Insulating for Good

Spray Foam Insulation Provides Comfort and Energy Efficiency to Newly Constructed, Affordable Homes in Indian River County, FL.

By Juan Sagarbarria

Through generous donations, intensive manual labor, and progressive advocacy, Habitat for Humanity’s ongoing efforts to construct comfortable, affordable homes have long been earmarked in the eyes of the nation. Their movement has transcended many counties of each state and provided myriads of working-class families with a roof over their heads. Nowadays, subdivisions of Habitat for Humanity such as Indian River Habitat for Humanity (IRCHFH) have opted to go above and beyond for their cause, implementing energy-efficient technologies such as spray polyurethane foam insulation to add comfort and durability to these emerging homes.

For a project consisting of 60, 900-square-foot newly constructed homes in the Vero Beach area, IRCHFH contracted long-time partner LEED Insulation to install the insulation. The cost-effective insulation that IRCHFH opted for, entailed applying spray polyurethane foam followed by a hybrid insulation system to the exterior walls of each home. Subsequently, the project specifications call for the crew to apply blown insulation to the attic at a later date.

Exterior view of one of the homes located in Vero Beach, Florida.

Exterior view of one of the homes located in Vero Beach, Florida.

“We have been working with IRCHFH for the past 15 years,” said LEED Insulation’s Edward Richards. “We have donated in the past, but mostly we contribute to their cause as a subcontractor. There are many helping hands that go into the building process of these homes and we are honored to be a part of it. We believe the way Habitat facilitates the process of home ownership for folks that work on these houses is an incredible thing to do.”

“We Believe The way Habitat facilitates the process of home ownership for folks that work on these houses is an incredible thing to do.” – Ed Richards, LEED Insulation

And that is where the motivation for challenging volunteer work lies – sweat equity. By investing hundreds of hours of labor, future Habitat homeowners can reduce their mortgage payments. Even though Habitat employs subcontractors for aforementioned aspects of the home, these Habitat homes present the unique opportunity for low-income family members to step in and reduce the manual labor needed to construct the homes, thus reducing the price tag of the home altogether.

The housing development project began recently, and LEED Insulation has completed six homes, averaging two houses per month. Richards noted that the ongoing insulation project is contingent on builders and other subcontractors performing their duties before LEED arrives onsite. In light of this, the insulation application per home rate has been sporadic. Notwithstanding, the housing project has made headway and all the homes have passed the necessary inspections for future habitation.

“Before we come in, the frame of the building is built and the electrical and plumbing trades have already finished their work,” said Richards. “If we get the call to come in it’s because the home has passed the inspection and it is ready to be insulated.”

The LEED Insulation box-truck spray rig was stocked with all of the necessary components for succesful SPF application.

The LEED Insulation box-truck spray rig was stocked with all of the necessary components for succesful SPF application.

Richards and two other crewmembers arrived onsite for the SPF installation to the sixth home with one box truck rig, which was equipped with a Graco Reactor E-30 proportioner, A and B drums of Demilec’s Heatlok Soy 200 Plus 2 lb. closed-cell spray foam kept warm by Powerblanket drum heaters, and 300 feet of hose. To prep the 900 sq. ft. site and mitigate overspray, the LEED crewmembers covered the floors, windows, and doors with two-mil plastic sheeting. Depending on where the crewmembers were spraying, they left the side and back doors of the home opened and had industrial fans going to provide ventilation throughout the home.

Using a Graco Fusion AP gun, the LEED crew installed two, one-inch lifts of Heatlok Soy 200 Plus to the exterior walls of the home. As the foam filled the wall studs, the LEED crewmembers made sure to remove any excess foam as to maintain a flush composition. While applying foam, the sprayer wore PPE consisting of a fresh-air respirator attached to a pump that was placed outside of the home, Tyvek suits, gloves, and boots.

“Closed-cell spray foam is just a superior product – plain and simple,” said Richards. “It provides a high R-value and adds additional structure to the walls of the house, which is important for longevity and in the event of a hurricane. Spray foam will also provide a much more comfortable indoor environment for the people residing in this home, and it will help them save on their energy consumption.”

Following the foam installation, the crew installed HY-Fi, a cutting-edge hybrid reflective insulation material made by Fi-Foil that covers the SPF. This material, which mitigates heat transfer, retards vapor permeance, and pumps up the R-value to a wall assembly, was nailed down by the crew, leaving an inch and a half of air space between the foam and the HY-Fi material. The HY-Fi provided an R-7 increment to the R-14 value that the spray foam initially provided, resulting in an R-21 value to the exterior walls of each home.

The LEED crew installed HY-Fi hybrid reflective insulation over the foam.

The LEED crew installed HY-Fi hybrid reflective insulation over the closed-cell foam.

With 6 houses down and 54 to go, Richards strives to keep the level of integrity and quality work that has held LEED in high regard throughout their partnership with IRCHFH for the remainder of the project.

“We’ve gotten great feedback on our work and we hope to keep bringing the best quality work with the highest quality insulation material to every house,” said Richards. “We want to maintain our high standard of satisfaction rate throughout this project and we hope that our contribution improves the quality of life for the future occupants of these homes.”