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Spray-foam attic ceiling actually reduce E-Bill?


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kemi's Forum Posts: 4

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By kemi in orlando, FL on 3/11/2010


Does anyone have any research on if having attic ceilings with spray foam or a radiant barrier helps reduce your energy bill by 15-30% in warm climates such as central Florida? By reducing the attic temperature from 150 F to normal outside temperature. I am interested in to know if anyone who lives in a warm state like FL,TX,AZ etc... has had their attic ceilings spray foamed (hurricane adhesive) or use a radiant barrier and has seen a significant reduction in their energy bill?

According to claims, since all the AC air ducts are in the attic and the attic temperature is at 150 to 160 F it causes the AC unit to work harder and adding this insulation barrier will reduce the attic temperature to the ambient temperature outside and thus your AC unit is on less. Now I just moved to FL from NY where I used my AC one month out of the year instead of year-round in Florida. Any help on this matter would be great. I have gotten quotes for hard foam at approx. $1.50 to $1.80 per sq ft since it's not summer season yet. In summer it jumps to $2.50. So for 2,200 sq.ft. living space it's $6,500
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By April in Plant City, FL on 3/12/2010


Hi Kemi! I did a tremendous amount of research when we built our home (end total sq ft: 4,100) regarding spray foam vs. blown insulation w/radiant barrier. You will read a lot of debate over the use of spray foam in Florida.  We very seriously considered using it, however we opted to go with blown insulation (R-35) with radiant barrier.

There are a few things to consider with spray foam. When I did my research, it seemed that much of the information about spray foam was conducted within their own industry. Most test homes were located in the northern part of the United States. These homes do not see the long-term sun exposure that a Florida home will see. There is a debate over how spray foam effects the roofing system. Many believe that because there is no gap between the roofing structure and the insulation, this causes the roofing to "bake". Even though your attic may be cooler, the singles have to absorb the heat that would normally pass through the roof. Supposedly, this may cause a shortened roof life.

In our case, we built with ICFs. Our home was extremely airtight without the spray foam. The use of the spray foam would have created a "too airtight" situation and forced us to include a system that would bring air into the house to feed the air condition system. It seemed like there was too much of a debate at this point over the benefits and costs for us to proceed with spray foam. If the research becomes more solid, then we would consider using it in the future. (We really were dead set on using it in the beginning.) As far as the radiant barrier goes, we did cover the entire roof system as well as all gable walls facing east and west. Our electric bill runs in the $350-$400 range in the summer for 4,100 sq. ft. Our electric bill this past month was $236. I am sure that the ICF is the major contributor to this, but I seriously believe that the radiant barrier (second floor is frame construction) has made a big difference. 

I hope this helps a little.

April


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By Kathlyn in Orlando, FL on 3/12/2010


I have two answers:

   1. We built a brand-new steel-frame home, 1,200 sq ft, three stories with Icynene foam everywhere. They sprayed the entire ceiling in the attic and there is no venting (a closed system). The attic is two bedrooms instead of wasted space. Our power bill for 1/25 -2/23 was 792 kWh, two people, all-electric house, $106 including all taxes. I love foam. No bugs, no humidity, no drafts. Our AC is inside the foam. (Not encased in foam, the foam is on the exterior wall and the ducts are inside of that).

   2. We remodeled a small house that is a rental so I don't know the AC cost. We put up a foil barrier in the ceiling. The AC contractor said that would save a lot. The roll was about $80 on the Internet. We also foamed a south-facing wall with 1" of foam and all other walls with 1/2". The foam was $600 and easy to do. That was more for infiltration than R-value.

