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Musings of an Energy Nerd

‘Insulating’ Paint Merchants Dupe Gullible Homeowners

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

Putting “insulating” paint to the test. To measure the effectiveness of Nansulate and Super Therm — two paints that are touted for their “insulating” properties — researchers built 3-foot-high test boxes with 2x4 frames and OSB sheathing. The walls of the boxes were insulated with fiberglass batts, while the lids were insulated with 4 in. of extruded polystyrene. The interior walls and ceilings of the boxes were finished with painted drywall.
Image Credit: Cold Climate Housing Research Center

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 Therm.

When I was the editor of Energy Design Update (EDU) — a position I held before joining the GBA 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 conduction. … 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 (emissivity) 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 coating 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 ASTM 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 signiï¬cant 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 hnewsome@ftc.gov.

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

This article has been translated into Hungarian: A hÅ‘szigetelÅ‘ festékek kereskedÅ‘i becsapják a rászedhetÅ‘ lakástulajdonosokat.

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

75 Comments

  1. Ed Voytovich | | #1

    Some other misleading marketing
    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/rvalue.shtm

  2. Lloyd Alter | | #2

    I wrote about this a year ago
    I wrote about this a year ago in TreeHugger and it is remarkable reading the comments, this stuff is more religion than science. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/ceramic-insulating-paints.php

  3. J.E. Pritchett | | #3

    Comments on SUPER THERM
    When the manufacturer of SUPER THERM found out about the testing in Alaska, the office called the testing group to find out what was the purpose, the procedure, the authorization and the qualification to do the test. The manufacturer has ceramic products but states very plainly in their literature that SUPER THERM is a reflector of the radiation waves given from the sun. If someone needs to insulate in cold climates, they must use their other ceramic coatings designed specifically for this type of insulation requirement. The lab that did the testing did not contact the manufacturer to find out which product was best for what they were testing for. They chose to do testing on a product that was not qualified by the manufacturer to perform in this application. The ceramic coating designed for cold climates have been tested and have W/mK heat transfer numbers to qualify them for such uses. The lab said they got the product from someone?? who said it would work but the lab never did their due diligence to call the manufacturer to make sure they had the correct product. As we see, it is easy to criticize new technology and especially when there have been mispresentations in the market by many of the "reflective paint sellers". Those who have spend years testing and finding the combinations of ceramic compounds that can provide insulation effect don't need nor deserve this type of press just because it is easy to throw them into the same room with "reflective paints". As to testing or lack of testing referred by Mr. Holladay in this article, he has never seen nor brothered to review all the testing performed by ASTM laboratories on SUPER THERM and the other ceramic coatings marketed by Superior Products International. The Department of Energy Specialist in Tampa Florida did three tests on SUPER THERM in three separate parts of the US (Florida, Colorado and Texas) to determine if the product performed as stated, and it did. Bombardier Engineering did the most extensive insulation test (ASTM C 236) on a fiberglass board and then SUPER THERM to find SUPER THERM outperformed the fiberglass by as much as 148% improvement. Superior Products International has all the testing to prove the 20%-70% savings in testing and field studies covering over 100,000,000 sq.ft. of roofing in the books for review. I cannot speak for any of the other reflective or "insulation" coatings in the market, but I can definitely speak on the behalf of SUPER THERM and the other ceramic products in its' line and the company will not report facts and figures unless it can prove them, and it can. The products were developed while working in the oil fields and under the eyes of engineers which is why all the testing is at hand for review. The product line was not developed for home owners, even though they will work on homes, of course. The products were developed for the worst situations in petrochemical plants and work. To bring them into homes is not a stretch. The entire point is this: The products perform as the manufacture reports and can prove it. Taking a sample of one of the products to an Alaskan test lab that choose the wrong product for their climate is a failing of the lab and not the product. For Mr. Holladay to choose SUPER THERM for these unfounded accusations shows a total lack of research on his part. I do have a very legitimate question for him. Has he ever really checked the testing performed on fiberglass or the other "thick" materials to see how they are tested for their "R" rating, lack of humidity, specific single temperature point to represent all climates?? Did Mr. Holladay ever stop and question in his own house if he had an R 19 insulation using batt insulation, when in fact his studs are 2X4" allowing only 3" of batt and not the 6" that is the rated R19?? Acceptance of "status quo" allows only to criticize new developments while living in the Mother of all misconceptions. I would love to see him reserach the status quo insulation products and report his findings. We have, and would love to compare findings. This is a level playing field, and we would respectfully request we all play on it.

  4. J.E. Pritchett | | #4

    SUPER THERM
    I did forget to agree with anyone arguing that coatings do not have R values. The R value was designed for and by the fiberglass industry in the 70's to explain and sell the product. This is why an inch thickness must be in the formula mix. Coatings are not applied in inches and therefore cannot have "R" values. Unfortunately, because people have their heads wrapped around only the "R" value as a point of reference, the coating companies try to explain their effectiveness by using the R equivalant relationship which is perfectly acceptable in a comparison sense. Retailers do this every day and the FTC is fine with it. As to the FTC, they do require an ASTM test procedure as part of the requirements to qualify an insulation coating to show it does perform the heat blocking ability, and it is the ASTM C 236, which SUPER THERM has performed.
    Blocking "heat load" is the key to controlling the amount of heat "avialable" for transfer. Either from sunlight (summer) radiation heat loads or convective heating (winter) interior loads to transfer to the cold exterior. If a wall or roof member can be coated to help block the loading of the heat, then the load and transfer is reduced and therefore offering the insulation effect most needed. When thick materials are designed to absorb heat and slowly transfer it (therefore the R value which is the measurement of how fast this will happen), this means you will lose and gain heat at a constant rate, and it increases with moisture and air flows in the walls and roofing (no typical construction is air tight). If the walls are sealed to help prevent the loading of moisture and reducing the air flow, physics tales over since a dry substrate is a better insulator than a wet one with a tighter air flow allowed. SUPER THERM is a tested "water barrier" to a 55 mph wind driven rain. It has a permability of 8.8 which allow it to breathe but helps to block wind flow. In summer, 40% of the A/C cost is dehumification, according to the Energy Specialist. Also, when the coating is applied over a wall, it is fully covered. Batt insulations only are installed between the studs which are ever 16". An infrared picture taken of a home in winter shows all the studs and joinst exposed in orange and yellow revealing the lost of heat every 16". This is covered by SUPER THERM and helps to prevent the lost or gain of heat in this "every 16" pattern.
    There is more to insulation than the "R" rating and in the 21st century, the technologies are finding it.

  5. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Sorry, J. E. Pritchett
    J. E. Pritchett is mistaken.

    1. Pritchett wonders whether the Cold Climate Housing Research Center had the “authorization” to perform this test. Fortunately, it is still possible for a research lab in the U.S. to test the performance of products without any authorization whatsoever.

    2. Pritchett states, “The manufacturer has ceramic products but states very plainly in their literature that SUPER THERM is a reflector of the radiation waves given from the sun.” In fact, Super Therm’s manufacturer claims that Super Therm “Reduces energy costs and increases comfort by coating roofing and interior or exterior walls to keep heat in during winter or heat out during the summer.”

    3. A Google search reveals that there is no testing laboratory in Tampa, Florida doing business as “Department of Energy Specialist.” It appears that the lab does not exist.

