Many people who install insulation do so for the environmental benefits (namely the reduction in energy use). Ironically, some insulation materials use blowing agents that can actually cause greenhouse gas emissions, thus negating some of the positive environmental impact. A recent article on avoid the global warming impact of insulation.discusses how to
In it, the author explains Global Warming Potential (GWP for short). The higher the GWP, the more potent the emissions. So, an insulation that has a GWP of 1,200 is 1,200 times as more potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. An insulation with a high GWP would need to save a high volume of energy (also dependent on where the building is located and how efficient the heating system is) over a long period of time to negate that harmful impact. In some cases, it could take decades or even longer!
Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) is another issue that applies to the Chlorofluerocarbons (CFC) that were used until the mid-1990’s. Scientists later developed Hydrocholorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), but those were also phased out due to their high ODP. Third-generation blowing agents like Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in many polyurethane spray foam applications nowadays, are an environmental concern due to their high GWP.
However, there are other insulation options with a much lower GWP. Icynene productshave a GWP of 1 and an ODP of zero, thanks to its 100% water-blown solutions. Icynene uses no HFCs. Instead, water reacts with the A component, creating millions of tiny cells that form an air barrier material and insulate buildings. The company that manufactures Icynene is committed to safety, so their products are nonflammable and have a low toxicity. That means greater safety for the customer, the installer, and the environment.
Flickr image courtesy of thebadastronomer