Lyn


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By Ellen in Orlando, FL on 3/12/2010


We used radiant barrier in our ceilings and foam on the side walls. Our home is 2,300 s.f., we live in Florida, and our electric bills in the summer usually run $150. I have compared this with some of my friends with the same square footage, and their bills are much higher. We have been in our home for two years now
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By Brian in Dome-ville, FL on 3/12/2010


Does anyone have a contact or source for foam contractors?  What abotu DIY foam?
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By kemi in orlando, FL on 3/12/2010


Hi April,

Thanks for the replying. I appreciate the information. So you used blown insulation under your attic floor? And radiant barrier on the attic ceiling? How much did your radiant barrier cost? As for your electric bill, what is normal? Given that this is a freak winter in Florida, I wonder if your kilowatt usage went down because of the barrier. When did you do the installation? I am looking for real data. So after installation, your electric bill dropped down to $236. What was it the previous month?

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By Mark in Bell, FL on 3/12/2010


I don't have any documented research regarding E-bill savings, but in speaking with my trusted A/C contractor in N. Florida, the radiant barrier film attached to the bottom of the roof trusses is the way to go. It creates an air gap between the roof surface & attic space that allows the hot air created by the hot roof surface to vent directly through the soffit and ridge vents without ever entering your attic. He says the attic temp is close to if not the same as outside air temp. Simple laws of thermodynamics suggests your A/C will work more efficiently without fighting heated attic ducts... thus less energy used... thus a lower E-bill.   

I WOULD NOT recommend spray foam. One, it causes the roof temp to increase dramatically because there's nowhere for the heat to dissipate to except back toward the roof surface. If you have shingles, that's a real bad thing. You need an air gap. Two, if you have any type of water leak, large or small, you'll never know until its too late... the entire roof would be rotted... possibly underlayment AND the trusses... BIG $$$... & it would be a perfect environment for mold growth. Spray foam is really meant for keeping out cold, not heat. The hurricane adhesive claim is a marketing ploy. I've been through Andrew (164 mph - one mile from my house), & if your roof is constructed properly... the roof sheathing will not come off. 

As for cost, the house I'm building is 5,228 SF CBS house (Concrete Block Stucco) and my insulation cost for the entire project... combo blown-in R-30/batt R-19 for attic ceilings, sound walls, fire caulking, vents, etc. INCLUDING radiant barrier applied to attic trusses as I described, is only $5,040. So the hard foam is not only a bad idea but a RIPOFF in my opinion. Get some quotes for the radiant barrier.


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By kemi in orlando, FL on 3/12/2010


Does that apply to clay-tile roofs as well?

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By Mark in Bell, FL on 3/12/2010


Kemi... if your question pertains to whether the foam will cause the excessive heating to the roof surface if you have clay tiles... remember it's not just the "finish" material (i.e. tile, shingles, etc.) that's baking, it's also the layers of tar paper, felt and bonding material underneath it that's going to have a shortened life span also due to the excessive heat. Clay barrel tiles do relieve some of the heating, because they have a built-in air gap between the raised portion of the tile and the roof surface.  

Bottom line... again... spray foam was designed for insulation against cold intrusion, and air gaps in framed-wall applications in colder climates... not for heat in roof attics of excessively hot & humid regions like Florida.

Yankee transplants beware... it's different building here in Florida... dishonest contractors WILL take advantage of you if you're not careful.


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By Bill in Callahan, FL on 3/14/2010


I have open-cell SPF on my whole house. I love it. The attics stay about 3-5 degrees warmer than the house during the winter. I have a galvanized metal roof, so that helps too. In my research, I have found no real studies that it shortens shingle life. I think that is just a ploy of the installers of other insulation. In fact, Owens Corning would not warranty their shingles on a foam roof, but now that they are coming out with a spray-foam insulation, all of a sudden, it is OK. Thermodynamics tell me that the heat in an airspace behind a radiant barrier could get much hotter than the heat in a foam roof.

I would personally stay away from closed-cell spray foam. My house was burned down by the heat generated during the installation on closed-cell SPF. Thankfully, it was new construction and I was not living it it. It is a well-known fact in the SPF business that this can happen if not installed correctly, but no one will tell you that. That being said, I would not think twice about having open-cell SPF sprayed in the attic of an existing home.

