The R-Value “Hot Potato”

By: Jim Nugent, Sales Representative – Architectural Products

Having been a sales professional of EPS products for 23 years I admit I had gotten used to the frustration over the misinformation about EPS insulation products and applications that often kept EPS from being the insulation product of choice for foundations, under slab, cavity walls, and roofs.

Initiatives would start with great intentions to take the construction market by storm, only to be thwarted quickly by the magnitude of the task. We would grumble by the water cooler, then re-focus efforts in the OEM world where EPS is the product of choice for protective packaging, garage doors, recreational vehicles, lost foam and countless other industrial applications.

I recently joined ACH Foam Technologies and I have been impressed by our commitment to the sustained marketing effort to target the architectural community and deliver the message that EPS is the right choice where rigid insulation is needed; a message that is backed up with sound technical data.

With several architectural and engineering lunch and learn presentations under my belt, I am starting to see a pattern develop I call the R-value “Hot Potato”.  The manufacturers of rigid insulation that use low conductance gas blowing agents publish R-values that can not be sustained for the life of the building; that data is passed to the architects and specifiers who design the thermal envelop of the building using that published data; the local code authorities accept the way things have been done for decades, and eventually the owner gets stuck with the “Hot Potato”. It is likely the building will not deliver the thermal performance he or she paid for.

I should disclaim at this point that many design firms I have met with have started using sustainable R-values when designing a building envelop, but there is still a long way to go.

The time has come to eliminate the confusion over long term R-value and for mandates to be put in place that rigid insulation manufacturers publish R-value data based on the assumption that the blowing agent has left the cell structure of their product and has been replaced by air. This is the only reliable, predictable method to determine long term R-value.  All rigid foam insulations are simply plastic that uses trapped air for the insulating medium therefore all rigid foams have the same actual R value when comparing the same thickness and density.

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