musingsheader image
0 Helpful?

‘Insulating’ Paint Merchants Dupe Gullible Homeowners

As con artists profit from ‘insulating’ paint, the FTC is MIA

Posted on Sep 11 2009 by Martin Holladay

Scammers have been selling “insulating” paint to gullible consumers for at least 27 years. Among the exaggerated claims made by distributors of these overpriced cans of paint is that the “low-e” coatings will “lower energy bills.” In addition to liquid paint, some fraudsters sell powders or paint additives, usually described as “miracle” products containing “micro-spheres” or “ceramic beads.”

Every few years, the sleepy regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wake up long enough to send warning letters to the most egregious paint scammers. For example, in 2002 the FTC clamped down on Kryton Coatings International, a manufacturer which claimed that its paint was equivalent to 7 in. of fiberglass insulation. In March 2009, the FTC took action against Sumpolec, a marketer of coatings that were said to “equal R-100 insulating value.”

To find them, just lift a few rocks
In spite of these rare actions, however, marketers of “insulating” paint continue to thrive. With a simple Google search, any Web surfer can conjure up dozens of distributors of insulating paint, including those hawking Nansulate and Super ThermUnit of heat equal to 100,000 British thermal units (Btus); commonly used for natural gas..

When I was the editor of Energy Design Update (EDU) — a position I held before joining the team in November 2007 — I regularly exposed exaggerated energy claims made by paint manufacturers. My March 2004 article, “R-Value Scofflaws,” fingered the manufacturer of Super Therm. In June 2008, I wrote “Scam and Exaggeration Roundup,” an article highlighting exaggerations made by Nansulate. Although both articles were forwarded to the FTC, the agency has so far failed to act against either manufacturer.

“A barrier to heat transfer”
The manufacturer of Nansulate — Industrial Nanotech of Naples, Florida —describes its flagship coating as a “liquid applied home insulation.” The company’s Web site falsely claims that “Nansulate is a new technology which insulates by means of low thermal conductionMovement of heat through a material as kinetic energy is transferred from molecule to molecule; the handle of an iron skillet on the stove gets hot due to heat conduction. R-value is a measure of resistance to conductive heat flow.. … Residential customers typically report energy savings in the 20% to 40% range, which is of course dependent on each individual application. … You can boost the energy efficiency of your home by applying Nansulate to the interior walls, ceiling, and attic area. Nansulate will act as a barrier to all three methods of heat transfer — convective, conductive, and radiant. Radiant heat transfer is one of the most significant ways that heat is lost or gained from a home or building. Nansulate can be used as attic insulation, pipe insulation, wall insulation, and duct insulation in your home, helping you lower fuel bills.”

“R-19 equivalent insulator!”
If anything, the claims made for Super Therm are even more outlandish than those made for Nansulate. One Super Therm distributor, Eagle Specialized Coatings of Surrey, British Columbia, advertises that “Super Therm is a true ‘insulating’ coating and not just a reflective paint as are all the competing formulas in the market. Also tested by the Thermo Physical Research Laboratory for comparative R-19 equivalent insulation factor Super Therm blocked 92% of the heat. No other R-19 equivalent insulator can claim that! No Fiberglass, No Foam, No Cellulose, No other single ceramic paint!”

The manufacturer of Super Therm, Superior Products International of Shawnee, Kansas, claims that “Super Therm is a ceramic based, water-borne, insulating coating, designed to block heat load, moisture penetration, and air infiltration over a surface and to reduce energy costs. … Super Therm can provide energy savings of 20-70%. According to use and application. R-19 Equivalent Rating — Super Therm reflects over 95% of radiation from the sun replacing the 6 to 8 inches of traditional insulation to block initial heat load.”

How can these paint manufacturers get away with such wild exaggerations? Although the problem is due in part to the FTC’s lax enforcement of existing regulations, other factors play a role. According to an article in the September 2009 issue of EDU, “Such claims, as a rule, receive relatively little attention from energy experts. That’s partly because they are numerous enough that any attempt to debunk them individually would quickly develop into an open-ended game of Whack-a-Mole, and partly because the product claims are so outlandish that it’s difficult to imagine anyone taking them seriously.”

The same as ordinary paint
Every researcher who has examined these products has concluded that there is no such thing as insulating paint. For example, tests at the Florida Solar Energy Center confirm that these paints are nothing special: “The Florida Solar Energy Center has tested ceramic paints and found them to have no significant advantage over ordinary paint in terms of their ability to retard heat gains through exterior building surfaces.”

