Monday, December 7, 2020

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) Basics

Whether retro-fitting a house or choosing insulation when constructing a new one, spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation is among the most reliable methods to increase energy efficiency and improve comfort.

What is SPF & How Does it Work?

SPF, a spray-applied cellular synthetic, is made by mixing chemicals to create foam. Those chemicals react very swiftly, expanding on contact to create a foam that insulates, air seals, and provides a moisture block. When properly installed, SPF forms a continuous block on walls, around corners, and on contoured surfaces. It resists heat transfer very well and is an effective resolution for reducing unwanted air infiltration through cracks, seams, and joints.

SPF insulation utilized by professionals is usually described as either a high- or low-pressure foam and is available as either open- or closed-cell. Each type has benefits and drawbacks, depending on the application conditions. The comparison chart below can help explain or understand which type of SPF insulation is best suited to a particular application.

More about the Chemicals and How They React

Two liquids combine during a chemical response to form SPF. The two liquids come in different drums or containers, and professionals generally refer to one container as the “A” side and the other container as the “B” side.

The “A” side of a spray polyurethane system is commonly composed of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (pMDI). The “B” side is typically a mixture of polyols, catalysts, blowing agents, flame retardants, and surfactants. Note that the “A” and “B” sides may be reversed outside the U.S.

The polyols are part of the chemical response to make foam. The remaining ingredients in the “B” side serve various purposes to help control the creation of the foam bubbles (the “cells”) optimally and to provide the various characteristics of the finished foam chemical (flame retardancy, for example).

After the chemicals are mixed and reacted, the foam hardens very quickly. The time to complete the reaction depends on the type of SPF insulation and other variables.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are available for both “A” and “B” side chemicals. As an SPF professional, you must understand the data on safety sheets and share your customers' features.

SPF Installation: Educating the customer

Experts will want and need to give their customers direction about the process for installation and time when they can reenter their home after an interior, two-component foam insulation utilization.

Part of that guidance will be explaining that interior, two-component foam is applied with the professional using specific personal protective accessories (high-pressure foam is installed while using a respirator, for example). It is encouraged that professionals explain articulately to customers that this equipment, coupled with certain work and engineering practices, including ventilation, is used to minimize exposures to the elements used to make SPF during the job.

Further, experts will want to share how homeowners can minimize or eliminate their exposure to the chemicals used to create spray foam by carefully following directions about not occupying the home or space during the installation, job completion, and cleanup and for an appropriate period afterward.

Want to learn more or become a spray foam insulation applicator? We recommend you give ArmorThane a call. 

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