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July 9, 2019 - 4 min

The Real Story About Spray Foam

Published by Frédéric Déom

There are many false beliefs when it comes to spray-applied polyurethane foam. Since safety, budget and performance are core concerns of builders, it is important to set the record straight about this insulation product that meets all of these objectives perfectly.

Do you think that spray-applied foam insulation might be a dangerous or non-reliable product? These are probably two of the most common misconceptions about polyurethane foam. In fact, this product must comply with the CAN/ULC-S705.1 Standard, which guarantees it is a highly safe and efficient material.

Of course, handling any chemicals involves a certain level of risk, but the many procedures provided by the CAN/ULC S705.2 application standard ensure the safest use of spray-applied polyurethane foam. This standard also requires all installers to successfully complete rigorous training and they must be certified to be allowed to install it.

The flammability of the product is another misconception. In fact, this thermosetting product contains flame retardants which slow down the spread of fire rather than accelerate it. This is one of the reasons why polyurethane is used in many household items, such as mattresses, sofas, toys, car interiors and shoes.

Foam Insulation: A Long-Term Investment

Spray-applied polyurethane foam might be more expensive to purchase than other insulation products. However, in the long run, it results in savings that will largely cover the initial investment. Indeed, a good insulation material helps regulate the building’s interior temperature, thus reducing the energy consumption required to make the building comfortable in summer and winter.

Spray-applied polyurethane has the highest R-value of all insulation materials, R = 6. This means that at equal thicknesses, it offers better thermal performance than other types of insulation.

Unlike other insulation materials, spray-applied foam fills all cavities, leaving no gaps in or around the insulation, without any exposed joints. It can also be applied in areas that are usually inaccessible, for example around pipes, electrical outlets and in confined spaces. Creating completely insulated environments avoids air leaks, which are the source of many problems, such as condensation, moisture, mould and poor indoor air quality.

What About the Environment?

Spray-applied polyurethane foam currently has a higher global warming potential (GWP) than other insulation materials. New regulations, which will come into force soon, will require all manufacturers to change their blowing agent so that their final product reaches carbon neutrality as much as possible. The goal is that by January 1, 2021, spray-applied polyurethane foam will have a GWP almost as identical to other insulation technologies like cellulose and fiberglass, which have a GWP of zero.

Foam insulation offers several ecological benefits. More compact than other insulating materials, it requires fewer trips for each construction project, which helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from freight transportation. Moreover, the metal drums are fully reusable and recyclable. Also, as mentioned earlier, the high thermal performance of foam insulation prevents energy losses caused by air leaks due to poor insulation, thus reducing winter heating and summer cooling energy, and GHG emissions related to energy production and consumption.

Finally, the use of spray-applied polyurethane can contribute to obtaining LEED v3 and v4 credits in the following categories: energy and atmosphere, innovation and design processes, materials and resources, and quality of outdoor environments.