The latest research lab to shine light on the insulating paint scammers is the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks, Alaska. As explained in the September 2009 issue of EDU, CCHRC researchers decided to focus on two products that often generate customer complaints: Nansulate and Super Therm.

Are they low-e?
In theory, the lower the emittance (emissivityAmount of heat radiation emitted from a particular body or material. Emissivity is expressed in a fraction or ratio, with the lowest values indicating low emissivity and the highest indicating the high emissivity of flat black surfaces.) achieved by a paint, the better its performance. When CCHRC researchers tested the emittance of dried samples of Nansulate and Super Therm, however, they discovered that neither coating is low-e. An independent laboratory “tested the emittance of the coatings on three different samples for each coating. Super Therm had an average emittance of 0.9 and Nansulate had an average emittance of 0.92, which demonstrates that neither product is a good inhibitor of infrared radiant heat loss.”

The measured emittance values of these paints are truly dismal — far higher than the legal maximum for a radiant barrier, which is 0.10. (As it turns out, no paint on the market can meet the radiant barrier standard.) Some paint manufacturers classify their products as “radiation control coatings,” a category requiring an emissivity rating of 0.25 or less — a less stringent emissivity rating than radiant barriers. However, neither Nansulate nor Super Therm comes anywhere close to even this less stringent standard.

In any case, the emittance of residential paint is a moot point. A low-e coatingVery thin metallic coating on glass or plastic window glazing that reduces heat loss through the window; the coating emits less radiant energy (heat radiation), which makes it, in effect, reflective to that heat; boosts a window’s R-value and reduces its U-factor. is only effective if there is a large temperature difference between the surface being coated and the environment it faces. Such a large temperature difference can only occur on an uninsulated wall — and if your house has uninsulated walls, you have far more problems than can be solved by a few cans of paint.

Can paint have an R-Value?
In order to leave no stone unturned, the Alaska researchers measured the R-value of dried paint samples. Employing a Fox 314 heat flow meter, the researchers followed the standard ASTMAmerican Society for Testing and Materials. Not-for-profit international standards organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of voluntary technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services. Originally the American Society for Testing and Materials. C518 procedure for measuring R-value. (For more information on the ASTM C518 test, see “Understanding R-Value.”) Since a thin coat of dried paint is fragile, the paint was applied to 1/2-in. drywall before testing.

The results will undoubtedly disappoint the marketers of “insulating” paint. “Application of Super Therm increased the thermal conductivity of the gypsum board and therefore decreased the overall R-value,” the researchers reported. “Application of Nansulate resulted in no significant difference, as the change in thermal conductivity for the Nansulate-coated gypsum board is within the 1% measurement error of the Fox 314.”

If a tree falls in the forest …
Of course, R-value results are often ridiculed by those selling “alternative” insulation products. As Jon Vara, the current editor of EDU, recently explained, “Manufacturers of insulating paints typically claim that, although their performance can’t be quantified by some standardized tests, they are effective in the real world. A possible explanation: they only insulate when no one is looking.”

In order to test this unlikely possibility, the Alaska researchers built three insulated test boxes lined with drywall. The drywall in the control box was painted with ordinary latex paint, while the two test boxes were painted with Nansulate and Super Therm. “The boxes were placed outside and the heaters operated overnight maintaining the inside temperature at an average of 74°F,” the researchers reported. “Data were not collected during the day to avoid interference from solar heat gain. This control testing was conducted over the course of a week to ascertain that the boxes required the same amount of energy to maintain temperature. … Following the painting, all three boxes were set up with the sensors and heaters just as they were in the control tests, and tested outside overnight once every two weeks for a 30-day period.”

“No discernible difference”
Guess what — paint is a lousy insulator. The CCHRC researchers concluded that “there was no discernible difference in the performance of the Super Therm or Nansulate in comparison to regular latex paint during the energy monitoring tests.”

The ball is now in the FTC’s court. Anyone who wants to give the FTC a nudge should contact Hampton Newsome, the FTC attorney who handles enforcement of the R-Value Rule. Newsome can be reached by phone at 202-326-2889; his e-mail address is

The full CCHRC research report, “Product Test: Nansulate and Super Therm,” is available online.

This article has been translated into Hungarian: A hőszigetelő festékek kereskedői becsapják a rászedhető lakástulajdonosokat.

