The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA) recently published a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Use Phase Analysis report. The report evaluates the environmental impacts and performance of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation. It compares the environmental impacts of spray foam insulation as compared to fiberglass insulation, specifically measuring cumulative energy demand and global warming potential for homes insulated in different US climate zones.
Three Homes Tested
Three homes were equally insulated according to 2018 IECC requirements in their respective climate zones using fiberglass as a baseline and various types of spray polyurethane foam insulation. What was the conclusion?
SPF Insulation Can Reduce Carbon Emissions
After reading the report, our biggest surprise was how SPF insulation can reduce carbon emissions! “The report shows the reduction in carbon emissions by using SPF insulation instead of fiberglass in a single home is the equivalent of removing 14 to 23 automobiles from the road for an entire year.”
Do you live in Southern Maine and are looking to upgrade your existing insulation? If so, Efficiency Maine is currently offering rebates and incentives for energy improvements. This includes air sealing and insulation through the Home Energy Savings Program. The program can give you tax and rebate incentives, which offers up to $3,500 in rebates!
Efficiency Maine data indicates that the majority of Maine homes have inadequate insulation. Furthermore, insulating to recommended levels in Maine attics, basements, and walls can cut heating costs by 40 percent or more.
Qualified Insulation Partner in Maine
The Green Cocoon is proud to be a Qualified Insulation Partner with Efficiency Maine. Go to their website today to find out if you qualify for the program.
Building codes are always changing, so it is important to stay up-to-date on recent modifications. Thanks to the Insulation Institute for creating this great guide as a go-to resource for staying in the know on state building codes.
The guide also includes ASHRAE 90.1 Compliance for Metal Buildings, Facts About Certified NAIMA 202-96® Insulation, and more! Read now.
The Green Cocoon, LLC has purchased a new Cellulose Machine. This machine is ideal for installation of loose fill cellulose insulation throughout any area of the home. The machine has wheels for easier maneuverability and transport and comes with 100 feet of hose (two 50′ sections with connector) to achieve optimum coverage.
The new Krendl 800-G processes 77 bags of cellulose per hour, thus allowing us to become faster and more efficient. That means we are in and out of your home in less time!
Moreover, the 800-G is the only dual power source insulation blowing equipment capable of switching from electric to gas, to assure TGC is NEVER without power. Krendl Machine designed the 800-G for the insulation contractor who may not always have a readily available power source.
Does your house have icicles hanging from the roof during the winter? If so, there is something going on that could potentially cost you thousands of dollars. It is called an ice dam
What is an ice dam?
If the attic isn’t properly insulated, during the winter the warm air will escape and melt the first layer of snow on your roof. Many uneducated contractors will tell you to increase your attic insulation to prevent ice dams. While this may slow down the build up of ice dams, it will essentially increase the speed of your heat loss. Consequently, the heat loss will make your home less efficient.
DIYers (do-it-yourself) like to solve the problem by putting heat tape on the roof, but that can be incredibly damaging to the shingles. Furthermore, the tape does not solve the problem, which is inefficient insulation and heat loss.
The layer of snow that is against the roof will melt and run down the roof shingles. You can’t see this happening because it is under the pile of snow. Once the water reaches the overhang where it is colder, an ice dam starts to form. This process happens over and over; the ice dam gets bigger; and the water gets higher. Eventually, water will get under the shingles!
As the melting continues, the ice dam and water lift the shingle more and more. Eventually, it hits the top of the shingle. That is when water can get into your house, and potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage.
How to prevent ice dams
Whether you are creating a conditioned or unconditioned attic, we recommend the same things.
Seal the gaps – First you need to air seal any gaps or holes in the floor or roof. There are several products that we suggest you use. Please contact us so we can help you decide which product is best for you.
Use correct R-value – Make sure you have enough R-value. Remember, fiberglass doesn’t have a constant R-value so we don’t recommend it. In southern New Hampshire, you need a minimum of an R-49.
Ventilate the attic – If you plan to insulate the attic floor, make sure to allow for proper ventilation to prevent condensation. If you are not sure you have adequate insulation, give us a call and we will come out and take a look.
Using a spray foam in the attic is the best choice because it fills the holes and crevices. We recommend closed cell spray foam for several reasons:
How safe is it to re-enter my home after installing Icynene® spray foam?
