Cellulose Installation Precautions

Certain precautions should be taken when installing cellulose insulation.  The following are important precautions and limitations to always remember.

Heaters and recessed light fixtures must not be covered by the insulation, unless the fixture has an IC (insulation contact) rating.  A minimum of 3 inches of air space must be maintained between fixtures and the blocking.  Always follow local and national codes if applicable.

Cold air returns and combustion air intakes for hot air furnaces must not be blocked or insulation be installed in a manner which would allow it to be drawn into the system.

Insulation must not contact chimneys or flues.  A minimum of 3 inches of air space must be maintained with blocking used to retain the insulation.

The homeowner should be advised that in tightly constructed homes or when insulating existing homes which have fuel fired heating systems within the living area or basement, an air duct must be installed between the furnace room and a well ventilated outside area to provide combustion air.  A local heating contractor should be contacted for proper duct size and installation.

Installers and specifiers are advised to refer to other relevant documents, including the National Electrical Code, ASTM Standard Designation C1015, CIMA Technical Bulletin #1 Cellulose Insulation: Codes, Regulations and Specifications, and CIMA Technical Bulletin #3 Standard Practice for the Installation of Sprayed Cellulose Wall Cavity Insulation, for additional information.

What Do NRC and STC Mean?

Technical terms like Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) and Sound Transmission Class (STC) can be somewhat confusing.  While one measures the build-up of noise within a space, the other measures the sound transmission between spaces.  It is important to understand the difference of these two ratings. (See demonstration of sound control for Cellulose vs. Fiberglass Insulation.)

The Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) measures the build-up of noise within a space.  A single number index rating is used to measure the sound absorption of a material.  Fiberlite’s Cellulose Insulation products have an NRC rating from .75 to .82 depending on wall design, materials and applied density of the product.  Simply put, FTI’s Cellulose Insulation products will absorb 75% to 82% of the sound that it comes in contact with and will reflect 18% to 25% of the sound back into the space.  However, NRC does not address a material’s barrier effect.  Nor, does it give information as to how absorptive a material is in the low and high frequencies.  NRC is only the average of the mid-frequency sound absorption coefficients (250, 500, 1000 and 2,000 hertz) rounded to the nearest 5%.  Continue reading

Cellulose Insulation Credited with Limiting Fire Damage

The Springfield (MO) News-Leader reported a faulty fireplace caused a house fire, but a faulty fire hydrant may have caused a delay in putting it out.  The fire started about 9:00am at 3800 W. Maplewood Street, near the border of Springfield and Battlefield.  The house was under construction, and crews were using the fireplace to heat the home while they worked.  The builder of the house identified a gap in the firebox that allowed flames to escape behind the firebox and caused the house to catch on fire.  All crew members were evacuated safely from the home, which was about eight days from being completed.  “Now it is more like 80 days,” said Clint Tackitt, the house’s owner and builder.  “What should have been more chimney damage ended up being a substantial loss.” Continue reading

Back to the Basics – Wall Spray Guidelines

While there are many variables that affect cellulose wall-spray applications, using a few simple guidelines can eliminate some of the guesswork when trying to achieve optimum performance.

First of all, you need the right equipment adjusted to the proper settings. Your blowing machine should be able to process at least 1,400 lbs. of cellulose per hour, and must have the following:

  • Air lock with adjustable gate
  • Sufficient tines to condition material
  • Adjustable blower controls
  • 125 ft. of 2 ½ in. blowing hose Continue reading

Newer Homes are Better Insulated & Energy Efficient Improvements in Older Homes Rises

Total United States energy consumption in homes has remained relatively stable for many years as increased energy efficiency has offset the increase in the number and average size of housing units, according to the newly released data from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS).  The average household consumes 90 million British thermal units (Btu).  This continues the downward trend in average residential energy consumption of the last 30 years, despite the fact that the average size home is 27% larger now than compared to homes built before 1990.

Even though the RECS show a downward trend in energy consumption, the cost to heat and cool a home continues to rise across the United States.  This has necessitated the need for newer homes to feature better insulation and other energy saving components, but has also led to energy efficient improvements to older homes.

Current occupants in RECS sampled homes were asked about energy-efficient improvements they had made. Over 40 million householders (35 percent) used caulking or weather-stripping to seal cracks and air leakages around their house, and 26 million (23 percent) added insulation.