    4. A Google search could find no evidence of a testing laboratory operating under the name “Bombadier Engineering.”

    5. Pritchett says, “For Mr. Holladay to choose SUPER THERM for these unfounded accusations shows a total lack of research on his part.” In fact, I have been following the false claims of Super Therm marketers for many years. Although the details of the Super Therm claims have morphed over time, the themes are consistent. A few years ago, these marketers were claiming that Super Therm was “tested at Purdue University for comparative R19 insulation factor.” They have always targeted homeowners and made claims for cold climates; in earlier years, they claimed “Super Therm equals to an insulation value of R-10 ... The R-10 equivalency is a minimum in keeping heat or cold inside a room.”

    6. Pritchett asks, “Has he [Holladay] ever really checked the testing performed on fiberglass or the other ‘thick’ materials to see how they are tested for their R-rating, lack of humidity, specific single temperature point to represent all climates?” The answer is yes. For seven years, I was editor of Energy Design Update. Probably no other periodical in the U.S. has more thoroughly investigated and reported on this issue. More recently, I wrote a blog on the topic: "Installing Fiberglass Right."

    7. Perhaps most damning, Pritchett never suggests a mechanism whereby Super Therm might affect heat flow. Although he makes a passing reference to physics, he doesn't invoke physics to explain the effectiveness of his product. The only mechanism that physicists have proposed that might explain how a paint could affect the heat-transfer performance of a building assembly is the possibility that the paint lowers the emissivity of the surface to which it is applied. Sadly, Pritchett cannot make this claim, since the emissivity testing of Super Therm revealed that the dried paint has an emissivity of 0.9. The emissivity testing by the CCHRC researchers came up with a value very close to that claimed by the manufacturers of Super Therm. On the Super Therm Web site, the manufacturer notes, "Super Therm has a tested emissivity of .91." In other words, it's a high-e paint. Case closed.

  6. J.E. Pritchett | | #6

    The rebuttal from Mr. Holladay
    1. He is correct, a lab can test any product they chose without authorization. Problem is, would you think the lab would want to test a correct product to match up what they wanted to know. If it is for cold or for radiation which requires two different products. One product cannot do everything and this is simply a fact. So the lab tested a heat radiation product in a cold climate without sealing the exterior walls as we suggested when using this product. What does the result mean?? nothing.
    2. All this information is correct. Records and studies are in the files showing the complete range of savings using SUPER THERM.
    3. It is not a lab and never was. It is the South Flroida Energy Office and the specialist worked out of this office to travel and do their testings.
    4. I never said Bombardier was a testing lab. They are an engineering group that is known worldwide. They had the SUPER THERM tested under the ASTM C236 to find out if it performed as marketed, and it proved it did. A compbination of labs were used to do this single test using VTEC labs to International Labs in Pa. to build the panels and set up the testing. Bombardier did the testing to find a replacement for fiberglass in their train cars. I am surprised he does not know who Bombardier is.
    5. It was tested at Purdue, the testing was reported and the facts stand as they are. Comments such as "false claims" is words thrown against the wall to see if anything sticks. As I said, we started in the petrochemical field and only recently have looked at homes in our marketing. Again, total lack of knowledge on this subject shows.
    6. If this is the case, then he agrees that compacting fiberglass does not reduce its' "R" rating. This is totally false. For a "R" 19, it must be 6" thick. If you compact it down to 3", you have reduced it down to R 9.5. This is physics and the way it is measured. So why has this never been questioned as to all the homes with 2"X4" construction and the code to be R19. As said, status quo is a comfortable seat.
    7. The ceramic compounds are low density and will not absorb and load heat--- this is physics. A metal plate has high density and will absorb and hold heat. A piece of paper has low density and cannot absorb and hold heat like the metal. If the low density ceramics have a lower density than the paper, they do not absorb and hold heat, therefore repelling the heat off the surface which is why the emissivity of .92 is correct. If Mr. Holladay thinks this is all incorrect, then he needs to take on the entire Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) and Energy Star which claims the high emissivity as repelling heat.
    8. I do agree with Mr. Holladay that this case is closed. To continue this conversation is at this point worthless due to the lack of knowledge and throwing half truths against a wall. For the readers and ourselves, it is a soap opera at this point of which no one is interested.

  7. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    An invitation
    1. Pritchett now informs me the "The Department of Energy Specialist in Tampa Florida" is actually "the South Flroida Energy Office." I look forward to receiving a copy of this report. Please send it to me electronically (martin@greenbuildingadvisor.com) or by mail: Martin Holladay, P.O. Box 153, Sheffield, VT 05866.

    2. I now learn that testing was commissioned by Bombadier, a manufacturer of train cars. Again, I welcome submission of their lab reports.

    3. Ditto for any testing performed at Purdue University.

    4. "Why has this [fiberglass insulation] never been questioned as to all the homes with 2"X4" construction and the code to be R19?" Actually, a great many energy experts, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have definitively shown that a 2x4 wall insulated with fiberglass insulation will have a lower whole-wall R-value than the R-value on the insulation package.

    5. "The ceramic compounds are low density and will not absorb and load heat--- this is physics. A metal plate has high density and will absorb and hold heat. A piece of paper has low density and cannot absorb and hold heat like the metal. If the low density ceramics have a lower density than the paper, they do not absorb and hold heat." So far, so good. So the paint is low density. It's kind of fluffy. It's fluffier (more paper-like) than other paints, which are denser (more metal-like). It sounds like you are leading up to a fluffy-is-good explanation — as if the fluffy paint insulates the wall, like insulation. An interesting theory. There are only two problems: (a) the paint is so thin that its fluffiness is irrelevant; and (b) the paint is so thin that it has no measurable R-value.

    6. For exterior paints in hot climates, a paint with a high solar reflectivity can lower cooling bills in some houses — especially poorly insulated houses. For interior surfaces in any climate, solar reflectivity is irrelevant. When it comes to emissivity — which is not the same a solar reflectivity — a low-e paint might slightly lower energy consumption when installed on the interior of an uninsulated building (for example, a steel-sided warehouse). A high-e paint like Super Therm, however, will never have any advantages in an interior application.

    When it comes to the emissivity of a roof coating, the issue is complicated. "In warm and sunny climates highly emissive roof products can help reduce the cooling load on the building by releasing the remaining heat absorbed from the sun. However, there is also evidence that low emissivity may benefit those buildings located in colder climates by retaining heat and reducing the heating load. Research on the benefits of emissivity is ongoing." (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=roof_prods.pr_roof_emissivity) Accordingly, a high-e paint like Super Therm, if used as a roof coating, makes more sense in a hot climate than a cold climate. None of these climatic subtleties, however, are conveyed by the Super Therm Web site.

  8. Jon Vara | | #8

    Half-truths against a wall and convective heat off the wall
    I find it interesting that Mr. Pritchett claims that the CCHRC tested the wrong product--that is, that Super Therm is not intended as a cold-climate insulator. Here's a quote from the FAQ section of the Super Therm page on the Superior Products II Web site:

    Q: What s the value of Super Therm when used inside of buildings?
    A: Super Therm has been tested to have an RE-19 value compared to traditional insulation. Super Therm has a tested emissivity of .91 which is the ability of the coating film to throw the interior convective heat off the wall and back into the room to main [sic] interior heat....

    It would be interesting to hear Mr. Pritchett's explanation as to what, if anything, that passage means.

