Frequently Asked Questions – Homeowners
What are the different types of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation and where is it used?
- Two component low-pressure SPF kits: used by SPF contractors or weatherization professionals to air seal or insulate small to mid-size areas (e.g., crawl spaces, attics, joist retrofit or to fill seams and gaps in primary insulation).
- Two component high-pressure SPF systems: used by SPF contractors to insulate larger areas (e.g., new construction – walls and roofs or major renovations).
A professional energy audit on your home can help identify areas where extra insulation or air sealing would be beneficial.
What should I look for in a SPF contractor? What sort of questions should I ask?
- Appropriate training or certification in SPF installation
- A good reputation and references
He/she should be able to advise you on the following:
- Where to install SPF insulation in your home
- What to expect throughout each stage of the installation
- Safety precautions and technical specifications for the products being installed
- The need to leave your home during installation and an appropriate time after
As an added service, your contractor may also offer guidance on how to take advantage of local and federal utility rebates or tax credits.
Can I install two component spray polyurethane foam insulation myself?
However, there are insulating foam sealant products available in cans for Do-It-Yourselfers at home improvement stores. These products are used for small “bead-type” applications, such as sealing windows, doors, and filling small gaps and cracks.
How long will SPF insulation last? Does the foam degrade over time?
Can SPF insulation help control moisture in my home?
Will I have a problem with insects attacking the foam?
Can I be at home when SPF insulation is installed?
I have other contractors working in my home. Will application of SPF affect them?
What should the worksite look like after SPF installation?
- Ventilation of the area during and for a short time after installation
- After the installation, removal of dust, debris and foam trimmings by workers wearing appropriate protective equipment
- Removal and disposal of any empty and partially used SPF containers or drums in accordance with applicable federal, state, provincial and local requirements
What should I do if I smell an odor after SPF installation?
Does the SPF insulation in my home pose a fire hazard?
What are the energy efficiency benefits of SPF insulation?
- Reduce heating and air conditioning size
- HVAC sizing can sometimes be reduced as much as 35% without the loss of efficiency and comfort. (Source: Canadian Urethane Foam Contractors Association)
- Reduce drafts, noise and increase comfort
- SPF is an effective air barrier when properly applied.
- SPF is commonly used to prevent drafts from around windows and doors, attics and floor boards creating a more comfortable indoor environment.
- SPF helps minimize air-borne sound transmission.
- Impede entry of insects and pests
- Sealing gaps with SPF from the outside provides a barrier against insects and other pests where it is applied.
- Minimize air infiltration that can generate condensation and result in mold growth
- Moisture and humidity inside the home can lead to mold growth. Gaps and cracks in the building structure and condensation on windows can keep the humidity high and support mold and mildew growth. Left unchecked, mold and mildew can cause wood to rot. Air sealing the gaps between the attic and living space can help manage moisture and humidity issues.
- Seal and insulate areas from small cracks to large areas, such as walls and roofs
- Because SPF is spray-applied on site, it can more easily insulate and seal the small cracks common in homes. The application also makes larger areas – like walls, attics and roofs – easy to cover in a relatively short amount of time.
- Depending on the application, different types of SPF may be used. (See “Types of SPF“)
- Resist settling due to its general stability
- Typically not subjected to structural deterioration/decomposition and resists settling.
- Qualify for utility rebates, tax credits and green certification
- The energy savings obtained by air sealing homes is significant enough that the purchase and use of SPF products may qualify for tax credits under the new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Check with the manufacturer for confirmation that the specific SPF product qualifies for the tax credit and for further information and instructions on filing for the credit.
- Many local utility companies offer rebates for energy efficiency upgrades. Check with your utility provider for eligibility.
- To learn more about federal tax credits for energy efficiency, you can visit the ENERGY STAR web site on Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency.
For new construction or major remodel projects, the use of SPF may help earn energy-efficiency credits under residential green certification programs. A few sources you can visit include: Green Globes, U.S. Green Building Council – LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and National Association of Home Builders – information on scoring details.
Is spray polyurethane foam (SPF) “green” or “bio-based”?
Some SPF products are formulated with renewable resources such as natural oil polyols based on soybean or castor oil. These natural polyols are chemicals that are mixed and reacted with other chemicals to create polyurethane foam. The finished and reacted polyurethane foam will typically have only a portion of its content as “bio-based.” The foam must meet relevant government requirements in order to make a “bio-based” advertising claim.
How to interpret “green” SPF insulation marketing claims?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides helpful guidance on understanding R-value in its Consumer Alert – Home Insulation Basics: Higher R-Values = Higher Insulating Values. Federal regulations require an insulation installer to give you a contract or receipt for the insulation installed that shows the coverage area, thickness, and R-value of the insulation. Once you understand the R-value of the product, you can compare its insulating power to other insulation products.
The FTC issued its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly known as the “Green Guides” to help marketers avoid making inappropriate environmental claims.