Insulation Part B: Notes

Truly Fascinating Conversations With Insulation Company Reps

Basically, anything made out of foam comes from petroleum and the main thing that is green about it is its insulation properties, so it saves on your energy bill.  As far as how it’s made, applied and if it it is bio-degradable, etc., it seems like there isn’t a whole lot to brag about here.  But these guys sure tried…

Because of that there is a whole discussion about whether the energy put in is worth the savings.  Does it make sense to emphasize cost-saving measures like insulation when  additional costs are factored in, like the cost to the environment is high.   Bill Gates says it isn’t. (See this article.)  TreeHugger and others say it is (see this article.)  Seems to me that in the end they are just arguing around the edges.  Generally speaking we are living beyond our footprints.

As far as the Spartan trailer goes, it seems you might want to wind up using some foam because it will seal the skin.  How far you want to go with insulation is not clear to me.  Do you consider that the trailer might be used in more extreme climates than the West Coast?  I don’t know.

Still to research, if you are interested: denim, hemp or recycled newspaper.

Contact: Ken Allison, Mgr of New Business Development, Demilec, USA

Applicators: Cool Roof System Lyle Orr Paula  760 727 7463


The stuff seems to be a good insulator.  It is green in that it uses recycled plastic bottles and a little bit of soy oil instead of petroleum oil.  Company says it is “the only medium density foam with a USDA rating.” But the application process requires a professional.  And you may not be able to use an air space (as recommended by Dan Riedermann) if the space is less than 2.5” – which means you have to fill the whole thing up with foam.  Foam also increases the racking strength of the trailer.

You need to have at least 1.5 inches of it.  Needs professional application – after the electrical and other stuff is in.  “You are talking about the only product on the market that will cut your energy bill in half, bar none.”

I forgot to ask if you can dig into this stuff if you need to go back and make repairs later on.  (You can with Iocyene.)

Very rough price estimate:  $2500-2800 (as opposed to nearly free if your scrounge policyene scraps.)

Green / Greenwashed

Foam is foam.  You can add soy or some other kind of non- petroleum based oil to the foam but you are only talking about around %5 of the total content of the product.  With any foam based product about half of it is set, you can’t do anything about it.  With the other half you can play with it a little bit, add soy oil, but, even though you help the planet by consuming a little less petroleum it does not seem like a huge difference.  (The guy from Iocene said:  you are talking about a salad.  The kind of oil that goes into it is just the dressing. “)

Heatlock-Soy also uses recycled plastic bottle.  You put “soy” in the title and it  makes it sound green.  It does reduce petroleum use,  but it is not a renewable product.  If you are looking at foam the main thing that makes it “green”  is its insulating properties.

This company has a Canadian and US division; US is based in Texas.  They get their recycled bottles from all over.

According to Ken Allison, Healok-Soya is used to insulate “anything that has to be temperature controlled” including vehicles.    It is not used much for travel trailers, although most any high end trailer uses foam.  (Note:  once guy told me that the trailers sold to FEMA after Katrina were cheap trailers, insulated with fiberglass (formaldehyde added) made by Bush trailer manufacturers in the Midwest (I have not otherwise confirmed, but knowing how things were going after Katrina, awards given to political supporters, it would be completely consistent. )

But even the high trailers use block foam not spray foam because it is easier to apply thus cheaper.  This stuff requires a trainer applicator – using ventilators, etc.  The bloc stuff can be applied by pretty much anyone.

They all recommend at least a 1 .5 inch thick layer of the product, the same thickness used in freezers.

The product does not rate a tax credit in California.  Allison went into a whole thing about how powerful the fiberglass industry is in the state:

California is the last state in the nation to actually be able to build a green home.  You get all kinds of money and credits to use fiberglass.  If you use open cell foam in your house you don’t get credits for it.   Fiberglass it gives you a U- value of .102 –  that has becomes the minimum standard for Title 24.  Foam got rated at .103.  So you have the top product that rates below what is required to get a tax credit. [It seems you can have a high R value and it’s still not a good insulator…they talk about fiberglass having a high value but when it gets wet, water seeps through.  A Styrofoam cup is thin but water won’t get through…He says many custom homes in California are built with Heplock-Soy but builders go mass produce don’t use it because they don’t get tax credits.

“If  you were in the SF Bay area you would have trouble finding a custom home that wasn’t built with it.”

They can guarantee your bills will be 75% less.  Foam gets a hertz [?European standard]  rating 100; Energy Star is 85.  We build homes in Arizona at 18.

The company started  in Montreal.  Now they are in Texas: We e are actually a different company now.  We are the big operation and they are the ones who invented the first formula.

Foam works well with things that move.  Heatloc soy is an interior product. [He discussed whether it would work to have an air space or not, as suggested by Dan Riedemann.  I think he said if  the space between the skin the interior wall is 2.5 inches or less the foam wouldn’t work.]