    In an earlier response, Mr. Pritchett also notes that: "Coatings are not applied in inches and therefore cannot have "R" values. Unfortunately, because people have their heads wrapped around only the "R" value as a point of reference, the coating companies try to explain their effectiveness by using the R equivalant relationship which is perfectly acceptable in a comparison sense. RETAILERS DO THIS EVERY DAY AND THE FTC IS FINE WITH IT (emphasis added)."
    Would Mr. Pritchett care to point to the section of the FTC's R-Value Rule that permits manufacturers to devise their own "R-value equivalents?" Perhaps his observation that the "FTC is fine with it" simply means that the agency rarely takes legal action against companies that make such claims.
    Please don't rush off, Mr. Pritchett. There is so much more to talk about!

  9. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #9

    The FTC responds
    In response to my inquiry to the FTC, I received the following e-mail today from Robert M. Frisby, the assistant director of the Division of Enforcement of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission:

    "Dear Mr. Holladay:
    Thank you for providing information about the marketing practices of the manufacturers of Nansulate and Super Therm, and for your recent inquiry regarding whether the Commission plans to bring additional enforcement actions addressing the marketing of paints touted as having insulating properties. We appreciate your interest and the time you have taken to provide us with information; however, we cannot disclose whether the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the marketers of Nansulate, Super Therm, or other paints purporting to have insulating properties.

    Robert M. Frisby"

  10. Jimmy T | | #10

    Heat Transfer 101
    I am doing some research about how to insulate a container building and found this Super Therm ceramic insulative paint with a thickness of 10 mil or 0.01 inch and with a R 19 rating. First thought I think it is so outlandish and against my heat transfer theory. Second thought this must be from NASA since you never know what kind of new material development scientists can reach these days. Then I finally found their website (http://www.eaglecoatings.net/content/supertherm.htm) and this blog entry (https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/insulating-paint-merchants-dupe-gullible-homeowners). Now I do have some serious doubts on this product after I read all these.

    First, I can not find a single professional test report which should be in its original version under whatever ASTM or other test codes and with test performer’s name and signature, from their website among those big fonted colorful words,

    Second, I believe Mr. Pritchett’s explanation about how the super therm works is not convincing.

    Pritchett said: "The ceramic compounds are low density and will not absorb and load heat--- this is physics. A metal plate has high density and will absorb and hold heat. A piece of paper has low density and cannot absorb and hold heat like the metal. If the low density ceramics have a lower density than the paper, they do not absorb and hold heat."

    As far as I know, insulation properties are all about electrical conductivity instead of density. Good thermal insulators are electrical insulators such as asbestos, glass, and ceramics. The only thing density comes to play is where in case composite materials designed for insulation (fiberglass, Styrofoam) have small dead air space to inhibit both conduction and internal convection. Lower density and higher volume may have better results.

    Pritchett said: " If the low density ceramics have a lower density than the paper, they do not absorb and hold heat, therefore repelling the heat off the surface which is why the emissivity of .92 is correct."

    As far as I know, high emissivity is not good for repelling the heat off the surface and it is a different concept from reflectivity. I copied some words from heat transfer textbook: all materials give off, or emit, energy by thermal radiation as a result of their temperature. The amount of energy radiated depends on the surface temperature and a property called the emissivity (also called the "emittance"). Emissivity is expressed as a number between zero (0) and one (1) at a given wavelength. The higher the emissivity, the greater the emitted radiation at that wavelength. A related material property is the reflectivity (also called the "reflectance"). This is a measure of how much energy is reflected by a material at a given wavelength. The reflectivity is also expressed as a number between 0 and 1 (or a percentage between 0 and 100%). At a given wavelength the emissivity and reflectivity values sum to 1. Radiant barrier materials must have low emissivity (usually 0.1 or less) at the wavelengths at which they are expected to function.

    Third, I think the ceramic material used in NASA such as ceramic tile insulator is for fire protection and not for insulating purpose. Ceramic material is noncombustible and a good thermal mass. When the rocket takes off, those ceramic tiles are placed on the spaceship to protect it from flame. This ceramic material is good only for short time, huge temperature difference application or good for a sudden huge heat load. However, in building application, it is a different concept, the heat load is long time duration and with small temperature difference. If you still want to use ceramic material you have to make it several inches thick otherwise I rather use cheaper cement paste which give me almost equivalent results.

    As for ceramic paint used in petrochemical industry, the purpose is probably anti-corrosion because of the excellent water repellent property of the ceramic.

    Just my two cents.

  11. George Runkle | | #11

    Questions For Mr. Pritchett
    "The manufacturer has ceramic products but states very plainly in their literature that SUPER THERM is a reflector of the radiation waves given from the sun." - I've been getting calls from you guys constantly telling me how good your product is. This statement begs the obvious question - what happens in the structure from the hot ambient temperatures that surround it, and at night when it is hot? Also, why wouldn't a reflective paint work just as well?

    The next question I have is about the information in this link: http://www.tprl.com/Stherm.htm

    It pretty well tears apart the whole idea of insulating paint like your product. Interestingly enough, the company that owns this website is one who did the laboratory tests for you guys in the literature you sent me.

    I think there is some very valid points brought up in the discussion here, and I'd like to see your responses.

    George

  12. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #12

    Thanks for the link
    George,
    Thanks for the link. You know a company is in trouble when the testing lab it hired has to devote a Web page to debunking the exaggerated claims made by the manufacturer that asked it to perform tests.

    My two favorite lines:
    "Much of the R-value being presented is being done out of context with the intent to mislead."

    "In the summer it will reflect some of the direct sun's rays away from the building making it easier to cool but other white paints will also do this."

  13. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #13

    No lab reports yet
    Nine days after I asked Joseph Pritchett for copies of the lab reports from the South Florida Energy Office, the Bombadier train car manufacturing lab, and Purdue University, I still have not received any lab reports.

  14. George Runkle | | #14

    Lab Reports
    I went through the stuff I got from Super Therm and I don't have those lab reports either. I spent a lot of time reading the reports they did send me, and couldn't see how they came to the conclusion that the material has an "equivalent R-19" value. I've invited responses on my blog about the web page put up by TPRL. Perhaps I'm missing something.

    George

  15. George Runkle | | #15

    Pritchett said: "The ceramic
    Pritchett said: "The ceramic compounds are low density and will not absorb and load heat--- this is physics. A metal plate has high density and will absorb and hold heat. A piece of paper has low density and cannot absorb and hold heat like the metal. If the low density ceramics have a lower density than the paper, they do not absorb and hold heat."
    He is correct about that - heat doesn't travel as fast through a low density material as it does through a high density material. However, it takes some thickness to slow down the heat transfer, which is why you have to put a number of inches of fiberglass insulation in your attic.

    So, the question becomes, and has never been answered to me - how can a very thin coating of less dense material be able to slow down the heat transfer? Can you give me an equation that gives the thermal transfer of the material so I could use it to determine how well it will work?

    The thermal conductivity that I see in the lab tests that you provide in your literature is 4.5 btu-in/hr-ft2) Figure 7, page 15 in TPRL's report for your company dated May 7, 1997. For 3 inches (which is much thicker than you would paint on), I get an R value of 0.667. Am I calculating this wrong? Can you explain what is wrong with my calculation without rhetorical statements or personal insults? I await your answer.

