Orlando, Fla. — A spray polyurethane foam insulation said to be the first to eliminate ozone depletion and reduce the impact of global warming has been enhanced by Houston-based Lapolla Industries Inc. as company officials work to gain its acceptance around the world.
Lapolla uses Solstice, a liquid blowing agent developed by Honeywell International Inc., to make the closed-cell insulation product called Foam-Lok, which is low in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
HFCs are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change. Lapolla and Honeywell were private sector partners of a federal effort to limit GHGs. The blowing agent also is non-flammable and contributes to the foam's insulating properties, which improves a building's energy efficiency.
However, it was an internal evolution of Lapolla's research and development team that improved the fourth generation of Foam-Lok, President and CEO Douglas Kramer said at the International Builders' Show in Orlando. The product has been enhanced with a slightly lower density, which offers a 20 percent increase in yield and lowers material and labor costs.
“We can spray the product at 5½ inches in one pass, which no one has been able to do before,” Kramer said. “Typically you get about 4,000 board feet of foam but with the [fourth generation] we're seeing around 6,500 board feet. So even though the technology costs a little more, the per-board cost is significantly less. It's really bringing great value to the entire value chain — the contractors and the consumers.”
A tightly sealed building envelope means HVAC systems don't have to run as often to regulate temperature and humidity. That means up to 45 percent savings on utility bills for the life of the home, plus reduced consumption of fossil fuels, reducing the home's carbon footprint.
The Foam-Lok product also has a zero value for ozone-depleting properties.
“Solstice was big news last year and now we've continued to advance the performance and we've got the product approved almost everywhere,” Kramer said of Europe, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and South America. “It's about to be approved in Canada, too, probably in another month.”
In the insulation business for 27 years, Kramer said spray foam is the way to go and he urges the competition to get on board.
“We believe spray foam is about 20 percent of the market right now,” he said. “Over my career I could tell you years ago there were doubtful numbers it was even 3 percent. It has very quickly, over the last decade, skyrocketed to 20 percent and we believe that climb will continue with double-digit growth.”
Kramer credits the spray foam's gain in market share from fiberglass, rock wool and blown-in cellulose to architects, developers and consumers studying up on ways to build better and save energy. Television shows like “Extreme Home Makeover” have helped, too. Host Ty Pennington is a Lapolla spokesman. Kramer said he became a foam fan in an attempt to find products that could help his mother's severe allergies.
“In more moderate climates, it helps with air filtration, which is important for better air quality,” Kramer said. “We believe eliminating unwanted air, unconditioned air, will actually help.”
The CEO was invited twice to the White House by the Obama administration to discuss the private sector's commitment to reduce HFCs. He isn't deterred by President Donald Trump's skepticism about climate change.
“We feel as Trump gathers more information and is briefed further, his position will soften a little,” Kramer said. “There's also a group being assembled at a very high level that is retelling the story in a more business-related fashion, such as carbon credits. They're meaningful to business on a global basis. At the end of the day, however, regardless of what happens at the administration level, consumers still have the same needs and desires. Everyone is going to want continued higher performance and lower energy costs.”