Foam Insulation Helps Reduce Energy Use and Increase Comfort

Buildings account for a substantial percentage of the energy consumed in the United States. Reducing energy use in buildings has the potential to make a measurable impact on the environment. Foam insulation is an innovative building and construction material that can significantly reduce a building’s energy use and help control indoor temperature.

The use of energy-efficient building materials, like foam insulation, continues to grow in importance as states, cities and an array of public and private organizations set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, as of August 2014, 24 states had fully funded policies that establish specific energy savings targets that utilities and non-utility program administrators must meet through customer energy-efficiency programs.

Plastic insulation materials are among the most thermally efficient insulation materials available today.

  • According to a 2009 study by the consulting firm McKinsey, continuous foam insulation can improve a wall assembly’s R-value by as much as 32 percent in a typical wood-framed home. In steel-framed construction, that improvement is expected to be even greater. 
  • A 2000 study by the consulting firm Franklin Associates estimates that if all U.S. homes used foam plastic insulation, the annual energy savings would be 3.5 trillion Btus. That’s enough energy to meet the yearly energy consumption of nearly 3.8 million U.S. households, which is nearly half the number of single-family homes in California.
  • In commercial construction, the DOE estimates that new buildings can achieve 50 percent in energy savings when a variety of energy-efficient design features are incorporated into the project. Among the features DOE cites is the use of continuous rigid plastic foam insulation. 

To learn more about the energy efficiency of foam insulation, download the EEFC’s fact sheet.

Not only does foam insulation help to reduce a building’s energy usage and costs, but it also helps meet high consumer expectations about building performance and comfort. Foam insulation can reduce drafts and noise, provide increased air leak resistance, and enhance durability. In its use as an air sealant, foam insulation can help to keep pollen, dust and allergens from entering buildings.

Numerous types of foam insulation are available to meet the diverse needs and applications of consumers, architects, contractors, specifiers and others. Foam insulation can be made from a variety of plastics, including polyisocyanurate, polystyrene and polyurethane.

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