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Thoughts on Insultex House Wrap

Marcus Sheffer | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this house wrap – http://www.insultexhousewrap.com/

They appear to be making some exaggerated claims and I am not certain that the R-value claimed would be possible.

Any thoughts?

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Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Marcus,
    The marketing certainly seems deceptive to me.

    The fact sheet (see image below) shows that the R-3 product is 1 mm thick (that is, 0.0384 inch). It's hard to imagine that its R-value could be more than R-0.25 or so -- significantly less than R-1.

    The R-3 product is 1.5 mm thick (that is, 0.0576 inch) -- so it could conceivably have an R-value as high as R-0.4 -- again, significantly less than R-1.

    Is the company trying to confuse buyers by reporting assembly R-values instead of material R-values? Not really, because the company's installation instructions don't suggest a complicated assembly with air spaces. Moreover, the web site claims that R-value testing was per ASTM C518 -- a material test, not an assembly test.

    Might just be old-fashioned lying. Perhaps the manufacturer is trying to "insultex" our intelligence.

    .

    1. PBP1 | | #28

      How the FTC appears to have mishandled experts in Insultex suit: "FTC Lawsuit Dismissed for Lack of Credible Expert Testimony".
      https://www.expertinstitute.com/resources/insights/ftc-lawsuit-dismissed-for-lack-of-credible-expert-testimony/

      But now on appeal at the 3rd Circuit:
      Court of Appeals Docket #: 20-3379 Docketed: 11/24/2020
      Nature of Suit: 1890 Other Statutory Actions
      Federal Trade Commission v. Innovative Designs
      Appeal From: United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

  2. Jeff Cooper | | #2

    Martin, could you please explain how you calculated the maximum R-values for 1 mm and 1.5 mm thicknesses? If the testing report Insultex posts on its website is bogus, it would be a great help to understand why its R-value results cannot be true. The housewrap they claim to have R-3 actually has only 0.5 mm of insulating material; the R-6 has 1.0 mm.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Jeff,
    Unless you are talking about aerogels or vacuum insulated panels, the laws of physics limit the maximum R-value of a material to about R-5.6 per inch without encapsulated gas, or about R-7.5 per inch with encapsulated gas.

  4. D Dorsett | | #4

    With reflective low-E surfaces and air-tight isolated air gaps between the reflective surfaces and adjacent layers it's possible to build ASSEMBLIES with thermal performance that high. But claiming that a the R-value for the product itself is fraudulent, since it is taking credit for the both the air gaps and the air-tightness of the assembly of which it would be only a part. To make those claims for the product itself is in fact a violation of FTC regulation, and they could be prosecuted and fined for making those claims for the product rather than for the assembly. But this is not one of those- they found an even wierder way to inflate the real-world performance:

    In the case of Insulatex, for the 1mm/R3ish product they ran an ASTM C518 test at temp of 255F on one side, 75F on the other side (that's a common condition at your house & climate, right? :-) ), then they linearized that to come up with a theoretical R-value at a 70F difference in temperature (delta-T). This is not a legitimate test- thermal performance varies with both average temperature and the temperature difference through the material, neither of which is in a normal average temp found in any location populated by humans. The industry standard (and as I understand it, the FTC requirement for R-value labeling) is to test at a delta-T of 30F (not 255F - 75F= 180F), at a mean temp of 75F through the material (not a mean temp of 165F). For the 2mm /R6-ish product they tested at 200F & 75F.

    Take the time to actually READ their supporting test data:

    http://www.insultexhousewrap.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Certificate_of_Analysis_Insultex_House_Wrap.pdf

    This is complete BS, and IMHO (not a lawyer) opinion, this crosses the line. It's not only complete BS from a real-world conditions technical basis, it's very likely to be well on the far side of any grey area in the interpretation of the FTC regs on R-value labeling.

    It's common for polystyrene foam insulation vendors to post both the FTC labeled R value, but also the tested R-value at one or two other mean-temperatures (typically 40F and 25F) to point out where it's performance is higher than labeled. But they don't take liberties with the delta-T, they use conditions that are at least found somewhere on earth where humans can live, and they don't come up with linear extrapolation from some steep point on the curve to come up with some fanciful & arcane argument of what it's performance might be (on Mars, or Venus) the way Insultex. Their is beyond a stretch of reality, it's building-science fantasy. If it were being sold into some other application where those temperature averages & deltas might be realistic they might have a legal leg to stand on, but given that it's being marketed as insulating housewrap, basing the claims on their test data as-presented it's complete & utter crap.

  5. D Dorsett | | #5

    Upon re-reading it I've probably been too kind, but out of politeness I'll refrain from further comment.