    Thanks,
    George

  16. Anonymous | | #16

    Nansulate
    Hi, I read with great interest your article on Nansulate and Super Therm. Super Therm I have never heard of but Nansulate I actually purchased last year. With it we painted the ceilings and walls in about 1500 sqft of space. Before I committed to such a large amount for my private home, I purchased a single gallon and used it on a kitchen cookie sheet. I painted half of it and waited 30 days-I think the instructions are actually 60 days for curing-but after 30 days I heated the cookie sheet on my gas stove then dropped water droplets on the coated and uncoated sides. The uncoated side immediately boiled and evaporated while the coated side just sat there and didn't even boil. That convinced me something is at work w/ the heat transfer. But is of greater importance to the home owner is the savings received on the electric and gas bills for the year. I think w/ Nansulate if people wait the 60 days to cure-I think the test presented in your case didn't wait that long-if people wait the 60 days, they will see energy savings. As for me and my house, we are convinced it works and are enjoying the benefits of Nansulate :)

  17. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #17

    Anonymous
    Dear Anonymous,

    1. Forgive my suspicious nature, but why do I have a sneaking suspicion that an anonymous posting that tells a story praising the effectiveness of a product that most experts describe as a scam MIGHT be written by someone associated with Nansulate?

    2. Even if your anecdote is true, it tells us nothing about the effectiveness of Nansulate or the likelihood that Nansulate will reduce energy bills. The cookie-sheet test results might be identical for ANY paint, for all I know. If I wanted, I could attach 1/2-inch drywall to one side of a cookie sheet with sheet-metal screws, and do the same test. Of course water droplets will evaporate faster from a the hot bare metal of a cookie sheet than they will from 1/2-inch drywall! But I wouldn't want to depend on 1/2-inch drywall to insulate my house.

  18. Jimmy T | | #18

    The cookie sheet test
    That is what I was talking about. The ceramic paint may be good at short time duration, large heat load application such as fire protection. However, it doesn't work for long time duration, small heat load application such as insulating your home unless your house is frequently got burned? like a furnace? otherwise, I would not insulate my house by cookie sheets with a ceramic coating on them. :)

  19. George Runkle | | #19

    The Cookie Sheet Test and Court
    OK, I design the HVAC system of a building based on the great information you guys have just given me for Super Therm and Nansulate. I use an "R Equivalent" of 19 for my calcs, using the ASHRAE manual and the International Mechanical Code. The building owner decides the HVAC system doesn't work, and sues me for Gross Negligence. When I go to court, the opposing attorney will ask me the following questions:
    Attorney - What "R" value did you use in your calculations?
    Me - uh, well, an "R equivalent" of 19.
    Attorney - and...Mr. Runkle (they always address you this way when they are going for your throat), what is "R equivalent"?
    Me - well, it was described in Super Therm's literature, and this guy did a cookie sheet test
    Attorney - what recognized body defines "R equivalent" ASTM? International Code Council? ASHRAE? ANSI?
    Me - well, um, Super Therm said...
    Attorney - I assume Super Therm had a definition of "R Equivalent" that was established by a recognized body?
    Me - uh, well they ...
    Attorney - SO, you used a value that the manufacturer assigned to this product that has no basis in any independent lab testing or definition by any code body?
    Me - well they said...
    Attorney - what engineering principle does "they said" come under Mr. Runkle?
    Attorney - oh, and what ASTM standard is the "cookie sheet test?"

    See where I'm going on this? I would be paying a huge claim, my insurance company might cancel my policy, and there would be grounds for the Board of Professional Engineers to go after me. We haven't had any kind of reference to a recognized standard for this stuff. There literature they gave me is full of tests that cover a lot of things, but none of them lead logically to a R-19 value. Even the hokey "R Equivalent" has no logic that I personally could follow, and there is no definition of "R Equivalent" except for us to believe that this stuff works.

    For the cookie sheet test (which would get me laughed out of court), I can heat up a cookie sheet to the temperature that it boils water, and handle the think with a 1/4" thick pot holder out of the kitchen drawer. Maybe we could use pot holders for insulation.

    Now, for the home owner's "great savings" - how much is great, and has he taken into account differences in climate that occur over one year to another? In true tracking of energy savings you need to adjust your figures to the degree days that have gone by to that point in the year, otherwise what you think you have saved is meaningless.

    So, in fairness, I ask that you guys please answer a few pertinent questions:
    - What is R Equivalent? Who defined it?
    - What equations can I use for the heat transfer across the material?
    - Have you had any independent labs test these kind of assumptions?

    George

  20. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #20

    Insulating paint court case
    I heard a story about a court case revolving around “insulating” paint. Unfortunately, I have been unable to confirm it. Since I don’t have confirmation, we’ll have to introduce this story as an urban fable. It was told to me as truth. The story is too delicious for me not to introduce it.

    [Later edit: Since this comment was first posted, I have confirmed the details of the story. Read all about it here: An ‘Insulating’ Paint Salesman Is Tripped Up By His Own Product.]

  21. Blake Jensen | | #21

    Field test
    I bought some ceramic bead reflecting stuff for my garage door last may. I followed the directions and applied the paint to one of my doors. The next day I did a temperature test on it and the door next to it. To my surprise the 2 doors had a distinct temperature difference. Unfortunately the door I painted was 6 degrees hotter than the unpainted door. That sucks. I had wanted to, at that point in time, paint my house with the product but I did not after the test that I performed. Part of me wants to do one wall and paint half with treated paint and the other with plain un-treated paint and then use my IR camera to see is there is any difference. Maybe when it’s not 109 outside I will.

  22. Ben Ainslie | | #22

    Unfortunate home owners
    Before entering the field of green product sales I was a painter/contractor for over a decade. I think the worst part about these products is that they may actually appear to work, and most of the time seeing is believing. The best to insulators on earth are dead air spaces and vacuums. A well caulked paint job will create a vacuum and will definitly save on a heating bill. So now you have a company that is marketing their product, and not the handy work of the painter as an insulator. So the work is done and, yup you guessed it the homeowners heating bill goes down. Next thing you know Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner is calling everyone they know to tell them about how great their miracle paint is. The sad truth is the local paint contractor could have given them the same energy savings with a beautiful finish for what I am sure would be a fraction of the cost just by doing his job right.

  23. Ken Matson | | #23

    Thanks for the blog
    You just saved me days or weeks of research and disappointment. Thanks very much for the public forum. I will have to insulate my "new to me" shipping container the "old school" way.

  24. Silverbullet | | #24

    Ceramic Insulating Coatings
    I am a 40 year solar professional. Recently, with the completion of a new prototype ready for certification, we looked at ceramic type coatings. It would be much less expensive in production runs rather than using foam products which also require a protective cover to keep from the exterior foam being damaged.
    After speaking with a number of companies who manufacture/distribute these products, I still have no solid science nor answers. Its a shell game. The most notorious line is, "Our products may have different results on different applications." DOH! Well then, that taken into consideration, WHAT CAN I EXPECT? Then I get shuffled to some 'engineer in the field' who is a professional at CYA!
    Simple question to all: If I build two identical boxes using aluminum, each to hold a gallon of water heated to 200F, place thermistors in each for monitoring, place both in a freezer, what can I expect to see?
    NO RESPONSES TO DATE!
    Rather than take a chance of spending $9000.00 for certification risking this material will work, I am in the process of building the two boxes. I have many different types of testing equipment to measure the results since I once owned an electronics company that designed and built systems for the solar industry.
    If you would like to see the results of my tests, please send me an email: appliedenvironmentals@gmail.com.
    Expect to wait several weeks for our results to be reviewed and possibly retested for absolutely accurate results.
    This will certainly end these discussions once and for all in terms of the benefits of holding heat in.
    Why on earth hasnt someone done this in the thirty years these products have been on the market!!??
    Regards,
    Sam

  25. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #25

    Testing "insulating" paint
    Sam,
    Go ahead and run your backyard tests. Please share your results with the rest of us.

