability of the foam. This is also breathable so it will not sustain mold and mildew. Open cell foam is also a much more affordable option than closed cell but is not recommended in places like below grade because the porosity of the material could get wet and would negate its thermal performance. Open cell foam would be a good fit for enhancing sound deadening within interior walls.
**Parsons can provide the application of closed-cell and open-cell foam. Our open-cell foam is equipped with a mold inhibitor and boric acid, which is an insecticide. It is class 1 rated and can be applied to the interior or exterior of the home or building. We also have an injected open-cell foam that is pre-expanded when it exits the application gun so it can be safely installed without the concern for damaging any part of a structure within the home. Depending on the areas of concern, our technicians will know exactly what products to use. This is a free service that includes a thermal imaging scan of the whole house, including basement, that will determine the areas lacking proper insulation or other issues that should be addressed.**
Q. What ‘R” values do closed cell and open cell provide?
A. The greater the density of the foam, the more ‘R’ value per inch it carries. Therefore, closed cell foam has more ‘R’ value per inch. (1/2 lb. per cu. ft. vs. about 2 lb. per cu.ft) With slightly more product, an open cell foam can be applied to carry the same ‘R’ value as a closed cell foam can with a much less expensive price. In narrow spaces, closed cell foam should be used to obtain a better ‘R’ value since less product can be used.
Q. Can I use foam insulation in my ceiling?
A. Depending on what benefits that you are looking for, you could apply foam in the ceiling, however, it could get pretty expensive. Make sure that you do your research to find an experienced, reputable company. Appliers need to understand the building envelope and need make sure they apply the foam in ALL air leakage sites. A drawback to using a closed cell foam in the ceiling is that it expands when it exits the application gun so it could have damaging effects to a building, like structural movement of a roof. A benefit is that because of its density, closed cell foam adds structural integrity and strength to a building.
**An alternative method that is considerably less expensive, does not have chemical compounds to mix and does not need removal of any existing insulation is a patent pending insulation product called Reflective Optimizing Insulation. This is made specifically for the attic and is over 99% copper. Installation is quick and goes right over top the existing insulation with no concern of damaging parts of a building.**
Q. Is there anything harmful in foam insulation?
A. Almost all foams are chemical based – spray polyurethane foam (SPF), rigid polyurethane, spray and rigid polyisocyanurate (polyiso), extruded polystyrene (XPS), and expanded polystyrene (EPS)… But as long as the correct protocol is followed for the specific type to foam insulation being installed, the homeowner should not be affected by these chemicals while they are in the curing process.
If the concern is more about indoor air quality after the installation process, this is or should be resolved by the heating and cooling system in the home. Many systems use a highly energy efficient ‘air exchange(r)’ designed to condition the incoming outside air with the outgoing exhaust air. In this manner, you can build an extremely energy efficient exterior shell using high-performance spray foam insulation and still providing controlled and energy efficient ventilation.
Take caution when soy or castor based products are mentioned. The percentage of ecologically friendly material that is legally required for companies to make this claim is frighteningly low. According to The U.S. Department of Agriculture, a spray-foam product needs to be made up of only 7% of a renewable resource (like castor oil or soy) to be labeled as a bio-based foam.
To steer clear of this and other ‘claims’, check out the MSDS (Material Safety & Data Sheet) information to see what it is made up of along with other facts like hazard and reactivity data.
**We can apply any type of insulation needed. One of the systems we use is an aminoplast polymeric injected foam system that carries one of the lowest formaldehyde contents available for foam insulation. To see the MSDS information of this foam, click here. Hazardous components do not exist above the level of 0.1% so applicators typically do not wear protective masks and hazmat suits like most foam applicators do. We also carry closed cell foam as well.**
Q. Can foam insulation damage the walls in my home?
A. A closed cell foam has the potential to damage the walls within your home but if this is applied by an experienced professional, there really should not be any need for concern. Due to expansion of the foam after it exits the applicator gun, there are precise measures to take in order to not interfere with the structure. An open cell injected spray foam is already expanded when it exits so there is no concern for displacement but might not be a plausible application in certain climate zones or structures.
Q. Could mold form overtime where foam insulation has been installed?
A. If the foam is installed correctly with an air tight seal, there should be no issues with mold growth. As closed cell is impervious to moisture, even when submerged, mold is not sustainable for growth. Open cell foam’s vapor permeability enhances its ability to dry out if it came into contact with water. And because of its porosity, it will not retain moisture, letting it run through it. Some open cell foam is also equipped a mold inhibitor for added protection for this occurrence.
**Our injected open cell foam system is equipped with mold inhibitors and also carry closed cell foam.**
Q. Where is the best place to install foam in my house?
A. Depending on the area to be injected with foam, the estimator with determine the most effective and beneficial way for the foam to be installed. We take additional efforts to ensure your satisfaction like replacing paneling from your home when application is completed. Or mixing an almost exact match mixture of brick mortar into the t- joints, making it seamless and unassuming that holes were drilled into the substrate where the foam was installed.
Q. Can you run wiring through a wall after foam insulation has been installed?
A. Running wiring prior to insulating your home is idea but yes it can be done with open cell foam. Open cell is less rigid, making it easier to cut around using a hot knife. Closed cell foam is not as easy as it is much more dense and rigid. Another way to go would be to install electrical conduit vertically in the walls and cap the ends before filling them with foam. This way, wires can be easily accessed from one level to the next if ever need be.
Q. How much is foam insulation and installation?
A. There are many factors that go into the pricing of a foam insulation project:
- Is it new construction or retrofit? (New construction is typically less expensive due to the fact that the application and scope of work is generally easier with access points not yet closed off.)
- The square footage of the project.(Generally, with bigger commercial jobs, the price is lower because the order is larger thus we get a lower rate when purchasing the product.)
- The type of insulation. ( Closed cell foam is more expensive than open cell foam)
**Fortunately, Parsons will give you a free, no obligation quotation, one that is good for 30 days after quote. The quote includes a FREE energy audit where the estimator starts from the bottom of the home all the way up to the attic with a thermal imaging camera to show you where efficiency is lacking and where energy is being lost. Call 513.278.2000. Florida residents, call 407-543-6000.