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Embodied carbon differences in insulating buildings (calculator?)

jameshowison | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

From articles around here I know that some insulations have different embodied energy/carbon equivalent impacts.  And I know that blowing agents for spray foam have “1000s of times global warming potential”. I’ve seen the articles with bar charts for different impacts. 

I was talking with a friend recently and they were trying to decide between spray foam and cellulose, so I mentioned there was a difference.  And they care about such things.

Their next question stumped me though, and I didn’t have a resource to point them to.

“So, would the difference be like driving a car 10,000 miles or not? Like flying across the country? Or more?”

So they are asking what the CO2 equivalent difference would be for different strategies for their house and some comparison points for decision making.

Anyone know a study or a calculator that can answer that question? Even something like a calculation on a 2,000 ft rectangle in different climate zones would be useful to get some estimate here.

Might make for an interesting article. Apologies if I’ve missed something obvious 🙂


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  1. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #1

    James, I recently answered a Q+A for Fine Homebuilding on this topic. Using HFC-blown closed cell foam to insulate the walls of a typical home to R-21 is equivalent to driving 27,000 miles in a typical car. Insulating with HFO-blown foam is like driving 7,000 miles. That's just for the walls. It would be interesting to see this expanded into a larger article about carbon equivalencies.

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