Last week’s blog: “The Jevons Paradox.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Image Credits:

  1. Cold Climate Housing Research Center

Sep 23, 2011 11:59 AM ET

I assume you are referring to
by D W

I assume you are referring to energy star shingles? If so, I would definitely go that route if my roof needed to be replaced. But my roof is only a few years old, so it wold not make sense to do that. That leaves me with simply changing the roofing color. I would think that Ceramic coatings have to be a little better than regular latex paint.

Sep 23, 2011 12:03 PM ET

Response to DW
by Martin Holladay

There are several types of Energy Star roofing. In addition to Energy Star asphalt shingles, it's possible to buy Energy Star metal roofing.

If you want to paint your roof, go ahead. Any light-colored paint designed for roofs will work just as well as the paint sold by the fraudulant tricksters selling "ceramic" paints.

Sep 23, 2011 12:34 PM ET

Ok. Thanks for you help.
by D W

Ok. Thanks for you help.

Jul 24, 2012 10:34 PM ET

Insulating Paints
by Mike Snow

Has anyone heard anything about Insuladd Insulating Paint & Additives?

Jul 25, 2012 6:32 AM ET

Response to Mike Snow
by Martin Holladay

Yes. Insuladd is a notorious company with a history of exaggerations and lies. An article in the July 2003 issue of Energy Design Update highlighted problems with the company's deceptive marketing practices. Here's a quote from the article:

"A Vero Beach, Florida, company called Insuladd is among the latest generation of companies touting the virtues of ceramic beads to homeowners. As EDU has reported for years, ordinary white paints (and other paints with high solar reflectance), by lowering the temperature of surfaces to which they are applied, can reduce air conditioning bills in some buildings, especially poorly insulated buildings. But no paint yet invented can significantly increase a wall’s R-value. Nevertheless, Insuladd’s promoters, undeterred by facts, describe their product as “the paint additive that insulates.” The company has coined an undefined phrase, “insulation equivalencies,” which it uses to promote a fictitious R-value for its paint. According to Insuladd, “The performance of Insuladd when mixed with a light-colored house paint can be expected to parallel the R-20 (radiant) and R-5 (passive) insulation equivalencies documented by commercially available insulating coatings” -- whatever that means. These “insulation equivalency” calculations embolden the company to declare that their paints “achieve a very high insulation value.” Not convinced yet? Maybe this will entice you: “Insuladd insulating additives and Insuladd insulating house paints can reduce utility bills by 40%!”
Hidden among these deceptive claims is one that rings true: Insuladd paint “looks and applies just like ordinary house paint.” "

Sep 8, 2012 11:20 AM ET

Heat bloc ultra
by Brad Hagan

Do you have an opinion on the effect of installing the product heat block ultra in attic spaces. I feel that by reducing the heat gain in the attic space of my house I will reduce the heat levels in the second floor of my house. By doing this my comfort level in the second floor will be greater do to the reduction in the heat blanket. I don't invasion this as an insulator but one that will increase the efficiencies of my current insulation that is roughly a r-38. My focus is comfort during the summer months. I am also hoping to see a reduction in engery cost because I will need to run the HVAC Less do to the lower level of heat in the attic space.

Thank you For any information brad

Jan 31, 2013 11:23 AM ET

help with cold transfer please
by jil s

Greetings everyone... I hope this article is occasionally still viewed, maybe someone can help me with my problem. I live in a 1890 victorian. most walls & attic have been insulated to some degree in the 1980's. I'm eaten up by our heating bill even though I'm in a fairly mild climate 25-30 degree lows for about 3 months a year, indoor temperature is rarely above 50 during those months. 90% of the 30ish windows have been replaced by metal windows in 1990's (I plastic wrap them in the winter, and the 6 exterior doors were all replaced with metal french doors in the 1990's as well. The summer heat is not a problem, most windows and doors are shaded with wraparound southern style poarch. The metal doors and metal windows conduct cold like crazy into the house. I would like to find a paint that can be applied to the surface of these metal doors and windows to inhibit this cold transference. I'm on a fixed income and replacement of these windows and doors is not going to happen in my lifetime. I found that just slathering a few coats of paint onto one door seemed to help to some degree. and although sadly the article here and most of the comments are discussing only what won't work, I'm hoping that people that can offer positive help also frequent this article. in the case of reducing cold transference through metal do these porcelen based paints work? Or can someone here can stir me in the right direction. Any positive advice would be greatly appreciated. Don't be afraid to offer original ideas, I'm open to all suggestions, Feel free to contact me with suggestion directly, but don't bother contacting me if you only have something to sell because I have no money to spend.

Jan 31, 2013 11:50 AM ET

Edited Jan 31, 2013 11:51 AM ET.

