Pink Goes Green

Pink Goes Green

Home insulation, which has always been pink, is getting "green" now, meaning it's becoming indoor air-friendly, using more recycled materials and is demonstrating environmental responsibility at the point of manufacture.

While all the new environmentally conscious insulations offer about the same R-values — R-21 at 5.5 inches and R-38 at 10 inches — they come with a range of eco-credentials that the homebuilder or remodeler can quickly learn about on the Internet.

The favorite of Howard Osvold, owner of AA Insulation in Talent, is EcoBatt by Knauf insulation. It's made with nonfood-sourced vegetable glue, he says, which means it's not taking corn out of the food supply.

"I consider it the greenest product for the Southern Oregon region," says Osvold, "because it's manufactured in Redding and doesn't have that far to travel and use up fossil fuels."

The binder is achieved with "Ecose technology," which means "it is based on rapidly renewable, bio-based materials rather than petroleum-based chemicals commonly used in traditional fiberglass insulation product binders. (This) converts natural, rapidly renewable, bio-based materials into an inert polymer for superior environmental sustainability — and it does not contain phenol, formaldehyde, acrylics or artificial colors," according to Knauf's Web site, www.knaufusa.com.

Johns Manville acrylic resin insulation is also formaldehyde-free, says Osvold, adding that formaldehyde has "caused major health concerns because it's been related to cancer."

The National Cancer Institute says formaldehydes have been used in many building materials and household products and are a known carcinogen, according to the Web site www.cancer.gov.

The old pink insulation, a mainstay in building for decades, is adapting to the green movement, as well, says Osvold. "They took the aldehydes out at the site of manufacture. I still use it on a limited basis, but it's not my green choice."

Owens Corning last year announced it increased the recycled content of its flagship pink insulation to 40 percent, which would form a two-lane highway of glass from landfills that stretches 1.3 times around the world.

All insulations today, Osvold says, are certified by the Greenguard Environmental Institute, a nonprofit, third-party rating system, which has a link to its product guide at www.greenguard.org.

One system that does not use batts — and claims complete wall-sealing with no leaks or "wind washing" — is Spray Foam, made by Icynene.

It may have to travel a long way, from Ontario, Canada, but Alex Knecht of Pacific Spray Foam in Medford says it comes as a liquid that, when mixed and activated by water, expands to 100 times its volume.

"It's basically manufactured on-site. It's water-blown. The agent that makes it react is water. There's no off-gassing and no VOCs (volatile organic compounds, which are toxic)," says Knecht.

The insulation is light, compressible, holds its shape and is blown between studs, sealing all gaps between plates, headers, studs and sheetrock, he notes.

Spray foam costs 2.5 times more than batt insulation, but it sells because it pays for itself in energy bills — bringing a net gain averaging $18 a month on a 2,000-square-foot home, he says.

"It's a complete air barrier and eliminates any migration of energy," says Knecht. "It goes in every nook and cranny. People love it."

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