    In fact, many people have conducted similar tests. After all, the blog that you are commenting on describes an elaborate series of tests to determine the performance effects, if any, of so-called "insulating" paint or "ceramic" paint.

    As I have reported many times in many articles, these tests have very consistent results: insulating paint performs exactly the same as ordinary paint. That's why researchers have concluded that these paint salesmen are scam artists.

  26. Paul Badger | | #26

    On a lighter side
    Assuming there will be more space flights in the future and more "Shuttles" will be made to make these trips , could this paint be used to cover the surfaces that are now covered by expensive delicate ceramic plates? Would it not be cheaper and easier to repair?. ( How many coats would it take to create the equivalent "R" value?
    Maybe Mr. Pritchett could be convinced to be on the first test flight . I would pay extra to see that.

    Is it possible that somebody has actually put together a factory and created and produced a product that produces enough income to actually make the investment worthwhile? Who are the People buying this stuff?
    If this whole discussion is not a joke than I am truly embarrassed.

  27. Anonymous | | #27

    Who Buys This Stuff
    My house was built in 1960, with 2-3 inches of insulation in the walls and ceiling. A hip roof was constructed over the old flat roof, but the old roof was left intact, which means that it is fully ventilated underneath, and adding insulation over the old roof and under the new one would do no good. There is not sufficient room to stand over the old roof to remove it. When I bought the house in 1988, heating costs were not as bad as today. I'm desperate. That's why I would like to read that this stuff works, but i guess I'm still waiting.

  28. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #28

    Response to Anonymous
    Anonymous,
    As you may have guessed, there are apparently enough people out there who "would like to read that this stuff works" to keep these paint scammers in business.

    There is probably a way to convert your new ventilated roof to an unventilated roof, and there is probably a way to insulate the space between the old roof and the new roof. However, it's impossible to devise the details over the Internet. You'll need to consult with an experienced insulation contractor.

  29. Bob Ellenberg | | #29

    Ceramic Paints
    I missed this last fall but since there is recent interest I'll take the time to share my experience in 2006 with Supertherm and Mascoat. Mascot is a reputable manufacturer of industrial coatings in Houston that work the way they say they will. But let me tell you about Supertherm first.

    I am pretty thorough when I explore things but I do not have the engineering knowledge to evaluate this stuff. I was first interested when it was being used by some who were building houses with intermodal steel building units several years ago. There were licensed design professionals using and touting this stuff so I assumed it had to be legitimate. I got all the info. from Supertherm, studied it, called and asked lots of questions on several occassions. Meanwhile I had hired an engineer to do some structural calculations and mentioned to him my excitement about this product and he expressed his skepticism (most of his back ground is in thermo dynamics). As a result I gave him all the literature from Supertherm and after reviewing it he basically said it was hocus pocus and expained why their claims were false. I really wanted to believe in this stuff so I went back to them again, posed questions about all the things he had told me and their "engineer" finally told me if I didn't believe them to conduct my own test and I would see that it really worked.

    Meanwhile I had searched for other coatings and one I came across was Weather Bloc by Mascoat. After reading all of their literature I called and stated talking to them. In a nut shell they said the Supertherm people were scam artists; that the Mascoat coatings could be very useful in some applications,; that in some applications "R-equivalency" had some validity but that there was no standards and therefore it could not be relied on. Since they came across as honest and not selling snake oil, I decided to include them in my tests.

    These were not laboratory tests but we did a pretty good job and I had my engineer involved in helping me set them up. I was convinced that they might have some application in reflecting some forms of heat but I was interested in how they would perform (if at all) the way they would be applied in a house.

    I bought 3 steel boxes 1'x1'x3' that were open on one long side. I cut a 4"x4" hole in each one and sealed in a plexiglass window. Next I built a OSB bottom that could be sealed in place. I fitted each box with a 100 watt bulb (heater) and fastened a thermometer to the OSB floor where it could be seen through the window. We were in Northern New Mexico in early spring so it got pretty cold at night. We placed the steel boxes on each base and observed the thermometers (inside my garage, no wind or sun) with and without the bulbs on to see that they were all calibrated and they all read within 1 degree under all conditions.

    For the control box of conventional insulation, I chose expanded styrene foam. This is generally accepted as one of the better conventional insulation materials available and it would be simple to fasten it to the exterior of the steel box with calk and adhesive. The minimum requirements for wall insulation in my home climate zone is R-19 and R-38 for the ceiling. I affixed two layers of foam rated at R-10 to the walls for R-20 and four layers of R-10 to the roof for R40. For a floor I attached a single layer of R-10 as I decided to make all the floors of the test boxes insulated the same. This was because if I used the Supertherm or Mascoat I would be using them on the walls and roof but not on the floor.

    For the Supertherm box I put two coats both inside and out. They claim this will give an R value equivalency of R-28.5. I was very careful about the application and had several conversations with Supertherm's engineer to be certain I would be doing it correctly. I purchased a mil thickness gauge and carefully documented that I was applying it as instructed. I also compared the quantity of material we used to the surface area that we had covered which indicated we had applied it to the thickness as specified or perhaps a little thicker. This required two coats and we carefully documented the thickness as we applied them.

    For the Mascoat box we also applied it as instructed by the manufacturer. The Mascoat Weather Bloc can be applied in one coat even though it is thicker. The Mascoat has ingredients that make it lighter weight and it claims that this property makes it a better insulator. They claim the equivalent R value when applied properly will be in the range of R 9 to R 11.

    The First Test
    Our main initial focus was to test the boxes in cold weather. We believed both products had properties that enhance their performance in hot climates with a lot of radiation from the sun. However, we needed year round performance and Supertherm had claimed their product would absolutely perform as well as conventional insulation in any climate so we were anxious to test cold weather performance first.

    Our first test was of all three boxes on March 8th, 2007 with a very moderate starting temperature of sixty-two degrees. The foam box quickly climbed to a much higher temperature (78) than the two ceramic coated boxes, clearly indicating they were loosing considerable more heat. The heat was removed from the foam box and after an additional 1 hour and 14 minutes the ceramic boxes reached 78. During this time the foam box had dropped 4 degrees to 74. The heat was removed from the two ceramic boxes and in only 4 minutes they dropped 2 degrees less than the foam box which had at the heat off for 1 hour and 18 minutes at this point.

    It appeared that the claims of Supertherm were greatly exaggerated. Though the Mascoat did not perform any better, they had not claimed that their product would perform at this level.

    Preparation for Additional Tests
    We immediately contacted Supertherm and did not make any accusations of false claims but rather simply reported the results. They immediately said we must have done something wrong (though we were sure we had not) and asked that we send pictures of the Supertherm box. We took several including close ups and immediately emailed them. They called us back and said he could tell from the photos we had not properly applied the material and that it was apparent to him that it was thin in places. They told us to recoat it again and dry it using a heat lamp and a fan. We purchased a heat lamp, recoated the box inside and out and proceeded to dry and cure the coating as he had instructed. At this point we had used most of a one gallon container over a surface area of approximately 20 square feet—a quantity which they claim will cover 100 square feet.

    Meanwhile we decided to add a layer of R 10 foam to the Mascoat box. The Mascoat representative had told us we would get the best results if we combined it with a conventional foam insulation product and since they claimed an equivalency of R-9 to R-11, we thought adding a layer of R-10 foam would be a close comparison. One problem was the R-20 foam box was 4” thicker in each dimension and the additional 2” of foam to the Mascoat box left voids in the corners which would put the Mascoat box at a distinct disadvantage. However, as we did not have any additional foam and wanted to proceed with another test the next morning, we added it leaving the corners void.

