News From Go Plymouth Foam

Change Is The One Constant - XPS Insulation Does Like It

Every year at this time, we ask ourselves what the changes are going to be in the construction business. Prices, labor, materials or codes seem to be constantly changing. What worked last year may not for 2021. Throw in Covid and no wonder we are all stressed. What bothers me is when you know there is a change but it takes week or months (years) to sort through and really figure out how the change effects the way we do business.

New Laws for Insulation

I have one of those changes for 2021 and it has to do with XPS (Extruded Polystyrene) Rigid Insulation. This is one of those changes that could be very disruptive in the market. Here is the change — the government is mandating that XPS blowing (hydrofluorocarbon HFC-134a) agent be changed to something that is a little safer. The XPS industry has known this has been coming for a long time and has done many things to try and slow it down. They have been successful at getting several reprieves.

Why is there such push back from the XPS Rigid Insulation Industry? Isn’t reducing “harmful” chemicals into the atmosphere and reducing global warming a good thing to help with climate change? It is unless it changes the effectiveness or stability of your product. That is why the XPS industry is fighting so hard. Whether they will admit it or not, this EPA rule change for blowing agents will result in dramatically lowering the XPS product effectiveness.

As mentioned it takes time to sort out all these changes. We do know that the alternative blowing agents will reduce the R-value of the product to be more in line with EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). XPS has always claimed that its R-value is 5R/inch. Some reports have the new XPS coming in at 4.3R - 4.5R per inch. It will be interesting to see if the XPS Industry will be truthful about the R-value change. They have billions of dollars at stake.

The other element is the stability of the product. Will it shrink more? Will it collapse? What happens long-term below grade? Will water affect it differently? What about flammability? Some elements will be seen right away, others may take years to sort out. No wonder the XPS Industry is pushing back so hard. It is a scary time for them. I have even heard rumors of a manufacturer stock piling old formula product to buy more time to figure things out.

With all these changes, what should you do? Not knowing what you are going to get for XPS it is probably wise to use the “Safe Insulation” - Engineered EPS. Yes, it has a lower r-value per inch (4.35R/inch Type IX) than old XPS but you know exactly what you are getting. You know that Engineered EPS Rigid Insulation is safe and stable. (Learn more about Engineered EPS Insulation) For some, the change may mean shifting over to EPS but that maybe a very good change for your business.

Environmental Impact of Insulation - Results

Recently, the EPS Industry Alliance conducted a comparison of its expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) with the average EPD results for Dow (now Dupont) and Owens Corning extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation.

Environmental Impact EPS

The most widely used green building certification program, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), recognizes buildings that contain products with favorable environmental impacts as determined through EPDs. Recognition as a preferred product requires that the product demonstrate an environmental impact less than the industry average in at least three of the following categories: global warming, ozone depletion, acidification, eutrophication, smog formation and total energy. For polystyrene foam insulation, EPS is less than the industry average in four of the categories, thus meeting the optimization requirement. From a LEED perspective, EPS is a preferred product in the polystyrene foam insulation category.
(Full Technical Brief)

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