Does EPS Bead Size Really Matter?

By: Joe Kurz, Packaging Specialist

EPS Bead and PennyAs the nations  2nd largest processor of expanded polystyrene bead, ACH Foam Technologies runs many different beads sizes through its facilities. These sizes vary depending on the intended usage.

While our Lost Foam operations in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin requires a very small bead in order to properly fill the detail areas of the molds used for this application, larger size beads are favored for production of billets used in our fabrication processes. Many variables come into play here, and our production experts at the plant level are the most knowledgeable about choosing the proper size bead for your intended use. Feedback from our customers, some of whom use our billets to create their products, is also very helpful in dialing in the proper recipe for their needs. One such customer will first hotwire our foam, and then mills it using a CNC router system. We supply them with billets in a “C” sized bead, which satisfies both processing methods perfectly. Another customer, one that cuts shapes and flat sheets, prefers a billet made with a mix of “B” and “C” size beads.

When a new customer comes to us for quotes, our trained, experienced sales and estimators know the proper questions to ask regarding how our EPS foam will be used. Armed with these answers, we can offer the correct product the first time, and ensure customer satisfaction. ACH Foam Technologies strives to continue to be the leader in EPS industry.

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The Performance and Sticker Price (R-Value) of EPS Insulation Ensures a Consistent Long-Lasting Positive Experience

By: John Myers, Sales Representative – Architectural Products

Wait a minute! You mean the published R-Value is not always an accurate reflection of the actual performance I will receive? How does that happen?

The reality of published R-Values for rigid foam insulation is somewhat like the estimated fuel mileage on the sticker of your new car. Rarely is it an accurate reflection of your actual mileage. Driving conditions, your lead foot, and other real life conditions will have an effect on your car. As will the quality of the fuel you put in your tank.

In the world of rigid insulation, the factors to consider are as simple as the method of production. First to consider is that all foam insulation boards are made from a type of plastic. The raw material is expanded into blocks then cut into sheets OR extruded into sheets. When the production process requires the use of gasses to extrude a raw material, the initial R-Values of the finished product can be overstated. The gas that is used for expansion is not permanent, and is eventually replaced with atmospheric air that rem

So when do we measure the R-Value? Just like the auto industry, the R-Value is calculated at the best possible condition, and in the case of rigid insulation it is at the time of manufacture. This is not always the R-Value you can expect to receive in the field, as verified by outside entities such as the National Roofing Contractors Association and Building Science to name a couple.ains for the life of the product. At that point the R-Value becomes stable.

What is the answer? There is one type of foam that does not temporarily capture gas in the manufacturing process. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

does not inject gasses into the product and therefore arrives at the job with an R-Value that will remain constant throughout its lifetime. It is manufactured with trapped atmospheric air and thus never changes its R-Value.


A drive with EPS with Leave you Surprised with Its Performance.

Take a drive with EPS Insulation and know that you will enjoy the consistent performance as your insulation of choice for below-grade, roofing, and cavity wall applications. You will feel confident that the R-Value you thought you were designing with or purchasing is exactly what was stated on the sticker.

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Insulation: Good, Better, & Best

By: Terry Meier, Sales Representative, Architectural Products

Some choices are good but others are better. Just because something is good is not necessarily reason for selecting it.

Many years ago the Sears Roebuck catalog would display some of its merchandise in 3 degrees of quality: good, better, and best.

As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best.

For over 30 years I have sold XPS foam products. I am very familiar with that product. I believe that XPS is a good product and better than many other insulation products, but is it the best choice? I don’t believe so. Even though I believe that XPS is a good product I would never have it as my first choice. Why? Because I believe that Foam-Control PLUS+® architectural EPS insulation is not only better but it is the best choice. Listed below are 6 reasons why I believe EPS is the best choice:

1. Insulation Value

  • Excavated after 15 years as side-by-side below-grade foundation insulation, the EPS had maintained 94% of its published R-value whereas XPS only retained 52% of its published R-value.
  • The R-value warranty for Foam-Control PLUS+® 250 is R-4.35 and will remain the same through its lifetime. The R-value warranty for XPS is R-value 4.35, the same as Foam-Control PLUS+® 250.

 2. Strength Characteristics

  • EPS is made in 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 40, and 60 psi strengths.
  • XPS is made in 15, 25, 40, 60, and 100 psi strengths.
  • A wider variety of densities and strengths are available with EPS.

3. Size Availability


  • Widths 8”, 12”, 16”, 24”, 36”, 48”
  •  Lengths 2’, 4’, 6’, 8’, 9’, 10’, 12’, 16’

Thicknesses ½” up to 36” in any variation.


  • Widths 16”, 24”, 48”
  • Lengths 8’
  • Thicknesses ¾”, 1”, 1 ½”, 2”, 2 ½”, 3”

XPS is very limited in sizes and availability.

EPS is manufactured in large blocks and using hot wires are cut into desired size and shape.