    One additional modification was made at the suggestion of our engineer. He recommended we put a metal shield around the light bulbs we were using for heat source to negate any reflection of light we might be getting so that the tests would be purely a test of thermal conductivity. Afterwards we realized we should have put the same shield around the heat source in the foam box as it enabled it to heat more quickly.

    Second Test
    This test was conducted at a slightly colder temperature with only the foam insulated box and the box that now had foam and Mascoat as the Supertherm box was being dried and cured with it’s additional coat.

    This test showed the two boxes to be more evenly matched. Surprisingly the Mascoat box initially heated more quickly, requiring only 45 minutes to reach 80 degrees while the foam box required more than double that. This appears to be somewhat skewed and we will perform additional future test. However, as they both began to cool from the same heated temperature the foam box held the heat slightly longer. After a total time of 3 hours that had cooled to approximately the same temperature but the heat had been on in the foam box much longer.

    Third Test
    After the Supertherm box had been under a heat lamp and fan, being constantly rotated for 3 days (24 hours per day) we decided to once again test all three. In addition it was a much colder morning which should give us a more accurate indicator of cold weather performance.

    Because the Supertherm Box had been opened up with the fan running, the interior was much colder than the other two that had remained closed from the previous day and were therefore warmer. And the thick foam box was approximately 10 degrees warmer from overnight than the Mascoat/foam box. The Supertherm box was heated for 48 minutes getting slightly warmer than the Mascoat box and heat was added to it as well. After an additional 22 minutes the three were nearly the same temperature and the heat was turned on in the foam box. The foam box then heated faster than the others and maintained warmer temperatures throughout the next several hours.

    The performance of the Supertherm box was so far below the others that we finally stopped checking it as it was very clear that the claims were grossly exaggerated. The Mascoat/foam box lagged only slightly behind the R-20 foam box and the foam box was fully insulated without void corners which gave it an advantage.

    We believe if we had filled the corners of the R-10 foam on the Mascoat box and conducted additional test that it would have performed as well at the R-20 foam box which would be in accordance with the claims of the Mascoat manufacturer..

    I have been sitting on the side lines for the past 3 years and hope to start a new project within the next few months which will be in a hot climate (South Louisiana). We intend to insulate the walls to R-19 and the roof to R-50. We plan to use the Mascoat Weather Bloc on the exterior walls as I am convinced it will be an excellent supplement (not substitute) as well as providing a long lasting exterior finish that will not need any maintenance. I would encourage any of you that are interested to check them out. You will find them to be very honest and straightforward in their representations and will not make any false claims.

  30. Engineer in Lousiana | | #30

    Mascoat works
    I work as an Engineer in industry in South Louisiana. I had a piece of industrial equipment which I needed to insulate (keep hot) with a thin waterproof insulation. Common industrial insulation practices was not a good fit because it was too thick and allows for water intrusion behind the insulation near the sample ports - this is a corrosion problem.
    I chose Mascoat and worked with their engineers in Baton Rouge and Houston to design the product and installation. It is worth noting they do not claim to be appropriate for all applications.
    In our case, we applied the material and it is currently dropping ~100F all day every day across insulating coating which is a little bit thicker than the lead of a #2 pencil. This met all of our requirements, and it is maintaining the temperature inside the Centrifuge as well as serving as personnel protection. The Centrifuge is only warm to the touch instead of a burn hazard. Clearly there is some truth to the claims of being a poor thermal conductor.
    I would very much like to see more comprehensive independent testing to better understand how and where to best use these materials. If there usefulness is limited to high heat situations such as roof tops or industry, then I want to know. There are more than one wavelength in the realm of "heat". If these materials are insulating at some frequencies and conducting at other frequencies, that does not mean they are without value. notching some frequencies out of a spectrum can reduce the overall energy intensity dramatically.
    If Mascoat understands their product as well as it seems, I can understand protecting that knowledge as a trade secret. Other folks who understand less will fumble more applications. I do not assume all the products on the market are the same either. When dealing with sales folks, it is difficult to know what is a knowledge gap and what is deception by omission or just plain lying.
    I read the postings above and I have no experience with POWER THERM.
    Thanks for the discussion and experiments. I enjoyed the read.

  31. George Runkle | | #31

    More on Ceramic Paint
    I visited a company near me that manufactures this, and there were some interesting properties they showed me, like a steam jenny they had operating had steam going out through a galvanized steel pipe. The part painted with the ceramic paint was cool to the touch. The other demo they had were two little metal boxes under a heat lamp with thermometers inside. One was painted with white paint, the other with their product. The thermometer under the one painted with their product stayed cool.

    So, there is something to this, but we need to see some independent research and design guidelines, not manufacturer's hype and revisions of thermodynamics. Right now, my position is that I want to see independent research on this to develop guidelines before I recommend anything like it to my clients.

  32. Texas Builder | | #32

    Oh my! Where to begin?
    It would be impossible to begin contradicting every incorrect point made here. Far too many wrong statements have been made to attempt that.
    So many words spoken, so much time and effort spent, by people who have no idea what they are talking about.
    Honestly. "Testing" a heat reflective coating.....in snow??? Where's the heat source?
    Pure idiocy.

    What I can tell you is that I have personally tested many of the products on the market before incorporating them into my business. I found many to have no value whatsoever and the sellers of these products to be very defensive when pressed. What I also found, was one that worked. Worked incredibly well actually. I'm sure that not many would argue that with any product there are good and bad instances. Why wouldn't that be the case with these types of products?

    While I appreciate the time and effort put into this by some, I cannot understand how they can move forward doing so when they have no idea of the basic concepts beforehand. Understand how something is supposed to work THEN come up with a way to test it. Whatever happened to the "scientific method" we are taught as children in science fairs? We don't consider that, but we'll believe some yahoo that becomes some kind of backyard scientist or armchair researcher. Ridiculous.

    For anyone who has a desire to educate themselves I invite, even challenge you, to contact either myself or the staff at Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions. The manager there, Tony, was extremely patient and helpful with me when I too was in the learning stages.
    Some products work. People just need to get their head out of the sand to find them.

  33. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #33

    Response to Texas Builder
    Texas Builder,
    1. You have offered not a single shred of evidence that so-called "insulating" paint actually works.

    2. Although this article describes testing in Alaska, "insulating" paint has also been tested by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and by researchers at the Florida Solar Energy Center. All researchers reached exactly the same conclusion: there is no difference in thermal performance between any "insulating" paint and ordinary white paint.

    3. Although you wrote that my article contains many "incorrect point[s]" and "wrong statements," you are apparently unable to name one -- nor to provide any evidence to contradict what I have written.

  34. Robbie Sartin | | #34

    Super Therm
    HOW can you know who is telling the truth, I have a crew of 12 about to start selling and applying super therm. I will not move until I See the product work for myself. I encourage any builder contractor who, is trying to sell a product to spend the money and treat yourself like your the customer and see how the product works for you. IF it works well then you can look your neighbor in the eye and tell him honestly that you are selling a product that will save him money and improve his energy consumption. Guys its not about physics or thermal testing its about selling a product that is worth what you charge for it. Tell the truth, thats what Jesus would do.

  35. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #35

    Response to Robbie Sartin
    Robbie Sartin,
    Evidently you believe that "it's not about physics or thermal testing," it's about Jesus. I respect those who place their faith in Jesus -- but when it comes to unlikely claims about insulating paint, I'm placing my faith in physics and thermal testing.