 

Bill in Jax 


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By Betty in Orlando, FL on 4/16/2010



Hi Brian,

Here are some spray-foam contractors:

Xtreme Foam: (407) 657-3626
Future Foam: (407) 704-7880
Central Florida Spray Foam: (407) 709-0913
Dylona: (888) 608-6446

You can talk to them and see who you like best.

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By Belinda in Augusta, GA on 4/17/2010


Bill,

Could you tell me more about why closed-cell spray foam may generate more heat than open cell? 

Also, we have heard arguments from all sides as to what type of insulation to use in our attic. We are building ICF with a metal roof above Savannah, GA.  We were told not to use open cell because it would let in the humidity and encourage mold growth. It was suggested to use blown-in insulation with a radiant barrier because of costs. Aside from the heat generated from closed-cell installation, are there any differences in power bills or any long-term consequences of choosing open-cell over closed-cell?

Belinda


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By Bill in Callahan, FL on 4/17/2010


The chemical reaction is hotter for closed cell.  I have heard good things about blown-in insulation with a radiant barrier. I think that open cell is probably the most cost effective, but that is my opinion.

 

Bill


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By Eric in Clermont, FL on 4/21/2010


Hi! I used Xtreme Foam for my house I built three years ago. I used closed-cell foam in my attic line in the house and garage and used open-cell to line my basement ceiling and as soundproofing in certain rooms. The closed cell is better for your attic line in that it is hard and provides a good attic seal against water vapor. For my block walls, I just used a radiant barrier and no foam at all.

I'm gonna tell you now that the extra added cost was WAY worth it. I have a 2,600 sq ft house and my bill in the summer is around $320 at the most (of course I set the thermostat higher in the day when we aren't home). In comparison, this is about the same as I was paying in a 1,600 sq ft house with R-19 insulation. I'm guessing I'm saving around $100 a month in cooling bills.

The only issue I had was getting the county to approve the energy calcs as they had to be done with the ACTUAL R-value of the foam and not the EFFECTIVE value once applied (which is like R-60 or something).

I was very happy with Xtreme Foam and their service. They cleaned up their mess and even cleaned up some mess left by the other subs. I would recommend them highly. I don't have the Orlando office's number on hand but the co-owner I dealt with's name was Rachael.

Good luck!

Eric


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By Brian in Dome-ville, FL on 4/21/2010


What do you keep your thermostat set at??? My house is 2,400 s.f., built in 1978, and I only pay $200-$220 at the hottest part of summer.  I have NO insulation in the walls (they used to accept the stucco coating over board insulation), and blown-in for the attic. I'm a little cooler than Orlando, but we're pretty close. I keep my thermostat set at 78-79F, digital thermostat.
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By Eric in Clermont, FL on 4/26/2010


About 76-77 degrees. We have two A/C units; one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs. To keep it in perspective, during the months when we don't run A/C at all, it's about $150, since Progress Energy raised the rates 20%. Like I said... compared to my old house, it works great!
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By ben on 7/14/2010


Bill,

I applied radiant barrier after construction in my attic/bonus room and finally need to finish it out. Open-cell foam seems to be the way to go. What R-value did you decide to use in your attic? Thanks.


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By Kalos in orange park, FL on 8/4/2014


Poly-urethane spray-in foam has the benefit of not only giving the home owner superior insulation coverage in all parts of the  walls, floors, and ceilings, it also seals the home for outdoor air infiltration into the home.  Infiltration in large amount can lead to expensive utility bills because the outdoor air entering the home needs to be treated by the air conditioning system.  This is unnecessary waste of energy and money.  Make a small worthwhile investment by hiring a good energy rater to run calculations for your home to estimate your required air conditioning capacity and estimate the amount of energy wasted via infiltration of out door air.
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