22 Mar

Understanding Home Energy Audits

A Home Energy Audit tells you where the energy is being lost in your house. A home energy auditor looks at how the systems in your house are working and gives your house a number similar to a what RESNET rater or a BPI rater would provide. The home energy auditor then makes a determination based on how your systems are working (as a whole) in your house as to what the most cost effective measures are to make your house affordable, comfortable and energy efficient.

energy AuditA Home Energy Audit includes using diagnostic equipment such as a blower door, a volometer, a manometer, a combustion analyzer and an infrared camera to test:

  1. The location and number of air leaks in your house (the envelope)
  2. The leaks in your heating and air conditioning duct work
  3. How effective the insulation is inside your walls and ceilings
  4. Any combustion safety issues or potential safety issues in your house

How much do home energy audits cost? The average estimate and report cost to the homeowner is anywhere from $300 to $750 but sometimes you can find free or almost free energy audits through NYSERDA or your electric provider (in our case its NYSEG).

New York State is considering making a home energy audit conducted by a rater to give an apples-to-apples measurement of how leaky a house is a requirement for all future house sales. Tompkins County is conducting a related study.  In this way all home purchasers will be able to compare the houses they are looking to purchase to find the houses that are the most energy efficient and the ones that are not.

For the houses that are leaky or need weatherization then the home energy auditor will make a recommendation in a report to the purchaser or homeowner as to what needs to be done to make your house affordable, comfortable and energy efficient.

Still have questions? Contact me or schedule your home energy audit now!

Dr. Spray Foam (Mark Gugino)

04 Feb

What is the R-Value of Common Insulations?

When insulating, it’s good to know what R-value different insulations have.

WAP_bannerFor walls, for example, if you’re told the Code Enforcement Officer is going to require R-21, remember that the OSB on the walls of your house, and the clab boards and drywall both on the inside and outside of your house also have an R-value. So when you spray three inches of foam on the walls that has an R-value of 19.8, the other materials involved in your wall structure will surely have a large enough value to give you the required R-21.

Something else to consider is that Code Enforcement Officers usually don’t tell you that the RESNET program they used to calculate proper R-values for your roof (usually around R-38 to R-49) will allow the wall R-value to supplement what’s needed for the roof, and vice-versa


Typical R-Values for Common Insulations (per inch) are:

  • Vacuum Insulated Panels – R-30 to R-50
  • Polyurethane Rigid Panel – R-5.5
  • Closed Cell Foam (aged after 30 days) – R-6.6
  • Water Blown Spray Foam – R-5.2
  • Thinsulate Clothing Insulation – R-1.6 to R-2.9
  • High Density Fiberglass Batts – R-3.6
  • Rice Hulls – R-3.9
  • Cotton Batts – R-3.7
  • Icynene Spray Foam – R-3.85
  • Open Cell Spray Foam – R-3.6
  • Cardboard – R-3.6
  • Rock Wool Batts – R-3.4
  • Cellulose Loose Fill – R-3.4
  • Fiberglass Loose Fill – R-3.0
  • Wood Panels used for Sheathing – R-2.7
  • Straw Bale – R-1.45
  • Softwood – R-1.41
  • Wood Chips – R-1.0
  • Snow – R-1.0
  • Hardwood – R-0.71
  • Brick – R-0.2
  • Glass – R-0.14
  • Poured Concrete – R-0.08

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Dr. Sprayfoam (Mark Gugino)

22 Dec

The Right Time For Dense Pack Cellulose Insulation

Ok, being that I am a foam guy I must tell you that I not only like foam, but I like almost all insulation (except batt insulation). Some insulations are just better for certain jobs than others.

Dense Pack 1Take dense pack cellulose, for example. This involves the cellulose insulation being densely packed into the cavities of a house using 2.5 to 4.5 pounds per cubic foot of pressure, which in turn “packs” the insulation.

Dense packing walls is a great application of blown-in cellulose. In fact, dense packing walls results in remarkable performance, or even blowing in cellulose on a flat application is a great use as long as there are baffles installed and wind washing doesn’t occur.

At the same time, a bad use of insulation is dense pack cellulose and or fiberglass batt insulation in an unvented cathedral ceiling. Why? Where or how does the air circulate if this area has no baffles or venting? It doesn’t vent, and because there is no vapor barrier or other sealing qualities, mold may form in the area which can sometimes bleed through your ceilings and become a health hazard.

The dense pack process is usually completed by a professional, with a variable speed cellulose machine. The units Home Depot or Lowe’s let you use from the store are not variable speed, and if you aren’t careful you can blow the walls (either drywall or plaster and lap) right off the drywall screws or nails – ruining your walls, and also leaving cellulose all over your floors.

