You may have heard conflicting information about spray foam insulation. Unfortunately, the industry is plagued by misinformation and mistakes, so finding trustworthy details is challenging. Is spray foam insulation worth it? We’re here to settle the debate with pros and cons from some of the world’s most reputable sources.
Benefits of Spray Foam Insulation
First, let’s look at the pros of installing spray foam insulation. As its name implies, it’s a sprayable coating professionally applied to the entire interior surface of a space. It’s most commonly used in attics but can be applied to other areas like ductwork and crawlspaces.
Spray foam works as an excellent moisture barrier to resist droplets and vapors, performing better than other insulation that retains water. A study from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) shows fiberglass insulation loses its thermal resistance with exposure to moisture, so spray foam is a much better choice for even minimally humid and wet environments.
A spray-foamed attic retains heat better than other forms of insulation for two main reasons: expansion and thermal protection. It expands to fill gaps during the application process. Then remains in your home to deliver a higher R-value over time. The Department of Energy explains that a higher R-value gives greater insulative effectiveness, with spray foam among the highest R-values for homeowners.
According to research from The Family Handyman, spray foam insulation offers the best overall performance in the insulation marketplace to prevent heat loss through convection. Unlike other forms of insulation, spray foam fills every nook and cranny to halt unwanted air movement. It even fills tiny spaces other forms of insulation miss. Some examples include the crevices around light fixture mountings, door frames, windows, and vents.
Spray foam insulation provides excellent thermal insulation, reducing heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. This process can lead to significant energy savings and lower utility bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 56% of the energy used in a home goes to heating and cooling, and The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program estimates that by adding insulation and sealing air leaks, you could save up to 20% on your monthly energy bills.
Spray foam insulation can effectively seal gaps and cracks in the walls, attic, and roof. This reduces air leakage and prevents drafts. Air leakage happens when outside air enters and conditioned air leaves through cracks and openings, which is not recommended for natural ventilation. Lack of proper home sealing can lead to discomfort in cold or windy weather and poor indoor air quality in warmer and less windy conditions.
By minimizing the amount of air that enters or leaves your home, you can lower heating and cooling expenses, enhance durability, boost comfort levels, and promote better indoor air quality for you and your family.
Spray foam insulation is durable and can endure several decades without needing replacement. According to the American Chemistry Council, it lasts the structure’s life, making it a wise and sustainable investment.
Drawbacks of Spray Foam Insulation
Although the benefits justify the expense, people consider cost as the primary drawback of spray foam insulation. Therefore, when evaluating the price, always factor in the expense of lost thermal protection. Here’s an example showing what we mean.
The national average to insulate an attic is about $2,500, with cost variation depending on attic size, insulation needs, and other factors. For example, fiberglass insulation is on the lower end at about $1 to $2 per square foot. Spray foam is at the higher end at about $3 to $5 per square foot on average.
However, these installation costs don’t account for the high energy loss costs due to poor insulation, resulting in setting your thermostat warmer/cooler. The U.S. ENERGY STAR program estimates that sealing air leaks throughout the average house leads to a 25% reduction in total air infiltration with a total annual utility bill savings of 7% to 20%, depending on your home’s location/climate.
The Department of Energy says it’s a myth that modern spray foam insulation harms the Earth’s ozone layer, although some people still believe this is true. This is because today’s spray foam companies use foaming agents free from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
Finally, a potential drawback to spray foam insulation is that it shouldn’t be applied without professional training. It can create an enormous mess if misused, which means it’s not ideal for a diehard DIY-er who is determined to do every job independently.
It is recommended to use a professional for spray foam installation for several reasons:
Equipment, expertise, and safety:
Proper spray foam insulation installation requires specialized equipment, knowledge, and skills. Professional installers receive training and have experience in using this equipment, ensuring that they apply the insulation correctly.
Additionally, spray foam insulation can release harmful chemicals and fumes like isocyanates during installation, posing health risks like permanent asthma if not appropriately handled. Professional installers are trained and experienced in using protective gear and following safety protocols to minimize exposure and risk.
Building codes and regulations may require specific standards for insulation installation. The International Code Council develops model residential energy codes every three years, referred to as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Professional installers are familiar with these codes and can ensure that the installation meets these standards.
Professional installers can ensure that they apply the insulation evenly and at the correct thickness. This provides optimal performance and energy savings.
Many spray foam insulation manufacturers require professional installation for their products to be covered by warranty. Using a professional installer can help ensure that your guarantee is valid. It can also assure that any issues with the insulation are addressed promptly and correctly.
Is spray foam insulation worth it? It can be an effective and long-lasting insulation and air-sealing option. However, there may be better fits depending on your residence. Every home has unique needs and particular goals. It’s essential to research your options, consult with a professional, and consider your specific needs and budget before making a decision.
If you’re wondering where to get started, here’s a guide that analyzes how each type of insulation solves all the different issues you could find in your home, from temperature control to air quality, energy efficiency, lifetime, etc.
If, on the other hand, you’re ready to get exceptional, high-quality insulation set up by licensed professionals, turn to Vortex! We genuinely care about providing the education and resources you need to make an informed decision for your home.
We’re here whenever you need us, so please see our FAQ for quick answers to your burning questions, or contact us for a quote today. We’re eager to understand your home’s needs and find the best solution for your goals and budget.