Response to Jil S.
by Martin Holladay

Q. "In the case of reducing cold transference through metal, do these porcelain-based paints work?"

A. No.

Q. "Can someone here can steer me in the right direction?"

A. The only way you can slow down heat transfer is with insulation. I suppose you could try to glue strips of foam insulation on the interior side of your cold window frames, but that would look goofy and wouldn't be very durable.

If you don't have any money to spend, I'm afraid that there aren't any good solutions. Installing a layer of interior plastic (polyethylene sheeting) is a good, inexpensive way to reduce heat transfer.

Apr 29, 2013 8:36 PM ET

Insulating paint
by Robert Nemoyer


I had read your comments on insulating paints previously, but thought the nanosulation was different because it didn't talk about ceramic beads. I was undecided. Now I have made up my mind and I will keep using ordinary paint. Your blog has been very helpful in planning my retirement home. Thank you.

May 14, 2013 5:07 PM ET

Edited May 14, 2013 5:12 PM ET.

Ceramic insulation coating
by Richard Stratton

I'd like to start with a few simple statements: thin ceramic-saturated latex coating blocks radiant heat transfer. Our take is that it's in a manner similar to LowE window coatings, whose thin oxide layers block a percentage of infrared-based energy penetrating into homes. I bring up that explanation because the mass-based insulation measurement standards do not explain what LowE window coatings do to block heat transfer. Yet we know that LowE windows' very thin films block heat transfer.

Our experience with ceramic coatings has all been with ships, at refineries and food processing plants. I'm sure it would surprise many in this forum to hear that ships are using ceramic coating to block heat transfer and reduce condensation. This use has become a standard specification on ships being built and on refits here in the Pacific Northwest, in the SE and many other parts of the world.

Use of ceramic insulation coating is the basis for Phillips66 and BP's corrosion under insulation (CUI) prevention specifications. Food processors (ConAgra, Campbell's Soups, Heinz, Stanislaus Foods, etc.) are using ceramic insulation coating to insulate their rotary sterilizing cookers that operate at 212F to 270F. Those applications qualified for energy rebates by Pacific Gas & Electric. Those rotary cooking equipment surface temperatures are typically reduced to levels below 140F with coating thicknesses of 2mm to 3mm. The manufacturer of the rotary sterilizing equipment, JBT Food Tech of Madera, CA, has tested different versions of the coating in-house and uses one version of this coating on their equipment. And JBT Food Tech endorses it's use.

I propose we begin a dialogue with the understanding that the people who use this material for use at their facilities, on their boats or on their cooking equipment are invariably engineers, are above average in terms of intelligence and common sense, and have done their due diligence. They started out looking for solutions to their specific problems and are using this material to solve them. We focus on what we can clearly demonstrate and references from people who are known in their industry. If you're interested in a conversation based on reality and in leaving the hype, half-truths, inappropriate test methods, and other clutter out of the conversation, I'll provide details and data to show what we've learned and results that can be duplicated.

For starters, can we keep discussion focused on surface temperatures, thermal efficiency as in heat retention or reduction in energy used to maintain a given content's temperature and measurements that can be duplicated? I'm not an engineer and I prefer keeping the focus on simple measurements and means of determining performance. This isn't about ceramic coating being able to perform as well as dry, mass-based insulation. Because it can't. But blanket insulation doesn't perform when it has moisture content and insulation coating can deliver performance on surfaces that can't be insulated with traditional materials. That's the discussion I'd like to have. I'll be the last to tell you that it's the end all, be all. And I'll be happy to relate the shortcomings that we've encountered. Also, if you don't mind, I'd appreciate being able to use one significant example of performance at a time so we have the chance to dissect the criteria, performance and what's happening or what's not happening. There's more than enough content per example.

Also, state the best way to provide examples and references for review. I attached a file showing use of infrared thermography showing surface temperatures on a metal building's white paint, insulation coated patch and red paint. Also recorded temperatures on coated and uncoated sections on top of a roof and below the roof on another building using thermocouples to record the variances


May 14, 2013 7:35 PM ET

Response to Richard Stratton
by Martin Holladay

You claim that the performance benefit of your paint is due to the fact that it is low-e. Your wrote that the "thin ceramic-saturated latex coating blocks radiant heat transfer. Our take is that it's in a manner similar to LowE window coatings."

The emittance of dried paint can be measured. Super Therm has an average emittance of 0.9 and Nansulate has an average emittance of 0.92 -- these numbers are truly dismal. (A radiant barrier has an emittance of 0.1 or less. If you want a low-e paint, then the lower the emittance, the better.)