Homeowners and building managers often ask us about a product called Icynene, a liquid spray foam insulation. Icynene Inc. claims people can re-enter the building one hour after installation. We decided to investigate that claim for ourselves.
The Green Cocoon follows OSHA’s and the manufacturers’ guidelines when using spray foam insulation. Those guidelines state that re-entry should only happen 24 hours after installation has been completed.
Let’s Do Some Math
According to icynene.com, “Low VOC Icynene Classic Max and Icynene ProSeal spray foam products allow for re-entry after 1 hour and re-occupancy after 2 hours of active ventilation (at 40 ACH) following installation, allowing for minimal impact on construction schedules.”
Let’s have a look at 40 ACH (40 air changes per hour). Take a small, 2-story house that has a 24’ x 36’ footprint, which is 864 square feet. If we figure it has two stories at 8 feet tall, the basement is 8 feet tall, and the band joists are 1 foot tall, that’s an overall height of 25 feet.
Now let’s take the square footage (864 feet) times the overall height (25 feet) and you’ve got 21,600 cubic feet. When multiplied by 40 ACH, you will have to move 864,000 cubic feet of air in an hour!
If we take the cubic feet of air moved in an hour and divide it by 60 minutes, we calculate that we’ll need to move 14,400 cubic feet of air per minute. That takes some pretty big fans, but the average insulation company uses fans that move 2,500 cfm of air (like the one in the photo). That means that you have to have six of these fans running while you are spraying and you’ll need to leave them running for an hour once you finish spraying. And this is on a small house! The larger the house, the more fans you will need!
TGC regularly works on homes that would require 12 or more fans to hit the number. That is a lot of fans to purchase, set up, take down, and move around from job to job.
Ask your contractor how many and what size fans they are planning to use if they install Icynene. We suggest you stop by the home and take a peek to make sure the contractor uses the right number of fans needed (see math above). Your safety should come first.
TGC chooses not to offer Icynene spray foam as Icynene reps are only allowed to spray Icynene. TGC is an independent spray foam insulation company, so we spray the product that we think is the greenest and safest for our customers. We don’t like to be pigeon-holed into using one product that might not be the best fit.
Before you purchase any spray foam insulation, get a second opinion from The Green Cocoon.
Basement insulation installed incorrectly is a common contractor error. The results can be disastrous as severe mold and mildew may become a problem, not to mention the loss of money on your heating bill. Since most basements are inherently moist, you need to keep all untreated wood away from the concrete surfaces. Moisture below the slab can wick up into the concrete and get to the base plates of the wall. Therefore, you need to make certain the bottom plate of the wall is treated lumber.
Avoid Using Fiberglass Insulation in Basements
As seen in the photo above, putting polyethylene over fiberglass insulation is a no-no as it doesn’t allow the insulation to breathe. Consequently, this homeowner had moisture build-up and ultimately mold growth!
For years contractors have been treating basements much like regular living space. It’s not uncommon to see fiberglass insulation in direct contact with basement foundation walls. Here in the northeast, we see several common mistakes, including:
Plastic vapor barrier against concrete wall, fiberglass insulation inside stud wall, then drywall
Fiberglass insulation inside a “bag” hanging from the rim joist down along the foundation wall
Stud wall filled with fiberglass insulation an inch or two away from the concrete wall
Those mistakes can increase the chances for mold to grow.
What Causes Mold to Grow in Basements?
Mold can grow on virtually any organic material as long as it has the right moisture level and oxygen. Because mold eats or digests what it is growing on, it can damage a building and its furnishings. If left unchecked, mold eventually can cause structural damage to building materials and can cause health problems. That’s why we don’t want mold in our basements! Specifically, we can prevent damage to buildings and building contents in the basement areas, save money, and avoid these potential health problems by controlling moisture.
According to the EPA, indoor relative humidity in homes should be kept below 60 percent — ideally between 30 and 50 percent.  In addition to preventing mold formation, maintaining the correct humidity levels may also have a bonus effect. It may discourage pests such as cockroaches, silverfish (bristletails), and dust mites from showing up where you don’t want them!
