Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Icynene's implicit campaign towards ignorance?

Hey all,
GreenBuildingAdvisor's Martin Holladay offered another provocative post today, that just so happened to match my own grumblings about Icynene's (and their various licensed contractors) various marketing campaigns. You can read the original post here:  
I encourage you to at least skim through it and at least get the gist of the conversation.  Per usual for this site, the comments are actually helpful and serve to carry on the conversation, and the understanding.  

R-value isn't the whole story?  (so sez icynene)
When one of the local suppliers of Icynene, I was a little astonished that they said that R-value was a conspiracy of the fiberglass industry to help advertise their product.  They said that Icynene is better because their R-value is better than the R-value of standard fiberglass.  I didn't want to be impolite at the time to our guests, so I didn't call Bull-.  So I'll reiterate here and now-- that is BULL-- R-value is R-value.  Icynene doesn't have special R-value.  And, contrary to what they said, the definition of R-value does account for the combination of conduction, convection, and radiation for reasonable approximations of building enclosures in the standardized lab conditions.  

This particular subcontractor, whom we have used many times, got knocked down a couple of levels in my estimation when they said this, which I've kept to myself thus far.  

New Marketing Campaign: Skimp on R-value because Icynene's R-value is better than the other
In the blog post, you'll read how Icynene is moving towards getting buildings to get a lower price point for insulation ars batt insulation by actually specifying Icynene thicknesses less than the code minima.  They argue that they should be able to be able to do this because the effective R-value of the assemblies with, say, R-13 Icynene is the same as that of an R-19 fiberglass batt cavity.  

And it's not to say that they don't have an argument-- they're just taking a curious stance on the issue. 

R-value is R-value:  it all assumes a well air-sealed wall.
Code mandates well air-sealed walls and insulation properly installed per manufacture specifications.  In standard construction practice, building assemblies are not well air-sealed and insulation is not installed per manufacturer's specs.  This is the reason why the labeled R-value on the Fiberglass batt package isn't accurate in the field.  
Energy efficiency isn't directly a safety issue, so code enforcers often glance over, or completely ignore the details of air-sealing and insulation.  This is the more complete problem statement.  

What's disappointing is that, while Icynene actually has a point about the sloppiness of standard construction practice, they aren't actually helping the issue by actually trying to educate the marketplace properly about the performance of sloppy building assemblies.  They appear to be going the low road instead and curiously putting builders at risk for non-code compliance in insulation thickness.  

All that said,
I'm fine with the product itself and it's competitors.  It seems to work quite well (with proper vapor management!!) and I look forward to using it in the future, after I get over my desire to boycott them for lame marketing.  

Yay for spray-foam plastics!
Boo on Icynene!

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