It is apparent that energy efficiency remains a priority for new and existing homes and this trend is expected to rise as the cost to heat and cool continues on an upward swing.



Texas Insulation Fire Story Propagates Myth

The following is from the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association (CIMA). Click here to view the original blog post on the CIMA website.

A television station in Texas recently ran a story about a house fire and quoted a local fire official who erroneously stated cellulose insulation contributed to the damage. This insulation fire story from Texas includes many misstatements and errors based on myth rather than facts about the product.

Myths about products, once started, can often become imbedded in the minds of consumers. It’s even more alarming and confusing to the public when credible professionals propagate misinformation as fact allowing routine local news reporting to become sensationalized as in the case with this Texas insulation fire story. The Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association(CIMA) exists to keep consumers informed on the facts about cellulose insulation products.  The association provided information for this blog post to help clarify the facts and correct the extensive errors in this Texas insulation fire story.

According to CIMA Executive Director Dan Lea, the short answer and fact is cellulose insulation has a Class 1 Fire Rating and is perfectly safe for use in homes or any building.

Here are some of the errors taken verbatim from the Texas insulation fire story on the station’s website, and the corresponding facts provided by Mr. Lea and based on independent studies conducted by true insulation product experts.

Experts say fire resistance of cellulose insulation…made up of recycled paper fades overtime. That insulation was used in a home that caught fire this morning in Longview.

FACT: Cellulose insulation is treated with effective time-proven fire retardants to ensure its low flame spread index and high resistance to smoldering combustion. These chemicals in fact do not dissipate appreciably over time and can be expected to last the life of the product. Published, peer reviewed studies have concluded that it would take 300 years under worst-case exposure conditions for there to be any appreciable change in the fire resistance of cellulose insulation. Further, the story does not actually quote any case studies or list experts other than the local fire official who may have extensive experience with fires but is clearly not an expert on insulation.

The homeowner was lucky. The fire was quickly extinguished. The fire marshal says it started in the attic.  “We are honing our investigation into that electrical box in the attic,” says Johnny Zackary.

But he says the insulation used in this home is often found in older homes and can be dangerous. ”They do have cellulose insulation which is basically ground up newspaper that was popular in the 80′s and because of that, the fire spreads more rapidly than with fiberglass insulation,” says Zackary.

FACT: Cellulose insulation may actually have limited the damage. The density of cellulose insulation retards the spread of fire through insulated cavities giving building occupants more time to reach safety and the fire company more time to arrive and extinguish the blaze.  In addition, cellulose insulation certainly was popular in the 1980s, and its popularity has grown since then. Today, cellulose commands a larger share of the insulation market than at any time in the last 20 years.

The cheaper cellulose insulation is legal – but, “the problem is once it does catch on fire it will just sit there and smolder and burn for a long period of time,” says Zackary.

Fact: Here, Mr. Zackery is partially correct. Cellulose insulation is legal and the product used in this house performed as intended to effectively contain the fire rather than allow rapidly spreading flaming combustion.

“We see quite a few attics where they decided to add insulation they blew this in because you could buy it relatively inexpensively,” says Zackary.

Fact: Cellulose insulation is typically less expensive than fiberglass batts, but about the same price as loose fill fiberglass insulation, which would be the comparable material. The reporter added to this false claim by quoting prices for bags of cellulose insulation and fiber glass insulation and suggesting that fiber glass is three times more expensive than cellulose.  What she didn’t bother to do is check the coverage charts on these bags.  Had she done this she would have learned that R-for-R loose fill cellulose and loose fill fiber glass are about the same price. Currently cellulose tends to be more expensive than fiber glass.  Most consumers select cellulose insulation based on its superior insulating properties and extensive environmental benefits rather than to save money since it is usually not the least expensive insulation option.

Skip Whittle works with builders at the city. He says cellulose insulation just isn’t worth the risk. “It takes more of that product to achieve some of the same value that you get from other types of insulation. Consequently, over time it settles and it loses some of its properties due to moisture in the attic or just over time and gravity,” says Whittle.

Fact: All cellulose, fiberglass and other fibrous insulation products have some settling over time. Cellulose insulation manufactures have calculated the settling rate which is in fact nominal. Following the manufacturer’s installation recommendations, and with proper installation by a professional insulation contractor, the insulation will perform at the listed R-Value for the life of the product. As noted above, its insulating, fire rating and other properties do not fade due to settling or moisture.