To measure the humidity of your home or basement, you need to buy a humidity meter and track the relative humidity level. That is the first part of understanding the mold problem in your home or basement.
If contractors are still using fiberglass insulation in basements, it means that we in the industry need to do a better job educating our builders. In order to understand the issues with basement insulation, you first must understand the role of vapor barriers in basements.
Use the Right Insulation
Over the years, we’ve come to rely on two main approaches for basement insulation projects and remodeling, including closed cell spray foam and rigid foam board. When installed in the correct thickness, these two methods result in a proper vapor barrier and superior insulation.
Get Educated – Be the Pro!
Today, the building industry and building science are changing rapidly. In order to stand out in the competition and provide a professional service to your clients, you need to stay educated on the latest methods. You can be sure that the team at The Green Cocoon is up-to-date on the latest insulation practices in order to bring our clients the best product possible.
If you have questions or need a quote on your next insulation project, contact us and we’d be happy to help.
 Be the Pro. Avoiding Basement Insulation Mistakes. Retrieved from bethepro.com.
 United States Environmental Protection Agency. Mold Course Chapter 2. Retrieved from epa.gov.
Many cities across the country were hit with a major winter storm last week, and for some, it was the first big one of the season. One area of the house that gets hit the hardest during a winter storm is the roof. Make sure to monitor the health of your roof during the winter to make sure it is strong enough to take the brunt of bad weather. If the snow isn’t melting quickly, it means that heat from your home isn’t escaping through your attic floors and then transferring from your roof to the exteriors. That means your roof is doing its job!
Bare spots and icicles mean heat is escaping
If your roof gets a decent amount of snow on it, make sure it’s not melting in specific spots. That means there’s heat loss likely due to poor insulation and/or ventilation in the attic. If that is the case, give us a call once the snow melts.
After a snowfall, every homeowner should take a look at their roof and check for hot spots—areas on the roof where the snow has melted. It’s normal for some melting around venting and fireplace exhausts, but you shouldn’t see any bare patches on your roof. A snow-covered roof means your insulation is doing its job. If not, it’s time for a new insulation package!
Also, keep an eye out for icicles—another sign of heat loss. If your roof is warm enough to melt the snow but it’s cold enough outside for snow to refreeze, your roof is losing heat. That’s not healthy for your energy bills or the environment.
Remove some snow if it gets too deep
What about the weight of snow? If there’s ice too, that can be a heavy load. Add the weight of two layers of shingles and that’s one roof no one would want over their head. Generally, most roofs max out at about 20 pounds of snow per square foot, which translates to around two feet of wet snow or up to four feet of light, fluffy snow.
Once you start hitting those levels, you may want to think about removing the snow. Otherwise, it could potentially cause your roof to cave in, which is a terrible experience in any weather, but particularly during subzero temperatures. Still, you can’t exactly get on top of your roof with a snow shovel. If you have an asphalt roof, you run the risk of doing serious damage to your shingles, which can cause your roof to leak afterwards—and all kinds of havoc as a consequence.2
If you don’t have the proper equipment to remove the snow yourself, hire a roofing contractor to safely handle the removal for you. It generally only costs about $100 to $300, and it will save your roof a lot of wear and tear.
Install an ice and water shield
We suggest you install an ice and water shield over the first four feet of roof, on top of the sheathing—not just along the edges near gutters. This adds a second layer of protection against leaks and moisture where ice dams may occur, so if water gets in below the shingles the sheathing is watertight.
Another reason to add an ice and water shield is it seals around nails, unlike tar paper, roofing felt, or asphalt paper. If you have shingles on your roof, as most North American homes do, for every nail that goes through the tar paper there’s a tiny hole — an open invitation for water in your attic.
Check your attic (and garage) after a storm too. If you see frost on the sheathing it’s not a good sign. It means your attic isn’t properly vented for your specific insulation type or it is lacking insulation all together, which could lead to mold or rot. If you see any signs of mold or rot in your roof, call a professional remediation company.
Your roof and attic are crucial when it comes to protecting your home over the winter. Please contact us to schedule an appointment to make sure your insulation package is up-to-date.
 National Post (Feb. 7, 2015). Snow piling up on your house is a good indicator of the roof's condition. Retrieved from nationalpost.com.