    For those who don't believe in physics or thermal testing, however, there are evidently plenty of Super Therm salespeople who are eager to take your money.

  36. Texas Builder | | #36

    Response to Martin
    Yes I said that your article contains may incorrect points. Please don't take my unwillingness to spend an hour and 5000 words as being "unable" to correct you. What I was trying to say is that there is SO much misinformation, it would be difficult to know where to begin.

    But I'll start with this. Why don't you tell us all how much personal research and interaction you have had with any product in this category? That would be a great place to begin establishing your credibility on the topic. Have you used any of them? Have you tested any of them, incorporating the scientific method that is largely accepted?
    Or are you just another person with a keyboard and internet access who attempts to achieve some kind of credibility by regurgitating "information" you find out there on the web and blindly follow?

    Now as for my information, it is gained by direct testing. Spending my own money and using these products on my own property and in controlled experiments. Experiments that make sense once one has a grasp of how the products are supposed to work. Testing is Alaska is as ridiculous as testing a car under water. Laughable...if it wasn't so sad.
    I tested 8 products. I found 6 to be worthless (and it is there that I agree with you), 1 to give absolutely minor results, and 1 to be quite substantial. It was then that I contacted all of the manufacturers and asked the hard questions. The responses matched the products. Mostly of no value with one exception.
    The other test you speak of...have you read them? Each and every word? I have. I've also read, and spoken to, a great many people other than that.

    Let me ask you this. Is it possible, even remotely, that there can be a category of products where some work and some don't?
    Is it possible that some of these "testing" agencies did not test all products in a category, but just one or two at best? That's not a fair question because I already know the answer. I know because I contacted them.

    My point is this. While I greatly appreciate and admire what you do to educate the public, there is a great responsibility that goes along with that. The responsibility of educating oneself fully. That is my belief before introducing anything to my customers, and I take it quite seriously.

    If you want to use words like "dupe" and "con artists" I'm right there with you regarding some of the products out there, and I'll be your biggest supporter.
    But to lump every product out there into the same category by using nothing other than a cursory understanding (at best) and other information you find on the internet.....well that's just simply irresponsible "journalism".

  37. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #37

    Second response to Texas Builder
    Texas Builder,
    You still haven't provided any data. Sorry -- an anecdote without data is just an anecdote.

    There's a reason that organizations like ASTM have arisen to standardize testing procedures: if we let every manufacturer or consumer come up with their own backyard testing procedure, it's easy to game the system.

    Depending on independent third-party laboratories to perform tests is not unwise; it is essential. Your boast that you tested 8 products, and you liked one of the products better than the other 7, is meaningless. Especially since you don't describe your testing procedure, your data collection, or your results -- or, for that matter, your name and affiliation.

  38. Texas Builder | | #38

    I defer to you then, Mr. H
    I agree completely with the need for standardized testing.
    Would you please enlighten us with the ASTM test for the reflection of heat?
    (and we're talking about heat here...not solar reflection)
    I can save you some time. There is none.
    The problem is that far too many people love to throw names around like ASTM, Energy Star, and a host of others....yet have put in ZERO time to actually research what they do or where they may be lacking.
    The point that I was trying make, that you very artfully dodged, was that I have invested time and money into researching products in this category. I know about them, and I know about these agencies who claim to be concerned with the advancement of technology and saving the planet...yet do very little other than collect money.

    Again, it does no good to make points when you clearly are unable to address them. If only your research skills matched that of your ability to evade. Your mind is already made up, and obviously closed to any reasonable thought on this topic.

    You do a very good thing by providing information to the masses.
    All I'm saying is that you should stick to writing about things you actually know something about.
    That's not too much to ask. Good for the public...good for your credibility.

  39. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #39

    ASTM test procedures
    Texas,
    If "insulating" paint actually slows down heat transfer, then the effect of the paint would be easy to measure using standard test procedures for measuring heat flow. These test procedures include:

    ASTM C168, “Standard Terminology Relating to Thermal Insulating Materials,”
    ASTM C518, "Standard Test Method for Steady-State Thermal Transmission Properties by Means of the Heat Flow Meter Apparatus," and
    ASTM C236, "Standard Test Method for Steady-State Thermal Performance of Building Assemblies by Means of a Guarded Hot Box."

  40. Texas Builder | | #40

    Well done, Mr. H
    A very fine example of internet searching.
    I do, however, have to ask this. Have you actually spent the 39 dollars per each test and actually read each and every word? I know I have.
    My point is that had you actually read them, and had more than a cursory understanding of how ceramic spheres work, you would be more than able to determine the flaws in the test and how they simply do not apply to new technology. What is the date that these procedures were adapted? What changes have been made over the years to adjust to new advancements?
    Do you know the answers to these questions? I think we both know the answer.
    I, however, do know this. Because I have done my research.

    It seems, as I said before, that some of these agencies are more interested in generating revenue than actually doing anything positive.

    The question that remains unanswered, is what have YOU personally done to research this topic?

    A very simple question that has great value.
    Answer that.....and you may begin to have the credibility you should have on something you write about.

    All the best to you.
    Randy
    buildingtexas@yahoo.com

  41. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #41

    Response to Randy
    Randy,
    Since January 2002, when I was hired as editor of Energy Design Update, I have worked full time researching and reporting on energy issues. That is what I have "personally done."

    In spite of my repeated requests, however, you have still not provided a shred of data.

    I think we've just about wrapped up this dialog.

  42. Building Texas | | #42

    Again we agree, Mr. H
    This is pretty much wrapped up....as you've now made it clear that you have ZERO personal knowledge and experience with products of this type. Also no understanding of how they work, otherwise you would know that a test in Alaska is ridiculous. You would have bypassed it as the hogwash it is...instead of posting it as some type of meaningful exercise. Just fodder for another "article".

    Even if I did take my valuable time to post all of my research, the control method, documentation, everything......something tells me that you would immediately dismiss it. Something easy to say like how it's not done at a "lab" or some such nonsense.
    I researched, tested, then painted a particular product in my attic. Paint.
    My attic temperature dropped 25 degrees. A house I painted in Texas? Mid summer electric bill is $98 for a 2000 square foot home.
    I know for a fact it works. I'm just trying to correct bad information that's floating around on the web and inform consumers.

    What I've asked you to do is two-fold. State your personal experience with products you write about, and enter into a dialog about products in this category that DO work. You have shown no interest and failed miserably on both counts.

    While I envy you in that it's a wonderful opportunity to get paid to write about things you know nothing about.....the disservice you do to the public is abhorrent and irresponsible.

    You may now put your blinders back in place and go on about your blissfully ignorant way.

    All the best
    Randy
    buildingtexas@yahoo.com

  43. robbie sartin | | #43

    Jesus not physics
    My refrence to jesus had a more simple answer , yours is more complicated than most can understand. Both sides here have evidence in there corner that will make the average person lean either way . does super therm work , is super therm a scam. One says it is and backs it up strongly ,the oher says it is not and backs it up strongly. A lie or an exageration has nothing to do with math or physics. That is why I believe that Jesus would tell the truth and no calculation would be needed. Give a few numbers or addresses of people who a history major , football coach can call and here the praises or the bad reports on these folks.

  44. samcrow | | #44

    Texas Builder recommended
    I went to the web site for hytechsales recommended by Texas Builder. Norton told me the site was unsafe.

