While we are all familiar with standard fiberglass insulation, there is a more efficient type of insulation.  It is called spray foam insulation – also called green spray foam.  This is a popular item for new roof construction, additions and renovations, which offers several benefits.  Importantly, spray foam insulation meets Illinois Energy Efficiency building codes. 

Spray foam is polyurethane foam created by mixing and reacting chemicals such as recycled plastic (including pop bottles) and renewable resources such as soy to create solid foam.   The solid nature of spray foam insulates and seals gaps, preventing the elements from coming in.    Spray foam also can insulate every nook and cranny in your walls, basement, crawl space and attic. Compare that to fiberglass insulation which is layered, but contains gaps that let in cold or heat. 

So here are the advantages of spray foam insulation.

  1. As mentioned, it reduces air leakage.  In a typical home, 40% of energy loss is due to air leakage.  An average American home loses enough air each day to fill two Goodyear blimps.   Spray foam prevents that.
  2. Saves on utility bills.  Spray foam helps keep the home more comfortable at a lower thermostat setting in the winter and higher setting in the summer, thus reducing energy costs…possibly by as much as 60%.
  3. Reduces heating and cooling loads.  When spray foam is used during new construction, it can reduce heating and cooling loads by 50% to 90%, reducing the size and possibly the amount of HVAC equipment needed.  
  4. Reduces wear on HVAC equipment after installation.
  5. Improves indoor air quality by reducing pollen, dust and mold.
  6. Reduces noise pollution as there are no cracks or gaps for noise to come through.  
  7. Adds strength to the building structure.

There are two types of spray foam insulation:

Closed cell offers the highest insulation power because it is four times as dense as open cell and is waterproof if applied at a thickness of 1.5 inches or more.  It can be applied to the exterior of a foundation, to dirt in a crawl space, basement walls or to gravel before pouring your basement floor.  It increases structural integrity by 200%.

Open cell allows moisture to pass through it without impacting the effectiveness of the insulation, making it ideal for roof insulation, as long as you can achieve the appropriate depth of foam.  However, open cell insulation cannot be applied to brick or masonry construction or any part of a dwelling below grade level.
Finally, while there are DIY kits, spray foam is messy and produces off-gasses during installation which can cause health issues from asthma to skin problems for the installer. Professional installers have the proper safety equipment and experience to get the job done right.  That is the way to go.