 Modernize (2019). Is Snow Good or Bad for Your Roof? Retrieved from modernize.com.
 Cost Owl (2019). How Much Does Roof Snow Removal Cost? Retrieved from costowl.com.
We recently got a call from a homeowner who wanted their attic insulation replaced. Their old fiberglass insulation was wet and dirty and needed to be replaced. Not only that, it had originally been installed upside down, leading to moisture problems. We weren’t surprised by this situation as we get calls for help all the time. Our advice is to do it right the first time. That's why we say, "Don’t use fiberglass insulation!!
In cold climates fiberglass just won’t do
Fiberglass insulation is significantly cheaper than spray foam insulation, but it is also less effective, especially in extremely warm conditions. Summers in New England regularly hit above 100°F. Spray foam is more expensive, but you get your money back within five years.
Used in roughly 85% of American homes, fiberglass insulation is the most common form of home insulation. Spray foam insulation has less market share, but is increasing in popularity. Why? Because it is MUCH better and you pay once. Professional installation is required for spray foam insulation, but hey, would you have the plumber fix your broken tooth?
Energy efficiency of fiberglass vs. spray foam
The composition of fiberglass insulation does not stop air from passing through it. On average, more than 30% of heat or air conditioning escapes where fiberglass insulation is installed. If poorly installed, fiberglass can also leave spaces around fixtures, allowing even more heating or cooling to escape.
Spray foam insulation fills all spaces, preventing air from escaping. It acts as an air barrier. Spray foam insulation is significantly more efficient than fiberglass and has a higher R-value.
Problems with fiberglass
Incorrect installation – Failing to fill the wall cavities and compressing the batts are two of the most prevalent installation mistakes. They’re also the leading causes of poor performance, which is why some green building consultants, architects, and builders recommend other products. Their answer for total fill: cellulose.
In a recent project we repaired, the insulation was originally installed incorrectly. As a matter of fact, because it was installed incorrectly, the vapor barrier (the brown paper side) couldn’t do its job – to trap moisture against the floor. The raft paper has to be facing the conditioned space, in this case the attic floor.
It’s cheap – That means that many home builders can offer it to reduce the cost of the home. But don’t be fooled. You may pay less now, but you’ll pay more later, for sure.
Rodents love it! – Rodents prefer safe, warm, and sheltered environments – making the inside of your walls and attic the ideal home. Insulation that can be found in these places can be even more inviting since it is a source of warmth for the scurrying critters. The malleability of fiberglass insulation makes it easy for a nest to be made, and insulation can be moved where ever needed. Once one nest is established and a rodent is comfortable enough, a colony of rodents can soon follow. With the displacement of materials, you could see a difference in the heating as warm air can now escape from your house in those areas.
Length of life
Fiberglass insulation can last several years, but during that time it loses its effectiveness and you never have a complete seal against air flow. The level of effectiveness also depends if any moisture is present. You may need to replace this type of insulation or add to it as it settles and deteriorates over time.
Spray foam, on the other hand, can last as long as 80 years or more. It’s a much more permanent and effective option. While you’ll pay more up front, the longevity and efficiency of spray foam make it a very cost-effective option. 
In closing, when it comes to which is best in the spray foam insulation vs. fiberglass debate, spray foam wins, hands down. If you’re a DIYer, you may be used to installing fiberglass insulation. But if you’re looking for something that will last a lifetime, let a professional install spray foam. 
 The Green Cocoon (2019). Invest in Insulation. Retrieved from thegreencocoon.com.  Diffen (2019). Fiberglass Insulation vs. Spray Foam Insulation. Retrieved from diffen.com.  Diffen, Fiberglass  Probuilder (2015). Home Insulation Choices: Fiberglass, Cellulose, or Foam? Retrieved from probuilder.com.  Apple Pest Control (2017). Rodents and Your Insulation. Retrieved from applepestcontrol.com.  Good Life Energy Savers (2018). Spray Foam Insulation vs Fiberglass: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from goodlifeenergysavers.com.  Good Life Energy Savers. Spray Foam
In our line of work, we come across many “interesting” insulation jobs. But, before you start any project, understanding vapor barriers is a must. Then, the insulation will be installed correctly.
