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Community and Q&A

Infinite R phase change materials

NormanWB | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

I am looking into using phase change materials in my new home to reduce temperature variability. It looks like National Gypsum’s use of BASF’s Micronal PCMs in its Thermacore drywall has never gotten off the ground.

I found Infiinite R via Google, but can’t seem to find any independent reviews.

Does any one have any insight on this product or viable PCMs?

Norman

Climate Zone 3A – Upstate SC

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Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Norman,
    Over the years, I've reported on lots of studies on phase change materials. I can't help you when it comes to identifying a product that is available for purchase.

    I remain a skeptic when it comes to the value of these materials. I'm not sure what problem these materials are solving. (After all, a well insulated home with a low rate of air leakage isn't particularly hard to heat or cool.) I've read all of the usual justifications, but I'm still a skeptic. Such materials might make sense for a passive-solar building with occupants who don't mind indoor temperatures that range very widely -- cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon -- or for commercial buildings that don't have air conditioning. There aren't many buildings like that. And these materials are expensive.

    Phase change materials promise many of the same benefits as interior thermal mass. For more on thermal mass, see All About Thermal Mass.

    The topic of phase change materials comes up regularly on GBA. Here is a link to a previous thread: Thoughts or opinions on this phase-change material?

    -- Martin Holladay

  2. Anon3 | | #2

    Where are you going to put it? If roof/attic, radiant decking is a better buy.

    PCM is basically thermal mass, it shifts your load from daytime to nighttime in summer and nighttime to daytime in the winter. You can increase the efficiency of your HVAC massively by having the outside temperature move in your favor by 20 degrees.

  3. Pusk | | #3

    I have actually used the product in residential construction. It was applied against the ceiling drywall between the joists in October 2016. Worked fine through the summer, but then round wet spots began to appear on the ceilings mid-summer 2017. The packaging had been breached, in a couple of instances by the installer (cutting), but other areas showed small holes in the packaging. We do not know what caused those. In all cases, the exposed material generated enough water to saturate the drywall at that point and produce the wet spots.
    We now know that if the packaging is in any way breached - even the smallest hole - the hygroscopic material will produce water, and continue to produce water for a long period.. We were able to access the attic easily and removed the material.
    The manufacturer has said that they have since increased the thickness of the packaging to try to avoid such damage, so they are aware of the problem.
    Ultimately, for a house, this doesn't save that much money when compared to the cost, and the risk of something going wrong cancels any benefit. It's a good idea, but better for large roofs on commercial buildings where the material is placed away from the finished interior.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Pusk,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. It's a classic example of the risk of being an "early adopter" builder who integrates cutting-edge materials, and it helps explain why so many builders are conservative.

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