The cellulose insulation does contain a fire retardant but experts say over time it fades away.

Fact: The station does not specify the “experts” in this statement made by their news anchor as a closing comment. It can be assumed this is in reference to comments from Mr. Zackary and Mr. Whittle neither of whom are insulation or fire product rating experts. The fact is fire retardant chemicals in cellulose insulation last for the life of the product which is typically the life of the structure where they are placed.

Mr. Todd Cox, President of Weatherization Experts and a former fire fighter in Oklahoma with 21 years as a Hazardous Materials Technician, heard about the story and wrote a letter to CIMA rebutting the many errors as a fire expert and experienced insulation installer familiar with cellulose, fiberglass and other types of insulation products. CIMA Executive Director Dan Lea wrote the station management noting the many erroneous statements in the story along with the Cox letter in a formal request for correction and equal time. (Read the Texas-Fire-Story-Response-CIMA.)

The station did not respond to CIMA’s request. The story is still on their website and likely creating confusion for those making home insulation decisions, and instilling undo fear for those who already have cellulose insulation in their homes. Hopefully this information from CIMA will help to assuage any fears or concerns. There is more information on the CIMA website about myths and facts. Mr. Lea also encouraged anyone interested in receiving more correct information to contact the association by leaving a reply below. He also encourages anyone interested in helping to clarify the facts from this highly erroneous insulation fire story from Texas to make a link to this Greenest Insulation Blog post from their blog or website.

Cellulose Insulation Gets Best Green Rating

Trying to decide what type of home insulation to use?  Your primary goal should be to reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat and cool your home.  But did you ever stop to think about the amount of energy that goes into producing insulation itself?

Green-building experts use the term “embodied energy” to describe the energy used to make any product, bring it to market and (eventually) dispose of it.  To evaluate how green an insulation material is in the terms of energy usage, you must weigh its embodied energy against the energy it saves when it’s insulating a home.  Using material that save considerable amounts of a home’s operating energy, even if the material’s embodied energy is a bit higher, is a good direction, but using material that save operating energy and have a low embodied energy is even better.

Cellulose Insulation has by far has the least embodied energy.  Fiberglass has up to 10 times more embodied energy than cellulose and foam products have even more—up to 64 times. Continue reading

Utility Rates on the Rise

If you live in Missouri or Kansas, chances are your utility company has requested a rate increase.  The most recent requests have come from the following companies:

Empire District Electric                                 5.3% increase

Ameren Missouri                                           14.0% increase

Kansas City Power & Light (MO)               15.1% increase

Kansas City Power & Light (KS)                 12.9% increase

All rate requests must be approved by either the Missouri Public Service Commission for utility companies filing rate increases in Missouri or Kansas Corporation Commission for utility companies filing rate increases in Kansas.  Hearings will be scheduled so the public may comment on the rate increase proposals.

With the temperatures looming in the triple digits, your air conditioner may be running non-stop.  There are several steps that you can take to lower your monthly cooling costs. Continue reading

Energy Efficiency: A Solution Towards Energy Independece

Americans recognize that the best way to save energy is to never use it in the first place.  We also recognize that a renewed commitment to energy efficiency is smart economics.  It will put thousands of American workers back on the job, producing and installing insulation.  Unlike certain technologies such as solar, adding insulation is the most economical, practical and proven way to increase the efficiency of homes and buildings.

With so much disagreement over the use of both fossil fuels and still developing renewable energy, it’s more critical than ever to focus on what everyone can agree on:  energy efficiency.  Using tried and true technologies like insulation will spur jobs and save consumers money. Continue reading

Cellulose Insulation and Air Infiltration

Building a new home or updating an older one, while stressful at times, is a very exciting time for homeowners. While it is easy to get caught up in picking out paint colors, countertops, flooring, and all the other eye-catching elements of a home, it is important to consider the behind-the-scenes elements as well.

Insulation, while invisible from inside a home, may be the single most important element in terms of making a home a quiet and comfortable place to live. Just as a homeowner can choose from granite, solid surface or laminate countertops, there are many options for insulation – and not all insulation perform equally. Continue reading