Say the word “insulation” and the first thing that pops into most peoples minds is that fuzzy, cotton candy-like stuff wedged between your attic walls. As enticing as it may seem to touch, fiberglass insulation is made from a mixture of plastic and tiny fibers of glass. Not exactly a friendly way to insulate your home, especially if you enjoy potentially hazardous activities like…breathing, for instance.
This article offers a detailed comparison of the InSoFast Wall vs. a traditional fiberglass wall. We’re giving you 10 solid reasons why we are always saying “fiberglass and traditional wood framing is simply a thing of the past!”
The InSoFast Wall will use InSoFast UX 2.0 panels installed over a concrete wall with a drywall finish.
The Fiberglass Wall is installed against concrete with a vapor barrier and 2×4 framing spaced 16″ O.C.
R-Value is the standard unit for measuring thermal resistance in the construction and building industry. The primary function of insulation is to resist the ability for thermal energy (or heat) to pass between two areas. Therefore, a higher R-Value means more insulating capacity. How does InSoFast measure up?
Our demo space installed with R-8.5 InSoFast UX 2.0 panels finishes up with an R-Value of 11.08. Framed walls with Fiberglass R-13 insulation actually decrease to an R-Value of only 10.22 which worsens if the fiberglass takes on moisture.
A thermal bridge occurs when a penetration of the insulating layer takes place along your walls. This penetration can render an otherwise good insulator virtually useless because it allows heat and cold to pass through undisturbed. Plain and simple, it’s a gap in your insulation.
The good news: InSoFast panels qualify as continuous insulation (CI) because the integrated, non-conductive polypropylene studs are encapsulated by the insulating material, eliminating the potential for thermal bridging to occur. Furthermore, the interlocking grooves create a tight seal at the intersection of each panel.
The bad news: In our fiberglass wall each wood stud represents a thermal short circuit where moisture-filled, heat-transferring air can pass through the barrier. Spaced 16″ O.C., this highly conductive stud area accounts for about 15 – 25% of the wall surface, killing the fiberglass R-Value.
Think of a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day where beads of water are condensing on the outside of the glass. This occurs because moisture is in the air. You can be sure it’s in your basement air, too. Down there, it’s pulling that same condensation trick on your cold basement walls. When trapped, moisture is a serious problem for all homes because it creates a climate condition suitable for mold.
When exposed to moisture, the R-value of InSoFast Panels remains constant and will shed liquid water due to the engineered moisture control channels built within the panel. In this video from our Summer Siding Project series Dean explains how InSoFast battles moisture in your walls.
Comparatively, Fiberglass can lose as much as 80% of its R-value when exposed to even low moisture levels, which is common in below-grade applications. Not only can mold grow on moist fiberglass, but moisture can lead to rot and decay of the wood-framing between it.
Many of us who live in colder climates are the ones who need insulation the most. Wouldn’t you expect all types of insulation to sustain their productivity in below freezing temperatures? The truth is that fiberglass insulation loses as much as 40% of its insulating capacity when temperatures fall below 20˚F and over half its R-value when below 0˚F. Test results from the US Department of Energy have proven these results. The thermal performance of InSoFast Panels is not degraded by changes in temperature. In fact, studies have shown R-values to improve as temperature decreases.
Whether it’s spray foam, glass fiber or closed-cell EPS, insulation generally works on the concept of filling a space with controlled air. This is because when held between layers of a closed material, air is a poor conductor. Think of the feathers in a down jacket. Unfortunately, this means fiberglass must be fully expanded to work properly. If it is stuffed into openings or compressed by plumbing or electrical wires, it loses most of its R-value. Fiberglass sure is sensitive stuff!