We see work completed by the homeowner who wants to save money. Additionally, we come across some that were completed by licensed professionals who haven’t been educated on proper installation. Similarly, the biggest mistake we see is people installing a double vapor barrier—installing a covering (usually plastic) over an already existing vapor barrier.
Understanding vapor barriers
In the first place, “the function of a vapor barrier is to retard the migration of water vapor. Furthermore, vapor barriers are not typically intended to retard the migration of air. That is the function of air barriers.”
Moreover, a vapor barrier is any material used for damp proofing, typically a plastic or foil sheet. Additionally, these sheets resists diffusion of moisture through the wall, floor, ceiling, or roof assemblies of buildings.
What does a vapor barrier do?
Vapor barriers are installed along, in, or around walls, ceilings, and floors. Of course this is done to prevent moisture from spreading and potentially causing water damage. Additionally, a true vapor barrier is one that completely prevents moisture from passing through its material, as measured by the “moisture vapor transmission rate.” If the material has any porousness, but the barrier still provides protection from moisture, it is called a vapor diffusion retarder. Furthermore, vapor retarders also are commonly referred to simply as vapor barriers. The barrier terminology is less accurate because, in most cases, the products don’t completely barricade the vapor.
What can I use as a vapor barrier?
There are a wide number of materials available to create effective vapor barriers, including:
Polyethylene plastic sheet
Asphalt-coated Kraft paper
Vapor retarder paints
Extruded polystyrene or foil-faced foam board insulation
The IRC divides North America into eight climate areas. This is done for the purposes of determining when a vapor barrier might be needed in a building. Additionally, the IRC recommends builders install a Class-I or -II vapor barrier on the interior side of homes in climate zones 5 and above, and in the Marine 4 zone. However, if you air condition your house in the summer, you might trap condensation in your roof or walls for part of the year. If this is the case, be sure to use a Class-II vapor barrier on the interior of the wall. Moreover, you can use a Class-III vapor barrier on the interior. Pair that with spray foam insulation on the interior of the wall or roof. Furthermore, when building in hot, humid climates (zones 1 to 3), you should not have a vapor barrier on the interior side of the wall.
Incorrect use of vapor barriers is leading to an increase in moisture-related problems. Vapor barriers were originally intended to prevent assemblies from getting wet. However, they often prevent assemblies from drying. In like manor, vapor barriers installed on the interior of assemblies prevent assemblies from drying inward. This can be a problem in any air-conditioned enclosure, below grade space, or a vapor barrier on the exterior. Additionally, a problem can occur where brick is installed over building paper and vapor permeable sheathing.
Building in a Cold Climate While Adhering to Building Codes
Is a vapor barrier required in New England? Yes! Not to mention that as a builder your first step is to consult your local and state building codes. In many colder North American climates, vapor barriers are a required part of building construction.
You may find that vapor barriers are often not required in warmer climates. And, if installed in the wrong climate or on the wrong side of building materials, a vapor barrier can cause more harm than good. By the same token, this circumstance may prevent water vapor from drying, which in turn can cause rot and mold.
If you don’t know the building requirements for your area, ask an expert!
Double Vapor Barrier – Don’t Do It!
What is a double vapor barrier? The insulation in Photo A was installed by an inexperienced insulation installer. Additionally, the brown paper on the fiberglass is a vapor barrier. By putting poly plastic over everything, the installers created a double vapor barrier. Not to mention that this type of installation creates future moisture, mold, and rot problems. Moreover, in Photo B the cellulose netting is not strapped and it is starting to sag. Furthermore, the staples are ripping out and the ceiling could come down at any time!
In conclusion, if you need insulation don’t wonder what type you need. Let us do the thinking for you. Call us today!
 Building Science (2011). BSD-106: Understanding Vapor Barriers. Retrieved from buildingscience.com.  Wikipedia (2019). Vapor Barrier. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org.  Energy.gov (2019). Vapor Barriers or Vapor Diffusion Retarders. Retrieved from energy.gov.  Energy.gov. Vapor Barrier  Fine Home Building (2009). How It Works: Vapor Drive. Retrieved from finehomebuilding.com.  Building Science, BSD-106.  IKO Commercial, (2019). An Introduction to Vapour Barriers and Vapour Retarders. Retrieved from iko.com.