Scammers continue to use exaggerated R-value claims to peddle inferior insulation products, in spite of the existence of strong consumer protection laws. Year after year, naÃ¯ve builders fall prey to Web-based marketing pitches for “miracle” products like “insulating” paint and 1-inch-thick R-10 foam.
In the late 1970s, exaggerated claims by insulation marketers were so common that the U.S. Congress passed a consumer-protection law specifically addressing R-value scams. Although false marketing claims were already illegal, Congress concluded that R-value scams were so rampant and damaging to consumers that the industry needed targeted regulation.
Since 1979, the Federal R-Value Rule (16 CFR Part 460, “Trade Regulation Rule Concerning the Labeling and Advertising of Home Insulation”) has regulated how insulation manufacturers, distributors, and installers test, label, and market residential insulation products. Under the law, all claims concerning the R-value of residential insulation must be based on certain listed ASTM test procedures.
Unfortunately, the law is poorly enforced and widely ignored. It takes only a few minutes for any Web surfer to find blatant violations of the R-Value Rule.
A few product categories — foil-faced bubble wrap and “insulating” paint, for example — seem to attract scam artists like moths to a flame. Another product favored by flim-flam artists is a foil-faced expanded polystyrene (EPS) product called P2000. This insulating board is manufactured by Polar Industries in Prospect, Connecticut, under a contract with a Canadian building-products manufacturer, RR&D Enterprises of Rivière-Beaudette, Quebec.
Distributors of P2000 often claim that their EPS foam has an impossibly high R-value. Such claims have led several consumer protection agencies to issue warnings to builders. For example, the Nebraska Energy Office issued an alert warning builders about P2000, “a foil-faced polystyrene insulation whose marketers are making claims of an R-Value of 27 or 28 per inch. … It was determined that acceptable R-value claims for the P2000 residential insulation applications are: … 1” EPS foil-faced board = R-3.87. The determination, and future determinations for similar products, is based on the requirements of Federal Regulation 16 CFR 460, ‘The R-value Rule,’ and Section 102.5.1 of the IECC.”
Similarly, the Nova Scotia Home Builders Association issued the following warning to builders: “P2000 has been tested and rated by CCMC [Canadian Construction Materials Center] as having an R-value of 3.7 per inch. In some of the product literature provided by the Nova Scotia distributor, an equivalent rating of R-27 per inch was given. This rating of R-27 is not supported by the CCMC testing.”
Where’s the FTC?
These local warnings would be unnecessary if the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were adequately enforcing the R-Value Rule. To this day, P2000 distributors continue to make exaggerated claims — evidence that R-value scammers perceive their racket to be a low-risk crime. For example, P2000 Georgia, a distributor of P2000 insulation in Eastman, Georgia, falsely claims on its Web site that P2000 insulation has an R-value of 10.3 per inch.
With the increased attention on weatherization arising from President Obama’s stimulus bill, it’s time for the FTC to send these R-value scammers to jail.
Anyone interested in alerting the FTC to R-value Rule violations should contact:
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
Last week’s blog: “Equipment Versus Envelope.”