  45. Samuel | | #45

    Thermal resistance in the real world.
    Here is what two years of research on my part gave me b4 construction:
    Walls: Concrete block filled with sand. Stripped on the outside with southern yellow pine and insulated underneath with 1" sheet foam with the shiny part out. Covered with plaster lath. Three coats of blinding white Portland stucco. NO HEAT GAIN on the inside!
    Roof is simple design and now becoming more common. My house has only shed type roof intersections, ie; roofs abutting vertical walls or no walls. Decking, tar paper, same insulation with shiny side up, stripped with southern yellow pine, steel galvalume silver roof. Each intersecting roof line against a wall has a 4" airspace, ie; flashed down from the vertical wall 6" and fitted underneath 4" to allow air to escape.
    In spring and fall, moderate sun, the airflow is not as great but in summers it feels like it has a blower as the heated air escapes. NO heat gain in summers. If I were in a cooling only climate, I would not have even used fiberglass insulation on the underside but we have about five months of heating requirements.
    If you can beat this, Id like to see it. The flywheel effect of the masonry/sand gives longer swing periods during cool nights and hot days but the overall advantage is overwhelming.
    Cheers!
    PS: Having a concrete and steel house also has many other advantages. No maintaince and no painting and virtually fireproof and storm proof. My total material bill for almost 3000 ft sq was $87,000 in Georgia, dried in. I did most of the work myself and finished the work myself over a period of four years. Consequently I HAVE NO HOUSE PAYMENT and very little utility bills. I use an 18,000 mini split, one up and one down, passive solar conservatory which not only heats in winter but grows citrus year round, and a back up wood heater downstairs with a duct in the floor/ceiling right above the wood heater.
    I cant praise the mini splits enough. SEER of 18, modes to do neat stuff like dry your clothes and so I took on the line for distribution. Five year warranty. NO DUCT SYSTEM to grow mold, bacteria, viruses and other nasty stuff. Two 18,000 BTU units cost $2400.00 total for my heat/cool system!!!

  46. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #46

    Response to Samuel
    Samuel,
    I'm glad you are happy with the performance of your house. I agree that ductless minisplits are a great way to heat and cool a house in Georgia.

    However, you are technically incorrect when you tell us that you have designed a wall system and a roof system with "no heat gain."

    If one side of a building assembly is at a different temperature from the other side, there will ALWAYS be heat flow. Heat flows from hot to cold. It's a law of physics. Insulation (or radiant barriers adjacent to air spaces) can slow down heat flow -- but they can't stop it.

  47. Vonda Capria | | #47

    Radiant barrier paint
    Good reading

  48. Gas Man | | #48

    Building Texas Makes The Rounds With All The Same Misinformation
    Martin,

    Nicely done. I wrote a similar piece back in January 2002 when Insuladd was promising "Energy Savings of up to 40% on Heating and Cooling costs." Their rivals Hy-Tech Sales whom Randy (Texas Builder) endorses have made similar claims over the past decade. However, more recently they've toned down specific percentages of energy savings. Some ads still promise "up to 20%" but they have never provided third party proof of such exciting results. My article is found here http://www99.epinions.com/content_2452594820 if you feel like comparing notes.

    If you check the comments section your will find several antagonistic comments from your new friend Randy, who also failed to provide a shred of actual evidence to back up his arrogant statements. All I'm sure of is that his company benefits from the sale of these products. Otherwise he would not wast so much time and effort attempting to paint a dark grey picture around common sense articles like yours and with all due modesty, mine.

    I even had emails from EPA and their Energy Star division agreeing with me and emphasizing that they do not recognize paint additives in any of their programs nor have they seen any evidence of credible third party testing.

    Best regards,
    The Gasman

  49. D W | | #49

    Super Therm
    I know this is an old blog, but figured I would chime in with a different take on the subject. I have been researching various ways to keep my house cooler in the summer so that I can reduce my AC bills. My house faces solar south and I cannot even begin to tell you how hot it can get up there. Now ignoring all the R-Value claims of what it can and can not do, what might Super Therm or some other similar product be good for? It seems to me that even if your attic has the proper insulation in it, the attic can be a greenhouse in the summer. Hot air comes in through the roof and just sits in the attic. Some of it gets blown out through the gable fans or other openings, but I am sure that even with the best insulation some of it also seeps into the ceiling below it. Now if I could keep my attic cooler, wouldn't that be a great thing? So if we use these ceramic coatings to just reflect the heat away from the attic, isn't that a move in the right direction? I would imagine it works a bit better than simply painting the roof white and is a bit more durable. Now I am in no way affiliated with any company, I have just been looking at making my house more eco-friendly. While I have not converted my house yet, I cannot say I am not thinking about it.

  50. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #50

    Response to DW
    DW,
    So-called "insulating" paint performs no better than ordinary white paint, because that's all it is. Don't waste your money on it.

    If you are truly interested in making your roofing reflect heat during the summer, there is a better way to do it than to get sucked into false claims made by con artists: Just choose an Energy Star roofing product. Click here for more information.

  51. D W | | #51

    I assume you are referring to
    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.

  52. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #52

    Response to DW
    DW,
    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.

  53. D W | | #53

    Ok. Thanks for you help.
    Ok. Thanks for you help.

  54. Mike Snow | | #54

    Insulating Paints
    Has anyone heard anything about Insuladd Insulating Paint & Additives?

  55. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #55

    Response to Mike Snow
    Mike,
    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.” "

  56. Brad Hagan | | #56

    Heat bloc ultra
    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

  57. Jil S | | #57

    help with cold transfer please
    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, jillsdesk@gmail.com but don't bother contacting me if you only have something to sell because I have no money to spend.

  58. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #58

    Response to Jil S.
    Jil,
    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.

  59. Robert Nemoyer | | #59

    Insulating paint
    Martin,

    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.
    Bob

  60. Richard Stratton | | #60

    Ceramic insulation coating
    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

    Sincerely,

  61. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #61

    Response to Richard Stratton
    Richard,
    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: http://www.rimainternational.org/index.php/technical/library/radiant-barrier-paint/).

    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: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/radiant-barriers-solution-search-problem).

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

  62. Richard Stratton | | #62

    Ceramic coating
    Martin,
    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?
    Regards,

  63. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #63

    Response to Richard Stratton
    Richard,
    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.

  64. Richard Stratton | | #64

    ceramic coating
    Martin,
    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?

  65. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #65

    Response to Richard Stratton
    Richard,
    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.

  66. Richard Stratton | | #66

    File for review
    IR thermography & thermocouple-based data on metal buildings

  67. Richard Stratton | | #67

    Excerpts from 3rd party testing
    Martin,

    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.

    Regards,

  68. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #68

    Another response to Richard Stratton
    Richard,
    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.

  69. Richard Stratton | | #69

    More claims, more data
    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 http://www.naima.org/publications/CI224.PDF 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 http://www.wevik.hu/fajlok/lambdavaltozas2.pdf

    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?

    Regards,

  70. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #70

    Another response to Richard Stratton
    Richard,
    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.

  71. Richard Stratton | | #71

    heat transfer on surfaces
    Martin,

    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.

  72. Steve Hoge | | #72

    Yikes - Bob Vila accepting Supertherm claims?
    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) http://www.bobvila.com/sections/tv/projects/38-storm-ready-housing/episodes/474-finishing-the-container-built-home/videos/1188375968001-finished-exterior-of-the-container-built-home

  73. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #73

    Response to Steve Hoge
    Steve,
    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.")

  74. Nathan Kurz | | #74

    Suggested experimental procedure
    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.

  75. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #75

    Response to Nathan Kurz
    Nathan,
    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.

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