(C) Daniel Friedman Super High-R Insulation Products
     

  • SUPER HI-R INSULATION - CONTENTS: Very high R-value miracle building insulation products. Advanced Thermal Insulation. Sources of very high-R insulation products, insulating boards, and wall panels for superinsulated building construction and other applications
  • Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about super high-R insulation
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This article discusses the choices of super high-R value building insulation products and other very high R-value insulation products currently available for use on residential and commercial super insulated buildings. Sketch at page top and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

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Q&A on Super High R-Value Insulation Products

The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is followed by an expanded/updated online version of this article.

The question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

Information on Advanced Super-Insulation Products for buildings

Question:

I recently read an advertisement in which a new "miracle" insulation rated at R-16 per inch had passed initial tests at Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

Do you have any information about this very high-R insulating material? -- Blair Sponaugle, Roswell NM

Answer:

For in the early 1980's, Oak Ridge National Laboratories began investigating exotic high-R insulations for use in appliances. The most promising contender to emerge was ultra-fine (200 angstroms) "fumed" amorphous silica particles sandwiched in an evacuated panel of aluminumized plastic.

One prototype very high R prototype panel from France consistently tested at R-16.6 per inch for over two and a half years - demonstrating the panel's ability to hold its vacuum, at least in a laboratory setting.

The panel's main drawback was the powder's exorbitant cost.

Preliminary tests on a far cheaper substitute super insulation material - waste product of silicon production - were very encouraging, with test results as high as R-34 per inch.

It is important to note that if the insulating panel is punctured or damaged, the vacuum and the super high-R values are lost. This would likely preclude most building applications for this type of insulation, though its use in appliances is promising.

"Development of Advanced Thermal Insulation for Appliances," Oak Ridge National Laboratories, ORNL/TM-9121 is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

As for the super high-R miracle insulation advertisement you cited, we suspect it is a misuse of the Oak Ridge findings, since at the time of your question, those products had yet to emerge from the testing laboratory.

Also see Ceramic Insulation.

Current High-R Building Insulation Products for Super Insulated buildings

The high-R insulating panel building products currently in most common use are POLYSTYRENE FOAM INSULATION and POLYISOCYANURATE FOAM INSULATION panels and also polyurethane spray foam (URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing). These materials have a typical R-value of about R-5 to R-6 per inch, though when installed with a radiant surface (that might help) and a 3/4" air gap, the R-value is increased substantially - as we detail below. Fiberglass batts, which are still most-widely used in residential construction, are about R-3 per inch.

Here are some currently-available high-R building insulation products as well as some specialty very high-R insulation materials:

  • Aerogel has an R-value of about R-10 per inch, is 99% air and insulates up to 37 times higher R-value than fiberglass. The material is costly, and fragile, factors that have limited its use in residential construction. Work is in process to produce a less costly version.
  • Barrier Ultra-R super high-R building panels, produced by Glacier Bay, use Aerogel and are rated up to R-30 per inch, or in Barrier Ultra-r™ panels, R-50 per inch. The Ultra-R™ R-50 insulating panel is a rigid polypropylene-encased vacuum insulation panel that is custom made to the client's specified dimensions. The panels are also available with a fiberglass coating on one or both sides. (Used in refrigeration applications.)
    The company also produces acoustic panels that are Ultra-db resistant and lightweight. Unlike the appliance insulation panels discussed in the original Q&A above on miracle insulation, these Aerogel based panels will continue to retain some, though reduced insulating value if punctured, performing at perhaps R-9 per inch. The product is used in marine refrigerators, but in the future may be available as a residential construction product. The company is researching specialized products in medical, transportation, and aerospace applications.
  • Ceramic Insulation - version of high temperature treated Perlite Insulation
  • Eco-Panel polyurethane foam core structural insulated panels (SIPs) are produced by Eco-Panels Corporation. The 3-inch thick panels include structural elements and panel locking devices. The company offers a super-insulated 8.5-inch thick structural insulated panel and also produces roof panels. The 2.5 pound polyurethane foam used in these panels provides about R-7 per inch; 4-inch panels are rated at R-26, 6 1/2inch panels at R-40.
  • Hightherm R-24, Supertherm R30, and Superthermal R60 wall panels are produced by Supertherm. Wallpanel® uses 18 gauge steel studs spaced 16" on center, staggered to support 24" o.c. roof trusses, combined with high-density (two pound) polystyrene foam insulation. The higher density polystyrene foam insulation permits achieving an R-30 wall panel that is 6" thick (rather than 7" with lower density foam). The panels are finished with an insulating ceramic coating and are warranted for 25 years.
  • Low-E Housewrap Insulation™, is a patented insulation consisting of a closed micro-cell foam core that is heat laminated to foil or polyethylene facings. This foam board insulating product is thin, provided in rolls, intended as a thermal break wrap that is moisture, rodent, and insect resistant. The Low-E Manufacturer states that it outperforms 3-4" of fiberglass insulation. As the product literature points out, "All of these components are referred to as a system R-Value. A 3/4" air space facing the aluminum is ideal because convection currents cannot begin to move in an air space this small. The aluminum actually increases the R-Value of the air space it faces. Low-E is manufactured using a 1/4" polyethylene foam core with scrim reinforced double-sided aluminum facings. It can be used in all facets of the building industry where conventional insulations are used. It can be used alone or in conjunction with mass insulations for high R-systems. " The product is also advertised by some distributors for insulation retrofit products, attics, basements, under-slab insulation, etc.
  • Precision Panel R28 (R-4 to R-7 per inch) Laminated EPS foam core Structural Insulating Panels (SIPs) are produced by Precision Panel Co. located in Idaho, ships insulating panels world wide. The 4-inch thick EPS foam core panels are laminated with exterior sheathing (OSB) and an interior sheathing (OSB or ?). The foam core panels are prepared with window and door rough openings and accept edge splines or top and bottom plates for construction. They include wire chases and are cut to customer specifications.
  • STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION has been considered a high-R building method for a long time and is discussed at STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION
  • STYROFOAM™ Brand Spray Polyurethane Foam R 6.1 per inch, (CM Series) produced by DOW Chemical is a "two-component, spray-applied polyurethane foam that creates a seamless, monolithic barrier for protection against water vapor and air on the interior of steel stud walls. This closed-cell, 2-pcf spray foam successfully incorporates the Enovate 3000 blowing agent from Honeywell. This product is designed as a filler for the Thermax Wall System discussed below.
  • Super Therm® insulating ceramic coatings produced by Superior Solar Barrier, are used on buildings as well as freezers and refrigerators, intended as an impenetrable exterior coating. The coating uses a vacuumed microceramic hollow particle (ceramic bubbles) containing a gas,and providing minimal heat conductivity. The particles are distributed in a coating vehicle.
  • Thermax™ Wall System, DOW Chemical, "addresses design considerations for commercial steel stud applications and is not relevant for most residential applications. THERMAX™ Exterior Insulation R6.5 per inch, consists of a glass-fiber-reinforced polyisocyanurate foam core faced with nominal 4 mil embossed BLUE™ acrylic-coated aluminum on one side and 1.25 mil embossed aluminum on the other.
  • Tuff-R™ and Super Tuff-R™, Dow Building Solutions, have an R-value of R 6.5 per inch. Note that the R-value of this insulating board is increased to R-9.3 per inch if construction includes a 3/4" air space. These are closed-cell polyisocyanurate insulating foam core board products. The foam core is sandwiched between a choice of exterior faces including aluminum foil, tri-plex aluminum foil, or polyester kraft paper combined with reinforced aluminum foil. One board side is blue, the other is radiant aluminum foil. These products must be covered with a minimum of 1/2" drywall or equivalent thermal barrier in building applications. See POLYISOCYANURATE FOAM INSULATION. Also see Q&A on use of Rigid Foam Insulating Board. Also see the Dow Product Literature for Tuff-R insulating board - PDF file.
  • Vacuum Super-Insulated R-28 Panels from RParts are sold as an alternative to aerogel products. The panels are produced by a third party manufacturer using DOW INstill foam cores sealed at high vacuum in a special multi-layer gas impermeable barrier membrane film.

This article is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

 

Continue reading at CERAMIC INSULATION or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

or see SUPERINSULATION RETROFIT

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