Most low-e paints are scams, pure and simple. A few are better than others; 4 out of 17 tested products had an emittance that was higher than 0.1 but lower than 0.25. That's still worse than a radiant barrier. (Source:

Even if paint were as good as a radiant barrier -- and no paint ever invented has met the legal definition of a radiant barrier -- it would still be almost worthless for an insulated wall. Insulated walls don't need radiant barriers. (Source:

However, this type of low-e paint may have benefits for uninsulated steel vessels. That's an entirely different market from home building.

May 14, 2013 8:43 PM ET

Ceramic coating
by Richard Stratton

Let's stick with the fact I stated that "the coating blocks radiant heat transfer". I make no claim as to what specific property is responsible for that ability to block radiant heat transfer. Only that it is blocking it and in our case, we believe "it's in a manner similar to lowE window coatings". I don't claim to be a rocket scientist. But when I put my hand on a vessel operating at 350F with 80 mils of coating on it and do not burn myself, I can clearly understand the term "insulation". Whether "LowE" window coatings are in fact working due to low emittance characteristics, was never my point. So how about we keep an eye on the ball with this conversation and stay on topic. And the point is that it can be proven that insulation coating does in fact "insulate". At least, if "insulate" includes the ability to reduce heat transfer. According to the "Collins English Dictionary":

insulate [ˈɪnsjʊˌleɪt]
vb (tr)
1. (Physics / General Physics) to prevent or reduce the transmission of electricity, heat, or sound to or from (a body, device, or region) by surrounding with a nonconducting material

According to the above, which you're welcome to verify, if the coating is blocking heat transfer, it qualifies as insulation. I stated our customers use this coating to insulate their equipment, buildings and ships. I'd say it's generally acceptable to transfer something that works for a similar purpose in one area to another when it makes sense. In this case, homes.

I also asked if we could focus on specific applications and results that can be verified if you're willing to take the time. You can trot out somebody's evaluations until the cows come home and that doesn't address my offer to discuss specific applications with specific results that credible people can attest to. Steel vessels, heated equipment, building envelopes use this coating for different reasons, all fitting under the definition of "insulation". I also uploaded a file showing specific results on 2 building envelopes. Where did that go?

I'm interested in a real discussion based on real data that we can show everyone. I'm guessing the majority of readers are not interested in citations about emittance, reflectivity, conductivity, etc. I'm willing to bet people are more interested in understanding real world applications they can actually use. So are you willing to have that discussion?

May 15, 2013 7:21 AM ET

Edited May 15, 2013 7:23 AM ET.

Response to Richard Stratton
by Martin Holladay

I'm happy to have a discussion, but it's hard to debate with a moving target. Your first comment stated that the paint was low-e. When I provided data on the emissivity measurements of dried paint films, you changed your tune.

Fortunately, you and I don't have to debate the definition of insulation. When it comes to insulation products used to insulate homes (rather than steel tanks or pipes), the definition of insulation is regulated by Federal law. Here is a link to the Federal R-value Rule (16 CFR 460) that defines insulation: R-Value Rule.

The Federal R-Value Rule states, "The Rule requires that manufacturers of traditional reflective insulation products use specific test procedures to determine the R-values of their products, and that manufacturers and other sellers disclose R-values to consumers for specific applications."

I don't doubt that many kinds of paint, including ordinary white paint, can lower the temperature of uninuslated steel surfaces. This has no relevance for residential construction, however.

May 15, 2013 1:51 PM ET

Edited May 15, 2013 1:55 PM ET.

ceramic coating
by Richard Stratton

With all due respect, I stated the coating "blocks radiant heat transfer" and stated we believed it blocked radiant heat transfer in a manner similar to the thin oxide layers on LowE windows. I may not be the best communicator in the world. But I did not change my tune. You ran off on the LowE characteristics, not me. Once again, the point is this coating blocks radiant heat transfer. The emissivity characteristics are another conversation in the "How does it work" chapter.

Again, if this coating blocks radiant heat transfer that qualifies it as insulation. The next relevant point is, how much thermal energy does it block in a given circumstance. I'm guessing that most readers of this blog are more interested in functional performance. My advice is to back off on quoting federal laws and standards and stick to simple points of discussion. My customers do not suffer fools, they believe in hands-on evaluation and they pick up the phone to ask people what their experience was with the coating. People like Ron Daniels at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, WA who's applied over 10,000 gallons on ships or Frank Bagno at Redwood Painting in Pittsburg, CA whose crews have applied thousands of gallons at Valero Benicia, Chevron Richmond and other locations in the bay area.