  6. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #6

    I just spoke to a nationally known expert on building material R-values about Insultex. He doesn't want to be named.

    Concerning the Insultex claim, here's what he said: "It's preposterous. It's a total fraud."

    I may not be very original, but I don't mind being quoted. Here is my analysis: "The R-value claims that Insultex is making for its product are preposterous. It's a total fraud." You can quote me.

  7. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #7

    Careful Martin, They may go to "stage two" like the bubble wrap guy.

  8. Jeff Cooper | | #8

    Thank you, Martin, for explaining the R-value maximums, and Dana for explaining how Insultex crafted this bold deception. You're the first anywhere online to give potential buyers of Insultex the understanding they need to avoid wasting their money by assuming that Insultex would have to be be legitimate because they would otherwise be exposed to too many legal perils, especially as their product becomes widely known by being sold at Home Depot and Lowe's, among others.

  9. Marcus Sheffer | | #9

    Thanks all for confirming my concerns. I to have heard this song before. I have provided my thoughts (and some of yours, at least the nice ones) to the owner of the company through another party. We'll see if their marketing changes. Thanks again.

  10. Randy Loew | | #10

    The marketing is not deceptive.

    First, the laboratory that tested the product is an accredited laboratory and the laboratory is
    sanctioned for ASTM C518. Go to the website to confirm this yourself.

    Second, Insultex is a closed cell, proprietary gas filled, micro cell structure that is better than
    aerogels which are an open, micro cell structure!

    Insultex is a novel product that does not operate like conventional batting or insulating materials.
    FTC 16 CFR 460 uses a Delta T of 50 and I just saw it on their website with a starting and ending
    temperature of 50 and 100, respectively. So they appear to be in line with what one would expect.

    Lastly, I am shocked that a nationally, recognized, known expert would not want his name associated
    with his comments unless he could not support his contentions.

    I believe one needs to study the science and the product before making outlandish, slanderous comments!

  11. Marcus Sheffer | | #11

    Randy - the folks in this forum study the science of these kinds of materials everyday. Numerous other manufacturers have made similar claims to the ones you make, some have been sued by the FTC for making false claims, so there is always a healthy skepticism in the building science community. If there is some thing that you understand that they don't then it is incumbent upon you to make the case in support of your claims. If these folks think that your claims appear potentially deceptive then perhaps you might want to understand why. Inflammatory comments aside there may be something to learn if a constructive dialogue ensued.

  12. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #12

    Curiously, the supporting test document currently appearing at that link does not seem to be same one that appeared there a few weeks ago. (I should have downloaded & archived it for the record, I suppose... :-) )

    If this magic-mouse-milk "...proprietary gas filled, micro cell structure that is better than
    aerogels..." is for real, methinks the world would not be just discovering it on the marketing pages of the manufacturerer. Better than aerogel performance even in a laboratory setting (let alone a commercially available product) would be newsworthy.

    I've seen similar claims for nano-sphere paint additives too, with performance that could never be duplicated by others. We'll see.

  13. Charlie Sullivan | | #13

    Hmm. The update date and time on the pdf now at that link says in the pdf metadata that it was last modified today at 2:14 PM. Let's see, step one, modify the report to address Dana's objection and replace the one on the web site. Step two, post to this thread at 2:45 PM.

    So if BRC Laboratory is a reputable operation, can't we trust them? Quick google search. OK, it's a little funny that the only published test report that shows up is for Insultex. And the company doesn't have a web site. But google street view shows the building that houses BRC Laboratory. It's a fine looking house with a nice porch and red shutters. No reason that couldn't house a thermal conductivity laboratory.

    It seems that insultex started out as a clothing insulation, and housewrap was a new application of it. So did it gain a solid reputation in that world? I looked around a bit and found an independent test! Conclusion: didn't work. http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=42877

  14. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #14

    Charlie - that's quite funny! I don't understand why these manufacturers don't just stay quiet and hope no one notices, rather than create a fuss and draw attention to themselves.

  15. Alan B | | #15

    R3 at 1mm would be R76.2/inch, they could win a nobel prize if it was real!

    @ Dana, the file may still be stored in the temp folder on your hard drive, or might be available on the internet archive if you have the address (check your browser history)

  16. D Dorsett | | #16

    Alan: The temp folder was the first thing I checked (would have posted it here if I still had it.)

  17. Randy Loew | | #17

    As you know, aerogels are micro, open celled structures that are a torturous path for heat to get through the maze. Insultex is a closed cell structure that blocks heat penetration by an interesting proprietary cell media and gas filled micro cell. It is multiple times more difficult for heat to penetrate than aerogels.The technology is not fully developed but you must see it in a home that has recorded energy use over many years and compared to current energy usage it is very effective.
    I saw the picture of BRC and you are correct, the picture is taken from the right side obscuring the two lab buildings on the left - a smaller lab and a very large one in back. Had it been taken head on, one could see the two lab structures.