In comparison, InSoFast panels are engineered to easily take care of the electrical step without the use of obstructive, conductive metal plates. Electrical wiring chases run vertically at 16″ O.C and horizontally at 24″ O.C. in the panels. This grid work of chases provides easy access to pull wiring to any location without compressing the structure of panel’s rigid foam body
We’ve already discussed how moisture in walls can lead to mold growth. It’s one of the most important things to consider if you want your insulation renovation to be consistently efficient, safe, and long-lasting. The fiberglass method is simply not the smartest decision when thinking about the longevity of your wall system. Organic wood studs and fiberglass insulation absorb moisture and support mold growth. It’s just like a sponge. The standard moisture content for an above-grade wood framed wall is 10 – 15%. By adding just 5% more moisture, mold will grow. As stated in a recent article from Family Handyman, “A poor framing job is a real headache when it’s time to install drywall…inadequately prepped walls could ultimately lead to moisture and mold problems”
In comparison InSoFast panels are made of 100% EPS foam and polypropylene studs. Neither of these materials can promote mold growth. It’s maximum absorption by total immersion is less than 3% moisture content. The semi-permeable panels are also designed to allow moisture to dry inward as recommended by the Building Science Consortium.
Wood building materials and fiberglass insulation are often treated with preservatives or are held together with adhesives that may contain formaldehyde. Recent studies from USC Berkeley have stated a correlation between exposure to formaldehyde and health issues. Mold and airborne toxins also contaminate the indoor air quality and is suspect for an alarming 300% increase in asthma in children. InSoFast panels are manufactured without any ozone depleting CFCs or HCFCs that could affect the indoor air quality of your home. The closed cell foam is inert and experiences no physical or chemical breakdown over time and is a common solution for Health House® projects sponsored in conjunction with the American Lung Association.
Installing traditional fiberglass insulation is a notoriously tricky and complicated process. It’s certainly not a DIY kind of job, because the performance of the thermal barrier is dependent in part upon the precise quality of workmanship. In order for fiberglass insulation to work effectively, it must be in continuous contact with its surrounding surfaces on all six sides. It is virtually impossible for even the priciest of professional installers to achieve this on a job site. The smallest gap allows air circulation which kills the insulation value.
Comparatively, InSoFast is engineered to be simple and effective with consistent thermal performance. The panels are suitable for both DIY residential projects and large-scale commercial projects. The tongue and groove connections within the panels allow them to be installed in a consistent manner with no gaps, while the alignment notches make installation virtually foolproof. Did we mention that most installations can be completed with a utility knife and caulk gun? As further assurance, we worked with a third-party independent testing facility to evaluate the power of our engineered stud/adhesive bond. The astounding results concluded the safety factor at over 400 times the weight of standard ½” drywall. Most structural beam systems are engineered to a safety factor of only 2-3 times their rated loading.
The current standard of frame construction with ½” drywall and a 1″ air gap requires 5″. The air gap is an attempt to keep the fiberglass from coming in direct contact with the concrete surface. 5 inches throughout the entire floor plan affects the spaciousness of a room more than you may think.
With InSoFast, every room will be larger. The UX 2.0 panel is 2″ thick, which includes the built-in drainage channels. With insulation and drywall you will lose half the space you lose with traditional framing methods.
Wood framing members are produced from trees and are treated with chemical preservatives like arsenic. Statistics from the Forestry Department Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reveal that around 18 million acres of trees are harvested each year. Deforestation devastates the environment and is a leading contributor to climate change. Fiberglass insulation is also produced with formaldehyde. Studies released from the Environmental Protection agency reveal that formaldehyde “can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans”, especially those with asthma. Formaldehyde has also been shown to cause cancer in animal test studies.
No trees are harvested when producing InSoFast panels, plus they require 25% less energy to produce than fiberglass insulation thereby reducing the overall carbon footprint. The InSoFast studs are made from 100% recycled material. Since InSoFast panels are both built to last and designed to be installed with little to no waste, there is less of a likelihood that the product will end up in the landfill. In fact, it doesn’t have to end up in the landfill. It’s a little known fact that expanded polystyrene is actually 100% recyclable. The product’s life-cycle simply depends on responsible individuals to ensure it is returned to a facility that can process its renewal.
You should always take the time to do your research before launching into any type of remodeling job. Without taking the necessary steps to get a job done right your project may end up costing more than it’s worth. Also, be sure to choose the procedure that will work best for your situation and your budget. If you’re interested in reading more about how InSoFast can fit the bill when compared to Fiberglass, check out this price comparison.
One last thing. Maybe you’ve been considering a spray foam alternative for your basement remodel. If so, you might be interested in this article from Fine Homebuilding concerning severe health repercussions and federal lawsuits…