If you are capable of having a focused, relevant discussion on ceramic coating as insulation, I'll provide data and references on ceramic coating performance. And before you make such statements as "this has no relevance for residential construction", I suggest you review facts first.

And I want to ask the question again, where's the file I uploaded that shows the infrared thermography-based photo of surface temperatures on metal building and the printout of exterior/interior surface temperatures on coated and uncoated sections of another building. The infrared report was compiled by a trained technician and reviewed by Fluke Instruments' Michael Stuart (Seattle, WA). The thermocouple-based readings on the other building were generated by Schrader Mechanical in Lodi, CA. I'll provide another report based on measuring surface temperatures on coated plates using a hot plate that was compiled by JBT Food Tech of Madera, CA. You've chided others for not providing specific data from 3rd parties. Now that it's being handed to you, where is it?

I will not speak for other ceramic coating products. All I will do is state what we know based on hands-on use and what our customers tell us. If you can focus on discussing specific insulation performance that can be verified, I'll provide data and references you can check. I already have provided two specific examples and yet you've chosen not to publish that information.

I decided to engage in this conversation based partly on GBA's affiliation with Taunton Press, who I respect for their focus on a hands-on and practical approach to home building. That's how we work. That's how our customers work, too. How about you?

May 15, 2013 2:24 PM ET

Response to Richard Stratton
by Martin Holladay

Q. "Where's the file I uploaded?"

A. I have never seen a file attached to one of your comments. If you want to upload a file, click the "File attachments" option under a comment box. You are free to upload a file with your comment if you wish.

May 15, 2013 2:31 PM ET

File for review
by Richard Stratton

IR thermography & thermocouple-based data on metal buildings

May 16, 2013 2:20 PM ET

Excerpts from 3rd party testing
by Richard Stratton


I wasn't sure if the file uploaded to you and wanted to resend it for confirmation. The attached file wasn't reviewed by labs. Only by a infrared technician in eastern Washington and Schrader Mechanical in Lodi, CA. I was also just sent a article generated by NAIMA, the association North American Manufacturers of fiber glass, rock wool and slag wool. Obviously that article is not flattering in it's text. However, when you review heat flow figures they generated based on ASTM C680 testing, they show a 54% to 56% heat retention for ceramic coating at 60 mils. No where near as good as the 1/2" "dry fiberglass blanket" in the 85% range. Again, the point was never that this coating is better than dry fiberglass or rock wool blankets. The point is that specific versions of ceramic won't fail from moisture absorption as those absorbent materials do. Seriously, where in the real world does fiberglass or rock wool blanket stay dry? And as the Univ. of Stuttgart study ("Temperature and Moisture Dependence of the Thermal Conductivity of Insulation Materials") clearly shows, even a 19.5% moisture content degrades rock wool's "k" value to roughly that of water (0.58) in the 140F range.

This is the real world in which heavy industry works. In the real world, blanket insulation absorbs moisture and fails up to about 316F where it's hot enough to drive the moisture out. Otherwise, it simply contributes to corrosion under insulation, a significant industry problem that's so well recognized there are specific specifications to deal with it. Granted that is not a house problem. However, what's the common moisture content in residences across the country during the AC or heating seasons? That would be where ceramic + non-absorbent insulation materials would be relevant. Have you noticed yet that I don't anything yet about use of ceramic in the house? That's because we only have anecdotal data on it's use and there's no point making any claims until we can support them. When there's hard data, I'll be happy to share.


May 16, 2013 2:32 PM ET

Edited May 16, 2013 2:33 PM ET.

Another response to Richard Stratton
by Martin Holladay

As I have written many times, radiant heat transfer is NOT a significant heat transfer mechanism in a well-insulated building assembly. Walls and ceilings are required to be insulated according to U.S. building codes, so the surface of the indoor drywall is likely to be at room temperature, and the surface of the siding is likely to be close to the outdoor temperature. Radiant effects don't matter under these circumstances.

I'm glad to read your latest comment: "Have you noticed yet that I don't [say] anything yet about use of ceramic in the house? That's because we only have anecdotal data on its use and there's no point making any claims until we can support them."

No claims, no data. Fair enough.

May 17, 2013 1:38 PM ET

More claims, more data
by Richard Stratton

Hello Martin,

Here's some additional third party data since you seem to have a problem receiving what I've tried to send 3 times now. I noticed you ignored my offer of specific names who can verify performance, too. I'm impressed by how you manage to ignore the fact heat transferred in home envelopes is in the form of radiant energy and if ceramic coating blocks that it is by default relevant.

