Years ago, I participated in a comparative insulation study with the National Association of Home Builders that yielded a surprising result: Correctly placed fiberglass batt insulation, a keen eye, and a well-aimed caulk gun delivered a tighter and better-insulated house than spray foam. However, it’s hard to rely on such careful craft from many insulation contractors.
Owens Corning responds with PINK Next Gen, an improved fiberglass batt insulation that Trey McNamee, spokesperson for Owens Corning, says will shave off significant time for training a new installer. The company also claims their new and enhanced batts install 23% faster than standard fiberglass batts.
Owen Corning invented fiberglass and later the ubiquitous pink insulation. The improvements with PINK Next Gen include finer glass fiber that will not cut or itch installers. The material cuts easily and responds like a Memory Foam mattress, regaining its fluffy form after being squished. The material is GREENGUARD certified for low VOCs, and the R-15 batts fit into a 3-1/2-in. wall cavity. McNamee says the company could stuff more R-value into a 2×4 wall and may eventually provide a product that economically yields the R-value of a standard 2×6 assembly in a 3-1/2-in.-deep void. Lastly, McNamee told me PINK Next Gen is fabricated in plants running on 100% wind-generated electrical energy and contains the highest recycled content in the industry.
PINK Next Gen fiberglass batts range from R-11 to R-49 and in thicknesses from 3-1/2 in. to 14 in.
All kinds of cool ingredients can go into insulation, from recycled newspaper to shredded blue jeans. But nothing is cooler today than insulation made with hemp. Hempitecture has sold over one million square feet of its HempWool, which is similar in density and appearance to mineral wool. The material cuts easily with a grinder and steel cutter and fits tightly into voids.
Tommy Gibbons, a co-founder of Hempitecture, claims HempWool is the only thermal insulation product with a “biogenic carbon uptake” that maintains the efficiency of a thermal envelope. In this case, what makes the material “green” is not just its performance. Some carbon-intensive insulation materials justify their use through energy savings. HempWool does not need to offset its carbon footprint on the back of a home’s reduced energy consumption. The product is made with hemp fiber grown sustainably in rural communities across the United States. The company reports that their growing operation offsets 9.8 tons of CO2 per acre, which makes the insulation carbon negative.
HempWool batts range from R-7 at $1.10 per sq. ft. to R-28 at $2.50 per sq. ft. You can purchase directly from the factory.
Of course, I asked, “What happens if I smoke it?” A little tired of the joke, Gibbons replied, “You can’t. It’s nonflammable.”
Fernando Pagés Ruiz is a builder and an ICC-certified residential building inspector active in code development.
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