Business Name: EcoWise Insulation
Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
We provide thermal protection and spray foam insulation for new construction, renovation and additions.
What’s the difference between spray foam and fiberglass insulation?
When you have a two-story house with an attic or crawl space, generally the first two floors will be air-conditioned, but the attic or crawl space will not. When using old-school fiberglass insulation, you have to circulate three feet of air in that attic or crawl space for every 1000 square feet, every three hours, using mechanical or venting methods. Here at Ecowise we build what’s called a thermal envelope, insulating the entire home from the attic down to the bottom of the house. This controls airflow in all areas of the house, eliminating the need for venting and allowing for better circulation and temperature control. With the old method, an attic will be about 100 degrees hotter than the rest of the house. With a thermal envelope, that difference will only be about ten degrees.
One thing that happens with fiberglass is that after about 10 years, it shrinks and may drop within the walls so it no longer fills the entire cavity. There are holes for plumbing and wires. Every electrical receptacle in the house has a hole about the size of a quarter where air escapes. With spray foam, you’ll never have those issues.
Most people who are building a house don’t think much about insulation. Why is that a mistake?
It’s true; most people don’t think much about what’s behind their walls because they don’t see it. Many issues can pop up later if insulation is not done well, such as losing cold air in the summer. Your house is only as good as its weakest link. If one wall isn’t insulated properly, air will escape from there, affecting the entire home. Once the walls have closed, it’s not something you can every fix completely.
Does proper insulation keep utility bills down?
Absolutely. The air conditioning or heating will not have to kick in as much if there is not as much air leakage. The average 2200-2600 square foot home in America loses enough air in 24 hours to fill up two Goodyear blimps. That’s how much energy escapes when walls are not well insulated. And that adds up to big bills.
Why doesn’t everyone just use spray foam insulation?
The thermal envelope has only been around for approximately a decade. In many instances, it’s an issue of building codes. Cost is also a factor, although some better builders won’t build without it. Spray foam insulation can be double the price of fiberglass. In Canada, all new construction must use spray foam insulation.
Shouldn’t I just leave the insulation decisions up to the builder or contractor?
No. An architect will write the code for the roof and exterior walls without calculating how much heating or cooling you need, what the building is made of, or what it’s used for. When doing new construction, you should consult with an insulation expert who can take into account all your considerations. Ask a lot of questions and give as much information as you can. One thing that often gets overlooked is when a master bath Jacuzzi is installed above the dinette. It’s only when people move into the house that they realize they can hear every buzz – no one thought beforehand to soundproof and insulate that area.
Are there mold issues with spray foam?
No. Spray foam insulation is moisture-proof, mold-proof, and insect and rodent-proof. It also never needs maintenance.
What’s the difference between open cell and closed cell insulation?
Although both are called spray insulation, they are very different in application. In our industry we measure R-value, which is resistance to heat. Open cell has a much lower R-value than closed-cell. Open in permeable, closed is not. Closed is heavier and completely waterproof. I use closed when there is not enough room in the wall for R-value, or for steel, metal, or stone. We recommend open cell for wood and residential building when there is enough R-value.
Can you change the insulation of a preexisting house?
We do it, but there’s great cost and a lot of work involved. We have to make holes in the walls or open them. We can take thermal imaging to determine where air is escaping from, but we can’t always know. Even when we do, power lines and pipes may interfere. Replacing insulation is more of a band-aid; it’s never a complete job. That’s why it’s so important to do it right from the start.