You need at least an inch and a half of foam on the wall. That is what is in your freezer.  Two inches does well for your freezer.

Rough estimate on price: for two inch space at 8 x 30 feet x 7 feet high…. 2500-2800 includes a “power trim” which I think you have to do if you have less than 2” space.  [I get the feeling this “power trim” is not necessary if it doesn’t fill up the space, which you may not need.]

Heat lock soy is probably the greenest medium density foam out there.  It has a large recycle content  the a side is petrochemical that’s the reachion of the stuff that makes it firm.  The b side is the best one out there.  The only one that is a USDA bio preferred product.  That is the resources are renewable used to make.

a polyurethane foam system made out of recycled plastic (a barrel of Heatlok-soya contains 1000 plastic bottles) and soya oil.  zero ozone depletion and is even coloured green. The manufacturer, Demilec, “is the first Canadian manufacturer of Spray Polyurethane Foam to meet the requirements of the Montreal Protocol. DEMILEC uses recycled plastics, renewable natural oils, and water, all while maintaining the high quality and performance of its foam systems. ::Heatlok Soya


To see what this stuff is made of, see this link: Aerogel explained


Steven Harasim chemical engineer 508 691 1141


Aerogel is also known as Frozen Smoke. It has the lowest bulk density of any known porous solid, it is mostly transparent but feels a bit like Styrofoam to the touch, and it has remarkable thermal insulation. Aspen Aerogels has started selling aerogel blankets for use as insulation in buildings.

“Aspen Aeorgels says that its Spaceloft blankets have two to four times the insulating value per inch compared to fiberglass or foam.

This is a new product; out in 2006-07.  Seems to have good “green” specs in terms of production (stuff that goes into and out of the product as well as recycling of leftover stuff.)  application requires no special equipments/expertise.  Check out the web for more on their green rap.

The product is used  under extreme temperatures, to cover pipes in refineries or drilling deep under the sea. Resists water.

Other applications: they are moving into things like tents, sports gear.  Also construction.

It’s expensive, about $4/square foot.  Best bet is to cover the area but given the area might need alternative. At first he ways saying you need to get the material behind the framing, but it seems like the studs may be directly attached to the skin.  So then, especially given cost, he was thinking some foam might be good and then just jusing a litt of it – it also comes in strips (from another company, separate division –  to cover the studs, with foam of some kind underneath.  The whole question of air space is unclear.  He says you can attach it with an adhesive glue. May also use rivets but not sure if it applies in this case.

To explore this further need to talk with him directly.  He’s very open.  He’s also open to giving demonstration.  Will send Sam a sample.

The partner  company who makes the strips is called Therma bloc

Web site:


George, company rep who also does the applications

Cell:  213 864 0784

According to a company rep who also applies the products, Icyne gets a green rating mainly  because the company adds 8-15% castor or soybean oil.

Tree Hugger says it has no VOCs or formaldeyhede.   But the application requires a professional. It sends plastic bits in the air, not gas as with other fiberglass insulation.

It creates an air seal and won’t leak energy.  It also is quiet.

All foams are classified “green” because they are energy saving.  That’s not to say that it is made of green materias or that the production and application is green or that it breaks down easily.

Some have higher green content because they put an additive or an oil and that gives them a green label. But that’s just the salad dressing on the salad this guy says.

The only thing that breaks down foam is UV light. It won’t break down covered up in a dump. It is almost like plastic bag.

The product is made in Canada but ICYNENE  has a subsidy in buffalo.  The thing is it does not contain toxins, but when it comes out in the application process, there are atomized droplets suspended in the air they become foam in your lung could irritate your lungs just like fiberglass. I wear a full face mask and my helpers take extra precautions, too.  The danger is the droplets getting in your lungs.

Here he is figuring out a rough cost:

32 x 10 do you want all four side? We did an Airstream. We did everything but the floor. The guy who was restoring. It was about 2.5 inch deep.  It was difficult because it curved and didn’t have a roof.

He ended up with 2 ¾  All interior walls have to be stripped.  It is usually a light metal sheeting…find out the depth and if it is the whole framing.

Icene is a light density foam it only has about 3.6 r factor per inch.   About 600 square foot plus the ceiling is 320 square feet.  With the icyne it would be about $2600 with rigid foam it would be about a little bit less.

If there is a deeper cavity I would prefer to put more in.   The texture of the foam is soft if you open up you can easily tear it with your hands it is easy to make repairs. The rigid foam is harder to get into you need a chisel, etc. it is so dense and rigid.

In L.A. County the code is R-13.  That is enough for permanent housing.  You will end up with an r 9 and r 10.  R=30 is the highest for roofs.  Same thing with styroam…because of the air seal factor it will weigh out….having the convector factor sealed is the best….


I think this is the stuff that Dan Riedemann suggests along with the soybean based foam (which I don’t have the name of yet – Bern knows it, too.)  I talked with a guy who thinks you can get leftover bits of this stuff for free.  More later if it interests you…

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