Professionals also have infrared cameras (IR) cameras to see what cavities in your house have been filled and what cavities have been missed to make sure the whole wall gets dense pack cellulose and there are no misses or insulation gaps.

Using dense pack cellulose is also great for “flash and batt” insulation. During this process, a vapor barrier of spray foam is installed on the outer wall of the house sealing off the cold from the hot; then a mesh or 3-mill plastic is applied to the studs, followed by dense pack cellulose on top of the spray foam, and finally drywall.

Dense pack cellulose is a great alternative for someone who can’t afford all spray foam, but wants at least some spray foam because of its excellent air sealing qualities. For more information, please contact me for more information or a quote.

Dr. Sprayfoam (Mark Gugino)

20 Aug

Weatherize with Attic Air Sealing

Why is Attic Air Sealing a good thing to do to weatherize your house? Because the attic floor acts as a top to the box you have hopefully already sealed up from air leaks from the outside. What you’re trying to do here is the envelope theory of air sealing by creating a box.

Air SealingThe attic is the lid to that box and is the top of the box so its important to seal the top of the box because you do not want the heat to escape from the box (which is your house). Before you air seal your top to the box you first want to get a contractor, like Act Green Spray Foam, to correct these problems:

  1. Replace wet or damp insulation from a leaky roof (fix roof)
  2. Replace moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists indicating attic moisture problems
  3. Fix kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that either exhaust moisture into the house or attic
  4. Ice dams in the attic (an indication of serious air leaks)
  5. Little or no attic Insulation on the floor
  6. Knob and tube wiring
  7. Unsealed and uninsulated can lights in the attic space

A good way to start attic air sealing is to draw a map of the areas of the top floor where air might leak into the attic. Make a note of dropped soffits over kitchen cabinets or bath vanities, slanted ceilings over stairways where the walls and exterior of the house meet, and any other dropped ceiling area or overhangs from the house.

When air sealing you always plug the big holes first by either creating stuffed bags, plugging open stud cavities, covering dropped soffits or sealing behind knee walls. After we complete this we start sealing the air leaks, which can be done a number of ways – including spray foam. Every opening will contribute to a waste of your energy so we must be thorough when we air seal and do the job completely because any air movement is air leakeage and means a cold box (the house).

If your attic leaks and you want it sealed up by an expert please just call us!

Dr. Sprayfoam (Mark Gugino)

03 Jun

Comparing Open and Closed Cell Foams

Each foam we are going to talk about today has a blowing agent which forms the cells and then fills them with gas. All open cell foams use water as the blowing agent and when this water is mixed with the “A” Chemical, called isocyanate, it produces carbon dioxide as the insulating gas within each little cell (Tip: Break open the foam after it’s applied to see the size of these cells). Open cell foam is affordable as the yield from a set (two 55 gallon drums) is about 16,000 board feet (Board Foot = 12″ L x 12″ W x 1″ H). The blowing consists of mainly water and the bubbles are very large.

open v closedAll closed cell foams on the market today use water and some other chemical as their blowing agent and depending on what this chemical, can be very expensive. Closed cell foam produces very small bubbles (Tip: Break open the foam after it’s applied to see the size of these cells). The yield from a set of closed cell foam (two 55 gallon drums) is only 4,000 board feet.

It’s also possible to have a closed cell foam with only water as a blowing agent. But pay attention to the aged r-value of the foam – not the initial r-value – as the aged value is obtained 30 days after initial application. Always ask your contractor what the aged r-value is in writing, or through company literature. The higher your aged r-value, the better.

The typical aged r-value for closed cell foam is about r-6.2. The initial r-value is anywhere from r-6.4 to r-7.0 and is a product like soy spray foam.

open v closed 2A typical r-value for an open cell foam at application might be r-4.4 and the aged value might be r-3.4 which is considerably less than the closed cell foam. Because of this we don’t recommend or use open cell foam and tell people to use cellulose or batt insulation for soundproofing.

You may also hear open cell foam referred to as 1⁄2-pound foam and the closed cell foam as 2-pound foam. The higher the r-value the more insulating power the foam has, and in some cases you might only be able to spray closed cell foam in the cavity based on size and desired r-value.

For these reasons we recommend only closed cell foams at Act Green Spray Foam.

Dr. Spray Foam (Mark Gugino)

29 May

Press Release: Municipalities Launch Residential Energy Score Project

Five Tompkins County municipalities are working together to develop a plan for scoring the energy performance of local homes. The goal: to use market forces to improve the energy efficiency of existing housing stock by providing meaningful home performance information to future home buyers.