  18. Marcus Sheffer | | #18

    Randy in Google maps you can move up and down the street. To the left appears to be a shed. All the buildings in the immediate area appear to be houses based on the overhead and street views. Is the address correct?

  19. Tim C | | #19

    It is certainly the correct home address for the "CEO" of BRC Labs.

  20. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #20

    If the test results are accurate and not fudged, it's a huge breakthrough in technology worthy of peer reviewed scientific papers explaining how it works.

    The explanation that "...aerogels are micro, open celled structures that are a torturous path for heat to get through the maze..." explanation of how aerogels manage to exceed the R-value of still-air doesn't give confidence that the author really understands the physics involved, or would be able to execute the science for that paper.

    A more likely explanation: Test operator error, or equipment error.

    Less benign explanations come to mind as well...

    Why did the document get swapped? The original was a truly creative piece of work!

  21. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #21

    Randy,
    sure this is amusing, but probably more appropriate for some sub-forum on reddit where adolescent boys post pictures of super-models and claim they are their girlfriends.

  22. Bill Dietze | | #22

    Looking at that older .pdf, and ignoring the 255.8 degree F issue (!), all the numbers work except the last column. that last column results in a series of computational contortions.

    The first red flag is the 37% difference in measured flux per degree F between lines 1 and 2 end ups up (somehow) with identical R values. The second red flag is that the standard deviation is wrong by a factor of five. The third red flag is that the standard deviation basically matches that number you get when the last column is calculated correctly. The fourth red flag is that the sample is 0.5 mm thick; that's and R value per inch of 165! Perhaps my math is off, but even if it's off by 10x, that house wrap is good!

    Lastly, the owner of BRC Laboratory Inc. has a LinkedIn page and the company website link points you to a site with the following message. "This domain name may be for sale. Please click here to inquire. " hmm...

  23. Alan B | | #23

    @Dana, this is the only pdf i could find, it may be the one you are referring to
    http://web.archive.org/web/20141122235531/http://insultexhousewrap.com/insultex_price_analysis_information_sheet.pdf

    @ Randy, why are you so desperate to explain something that can't be proven to exist, if its real they should be proud to to subject it to scrutiny, and win that nobel prize for engineering. R76+ per inch would be awesome, we could retrofit every house in the country with 1-2 inches of this stuff and cut nationwide heating costs by well over 90%, natural gas prices would plummet to almost nothing, and heating oil would also be a forgotten memory since a baseboard heater would be all anyone ever needs. It would also cut hot water tank losses to almost zero, and there would be many other benefits we can only now imagine

    Edit: As noted below its R3.25 at 0.5mm once again doubling the R value to R165.1/inch! How unbelievable do we have to get before people stop denying reality!

  24. D Dorsett | | #24

    So it was BRC that put the "Insult" in Insultex then? (As in "Insult one's intelligence." :-) ) Ignore the man behind the curtain, nothing going on here...

    That does appear to be the document- thanks Alan.

  25. zev | | #25

    Hi, my name is zev, i am not sure if this Blog is still active but i figured i would give it a shot. i am looking into insultex and i see that the lawsuit from the FTC was dismissed/ thrown out. does this change anything in ref to the validity of their claim that the product performs as advertised? ( or very close to it).

    please let me know if your opinion has changed on the house wrap product. ty

    1. Expert Member
      Malcolm Taylor | | #26

      Zev,

      To be blunt. If you are still interested in using Insultex after reading the above comments, there probably isn't much we can add to dissuade you.

  26. Andy S | | #27

    Zev, You can get a case thrown out on a technicality or negotiate a deal, but that doesn't mean you were innocent of the charges.

    1. PBP1 | | #29

      As was the case, had to do with handling of experts and timing thereof. Some poor choices.
      "FTC Lawsuit Dismissed for Lack of Credible Expert Testimony"
      https://www.expertinstitute.com/resources/insights/ftc-lawsuit-dismissed-for-lack-of-credible-expert-testimony/

      Apparently the product remains the same, need to read the "tests" carefully (something about air gaps . . . ).

      But now on appeal at the 3rd Circuit:
      Court of Appeals Docket #: 20-3379 Docketed: 11/24/2020
      Nature of Suit: 1890 Other Statutory Actions
      Federal Trade Commission v. Innovative Designs
      Appeal From: United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

  27. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #30

    More information on Insultex is available here: "R-Value Scammers Sued By the FTC"

    1. PBP1 | | #31

      FTC should have called you! ;-)

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