Since you say you place value on third party data, let's go to the following articles showing ceramic coating performance and another study showing how blanket insulation fails with small amounts of moisture content. Since housing relies on blanket insulation, it's performance loss is important. At least, the people I work with at shipyards, refineries and food plants seem to think so.

This link is to an article "Thermal Performance of Coatings used to Insulate Pipes, Ducts, and Equipment" prepared by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) and provides a comparison of heat flows through insulation coatings (2 types) and 1/2" fiberglass wrap. The study data shows a heat flow through the 60 mil coating of 44% to 46% for the range of DeltaT's of 50F to 350F. That also shows the 60 mils/0.060" of coating is blocking heat flow by 54% to 56%. Granted it's not as efficient as the "dry fiberglass" they're comparing the coating to. However, show me blanket insulation that stays dry in the overwhelming majority of homes and industries.

Next, look at this study for a NATO research study by the University of Stuttgart, "Temperature and Moisture Dependence o the Thermal Conductivity of Insulation Materials" found at

The German's study concludes that a 19.5% moisture content in rock wool degrades that material's "K" value to values close to water and not far from window pane. The reason ceramic coating is considered useful is that it won't degrade in conditions that render blanket material useless or counterproductive. It also complements blanket when combined with ceramic coating. The insulation industry data clearly shows ceramic coating performance. Can you still say it isn't working? I think it's hard to argue it's a ripoff when the insulation industry data shows it's blocking over 50% of the heat flow.

Since the uploading of files seems to be a challenge, I'll have to leave you to view these documents on your own. And if you can't trust NAIMA and German's research for thoroughness, who can you trust?


May 17, 2013 1:52 PM ET

Another response to Richard Stratton
by Martin Holladay

Deny it if you want, but radiant heat transfer from the gypsum wallboard or the siding of an insulated wall assembly are NOT significant heat transfer mechanisms. That's a fact. The same can be said about heat transfer from roofing or gypsum wallboard in an insulated cathedral ceiling, or from the top of the insulation or the gypsum wallboard in an insulated attic floor.

I have no doubt that you are correct that certain paints can change the temperature of steel pipes or ducts.

I am also happy to stipulate that moisture degrades the performance of fiberglass insulation. That fact is often trumpeted on GBA, which is why we spend a lot of time advising builders about ways to prevent moisture accumulation in building assemblies. It's also why I often tell builders that fiberglass is the worst-performing of all available insulation materials.

Jun 18, 2013 6:00 PM ET

heat transfer on surfaces
by Richard Stratton


So what about heat transfer on a interior surface such as concrete walls, concrete floors, brick walls, plaster walls found in older residences, etc. that comprise a pretty significant proportion of the housing stock. Here in Seattle, even though it's pretty mild at 40F in the winter, those walls are generally 20F or lower than ambient on basement floors and walls and even lower on brick surfaces. You're right that well insulated surfaces are not transferring heat. The others are though and they're perfect candidates for the ceramic coating for the same reason ships use this material. It's because the coating changes the surface conductivity, it warms up that surface and transfers less heat.

Aug 18, 2013 10:13 PM ET

Yikes - Bob Vila accepting Supertherm claims?
by Steve Hoge

Just watched in horror as Bob Vila swallowed the claims of Supertherm's insulating properties in this video about revitalizing distressed Florida neighborhoods with new housing using repurposed shipping containers: (at 6:15)

Aug 19, 2013 10:02 AM ET

Response to Steve Hoge
by Martin Holladay

If Bob Vila actually believes that you can get "R-19 insulation in about the thickness of a credit card," then he deserves the reputation he has developed over the years -- a reputation that his general knowledge does not have much of a foundation in building science, to put it charitably. (It doesn't add to his credibility when he mistakenly refers to R-value as "R-factor.")

Nov 24, 2013 10:53 AM ET

Suggested experimental procedure
by Nathan Kurz

Martin, despite your apparent lack of faith in Jesus to provide you with adequate insulation, you have impressive patience. I do wonder how many of the sales people are faking their belief, and how many are true believers. But it's clear that many people really want to believer that great insulating paint exists.

Perhaps it would be useful for you to propose a testing framework for people to test their beliefs. Like James Randi, you could offer a substantial reward and great publicity to the first insulating paint that passes. For certainly if a coat of paint was able to serve as a useful insulator, it would be worthy of award and publicity.