4. Product Availability

  • EPS is manufactured locally with very short lead times.
  • XPS is manufactured in very few locations and has long lead times, up to 3 weeks from the time of order.

5. Water Absorption

Foam-Control PLUS+® architectural EPS insulation will absorb a maximum of 2-4% by volume when exposed to the testing specified by ASTM C578.

Recent independent testing of below-grade insulation was conducted on water absorption of expanded polystyrene (EPS) and an extruded polystyrene (XPS). Samples of EPS and XPS were excavated from the exterior foundation of a building in St. Paul, MN. The insulation was placed into service in 1993 and had 15 years of use as a vertical insulation.

Samples were tested immediately upon excavation for R-value and moisture content.

The results of the independent testing are dramatic. The EPS insulation maintained 94% of its stated R-value and had a moisture content of 4.8%. However, the XPS retained only 52% of its stated R-value and had 18.9% moisture absorption.

Short term laboratory tests of water absorption for XPS do not necessarily reflect the long term below grade performance of these materials.

6. Insect Resistant

Termites and other tunneling insects love to live, work, and eat in comfortable and protected surroundings. All untreated foam insulation products can provide this environment. Foam-Control PLUS+® can be made using a patented process using a borate mineral that is a deterrent to tunneling insects such as termites. This additive is incorporated into the foam insulation during the manufacturing process. It is safe for handling and is noncorrosive.

XPS foam is not available with this additive and is susceptible to insect intrusion.

7. Cost Per R-Value

  • At equal R-value EPS costs about 30 – 50% less than XPS.
  • When EPS is that much less expensive than XPS the choice is easy.  This choice is especially easy when there are no advantages in choosing XPS.
  •  Foam-Control PLUS+® architectural EPS is by far the best choice.

But don’t just take our word for it…

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Roof Insulation: A Comparison of Performance & Environmental Considerations

By: Tamara Middleton, Sales Representative – Architectural Products

Most flat commercial roof buildings today use one of three insulations: polyisocyanurate (polyiso), extruded polystyrene (XPS), or expanded polystyrene (EPS).  These are used above the roof deck and protected by the roof membrane.  Polyiso is the most commonly used of the three, this is due to its higher R-Value; however, overtime that R-Value has been decreasing.

Updated 2016 NRCA Polyiso R-Value Recommendation

Updated 2016 NRCA Polyiso R-Value Recommendation.  Learn more.

Polyiso originally used CFC’s for its blowing agent, while that gave the insulation a higher R-Value, it is extremely hazardous to the environment.  In 1993 the polyiso industry shifted to HCFC-141b, causing a significant decrease in their R-value.  In 2002 the industry shifted to HCFC-142b.  However, while HCFC’s are only 5% to 10% as damaging to the ozone as CFC’s, they are still damaging and by 2020 HCFC-142b must also be phased out. XPS currently uses HCFC-134a, this will also be phased out by 2020.  EPS roof insulation on the other hand does not use and CFC’s or HCFC’s for its blowing agents.  EPS is expanded using pentane.  Pentane is a hydrocarbon and does not cause ozone depletion or global warming.  Around the country several EPS manufactures are redesigning plants to recover up to 95% of the pentane used.

All three insulations use flame retardants in order to meet building code standards.  Both EPS and XPS use HBCD which is non carcinogenic but it does have health concerns.  HBCD makes up 2.5% of XPS and 1% of EPS.  Polyiso uses TCPP which makes up 5% of the insulation.  TCPP has been shown to be harmful to aquatic organisms but has limited human toxicity.

Expanded polystyrene, Extruded polystyrene and Polyisocyanurate are all non-biodegradable.  Any one of these in a land fill will be there indefinitely.  While polyiso can be recycled it is a complicated process and there are no programs in place for recycling.  EPS and XPS are also recyclable and several programs exist across the country for the recycling of EPS.  Most EPS manufacturers accept all construction and packaging grade EPS for recycling.

Learn more about EPS recycling opportunities or Foam-Control and Foam-Control PLUS+ expanded polystyrene (EPS) Roof Insulation.

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Arcel Resin vs Molded Pulp

By: Ryan Olson, Packaging Specialist

Arcel® resin has been used by many cabinet manufacturers to eliminate the multiple steps in packaging components.   ACH Foam’s Arcel® is less abrasive compared to pulp and corrugate, allowing for less material requirement and steps needed to complete a pack-out. Sometimes it also allows for reduction in PE foam wrap, typically used between cabinet surface and traditional pulp corners.  This simple process using ACH Foam’s Arcel® corners allows cabinet manufacturers to realize reduction in labor time associated with packaging a cabinet and also reduces potential damage during shipment.

The following photos show the difference between packaging with ACH Foam’s Arcel® and packaging with molded pulp and PE wrap for same cabinets:

ArcelContact us to learn more about this unique Arcel® blend of PE and EPS.

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