Read More: http://psdconsulting.com/municipalities-launch-residential-energy-score-project/

22 Apr

Save Money: Seal Your Rim Joists with Spray Foam

The key to insulating your rim joists is to use a product that air seals the area above your foundation and around the top of your sill plate. Not only is insulating your house good for your budget by saving you money, but it also increases the resale value of the home, adds energy efficiency to your house and provides an immediate cost savings to heat the house.

rim joists 1The problem that most homeowners experience when they insulate their rim joists is that they insulate with poor materials that do not air seal their house. If you use fiberglass batts or cellulose you may get a thermal barrier – not an air barrier – and the heat from your basement will filter out through the insulation. It will then discolor and turn black, possibly causing condensation on the inside or outside of the rim joist that may lead to mold or mildew.

Again, the solution is spray foam and not foam board. When you get down to the cost of buying the foam board, cutting the foam board, then buying the air sealing product and applying it, it is really a lot cheaper just to have a spray foam professional come and seal in your rim joists in your basement. Doing it yourself probably isn’t the answer, either, because “do-it-yourself spray foam” is expensive and messy. If it doesn’t mix well when you apply it then you’ll have unmixed sticky foam on your hands – which doesn’t actually insulate.

rim joists 2The right spray foam to use is closed cell spray foam. Because of the closed cell foam properties, spray foam creates not only a vapor barrier but an air barrier, as well. The best part? The vapor barrier automatically switches from hot side to cold side depending on cllimate (heating season or cooling season). Your cost savings should be between 18 and 20% after applying the foam to the rim joists.

Make sure your applicator not only applies foam to the rim joist but to the top of the sill plate all the way out to the edge of the foundation.  You want not only the rim joist, but the whole top of the foundation sealed off where air can come up and into your house from inside the cement block, the stone foundation or the poured cement. The thickness of this foam should be at least three inches but no less two. Contact us with any questions!

Dr. Spray Foam (Mark Gugino)


26 Mar

Why the Ice? Hot Roof vs. Cold Roof

It has been a cold winter, one that is hopefully over. As a result a lot of people have been experiencing more icicles or ice damming on their roofs than usual as a result of the sun melting the snow on roofs. This happens even though the air outside is still so cold which causes the water to re-freeze before it hits the ground or rolls off the roof causing the icicle or ice dam.

RoofsThe terminology is a bit awkward because of the ventilation which occurs under the roof. A hot roof has no ventilation under the roof or air circulation (the roof is cold) while a cold roof has ventilation under the roof (and is hopefully cold but in most cases is hot). What affects the roof the most is the space which is conditioned, or where the air barrier is under the roof.

In a cold roof situation, you try to air seal the ceiling of your house so no warm or heated air (the conditioned air) escapes into the unconditioned or cold air attic space. In a house with a hatch or a stairway to an attic, this process is virtually impossible to seal the floor under the attic ceiling 100 percent because of the hole going to the attic.

The fix for this and keeping a cold roof situation is to insulate the air (walls and ceilings) where the conditioned hot air meets the unconditioned cold air. You can do this by insulating the stairway and I prefer doing the walls with spray foam and then building an insulated doorway at the top of the stairs. If you can’t do spray foam, then in the next best case scenario you can dense pack cellulose the walls and install the same insulated hatch door.

In the hot roof situation, where the roof is cold and hopefully the conditioned space in the attic is warm, what you do is move the thermal barrier and also the air barrier to the underside of the roof. Here and depending on what your philosophy is for keeping ice dams and icicles off your roof you want to spray foam the underside of your roof and the gable ends of your attic to make the attic now warm. You want to stop all air movement.

If the ceiling above the living space is the highest in your house, cannot be sealed off, and a floor exists in your attic this might be the only way to seal off the roof area of the house from the roof surface – causing the snow on the roof to melt and create icicles and ice dams. After you put about a 2-inch layer of foam on the underside deck of the roof you can dense pack cellulose the rest of the roof to save on the amount of money its costing you to insulate your roof (with cellulose you get more R value for your buck).

Remember, though, always insulate from the edge of the soffits up to and including the ridge vent, sealing off all the vents and stopping the air from moving. If you are getting thermal bridging – which is where you can see the location of rafters in the roof (from the outside of the house where the heat is leaking) – you can always install foam board on the rafters before you drywall the attic. This new “hot roof” won’t allow the snow on your roof to melt, thus stopping the icicles and ice dams and fixing your problem.

Dr. Spray Foam (Mark Gugino)