It would also be great to provide a framework for people who genuinely want to test the claims of such products so they can make up their own mind. Clearly some of your respondents were willing to put in a lot of effort, but would benefit from a better thought out experiment and control.

Perhaps something like:

If you want to test whether an insulating paint works, start by building or acquiring 4 identical boxes: cardboard, wood, metal, dollhouses, anything so long as they are identical. Find 4 identical objects, preferably with some weight to them: bricks, water bottles, gold bars, whatever you have around. Heat the objects up by putting them somewhere warm (or if bottles, fill with hot water).

Put the objects in the identical boxes, put the boxes somewhere cold, and measure the temperature drop in each box over time until they have lost 10 degrees (or 20, or 40, depending on how hot they were and how cold the place is where you put them).

Write down these times and temperatures. Since the boxes, and the objects are identical, you should find very similar temperatures after the same amount of time. If they are very different (use your own definition) stop and think about what might be causing the difference, fix it, and repeat the calibration until you get about the same results for each box.

After you are reasonably sure the boxes and masses are identical, paint one of the boxes with plain white paint, paint one with the insulating paint you are testing, leave one box bare, and tape styrofoam insulation around the last box. Use any thickness or type of insulation you can find that has a published "R Value".
It's probably best to tape all the boxes so there are no air gaps.

Pause and think about what results you expect. Presumably, if you are doing this test, you expect that the bare box will be the same as it was before, the white paint box will be a tiny bit warmer after the same amount of time, and the insulated paint and insulated styrofoam will be much warmer. Which will be warmest will depend on how much insulation you used and how good the test paint is.

Repeat your experiment: heat up your objects, put them in the now insulated boxes, and put them in the cold place you used before. Try to have the same temperatures you had during the calibration run. Take your temperature measurements, preferably at the same times. Write down your results, as well as the outside air temp.

If the bare box and the styrofoam box are reach the same temperature after the same time, you've probably done something wrong. Perhaps you need more styrofoam, perhaps your objects are too small, or perhaps your thermometer is broken. The white paint should be closer to the bare box than to the styrofoam. If not, check your setup. If those 3 are in the order you expect, then and only then consider your test box.

If you find that the insulating paint is close to or warmer than the styrofoam than it is to the white paint and the bare box, you might have found a good product to use (or sell). If so, write down the results and repeat the experiment at least once, ideally with someone joining you to make sure you aren't doing something silly. If you can, take a video of the experiment to show others.

If you can repeatedly show that the insulating paint is better than plain white paint (even if it's less than the styrofoam), send the details on your experiment to Martin. You have to include all the details that would allow him to be able to reproduce your results. He will review, and if he doesn't see anything obviously wrong he will try to reproduce the test himself.

If he is able to reproduce your results that show that the insulating paint is significantly better than plain white paint, he will be very excited and happy to write a blog post about your findings. If he is able to reproduce your results that it performs closer to the level of the styrofoam than the white paint, he will grant you the reward of $XXXX in return for the rights to write a full article on it. If he can't reproduce the results, the burden is back on you to tell him what he did wrong, and what he needs to do to make it work.

On the other hand, if the insulating paint is closer to the white paint and bare box, this is evidence that it may not be a good product. It's not conclusive, but it points in that direction. Depending on your level of interest, you can repeat the test either with the same or different boxes and objects. You should still report your findings to Martin, so that he and the rest of the community can learn from your experiment.

Nov 25, 2013 9:32 AM ET

Response to Nathan Kurz
by Martin Holladay

If your suggested experimental procedure, or one like it, were performed by a third-party laboratory, the results of the procedure would be valid and interesting.

If the procedure were performed by a paint manufacturer and filmed to make a YouTube video, it would obviously be worthless.

As I have stated earlier, there are big problems with test procedures developed by amateurs (or product manufacturers). In order to obtain reproducible results that can be effectively compared, standards-developing organizations (notably ASTM) have developed standardized test procedures. That's good for industry and good for consumers.

In addition to ASTM tests performed by third-party laboratories, we can look to academic groups and government labs. Fortunately, so-called "insulating" paints have been tested by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and by the Florida Solar Energy Center -- all reputable agencies -- and their results are unanimous: "insulating" paint does not perform any better than ordinary white paint.

Finally, to respond to your suggestion that I preform my own testing: I don't have the resources to set up my own test lab, unfortunately. I will continue to depend on the results of reputable third-party laboratories following ASTM test methods.

Register for a free account and join the conversation

Get a free account and join the conversation!
Become a GBA PRO!