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In this 50th episode of the “On The Job” web series, Larry Janesky does something a little different. Rather than walking us through a recent project, he takes us to Dr. Energy Saver’s National Energy Conservation Center – a 40,000 sq. ft. training facility at the company’s headquarters in Seymour CT – to demonstrate how different types of insulation materials will behave in case of a house fire.

Fire rating of insulation materials is something often overlooked not only in energy-efficient upgrades, but also in new construction. There are some code-mandated guidelines for using different types of insulation in different areas of the house, but at Dr. Energy Saver, we believe that the fire safety of homes and buildings can be greatly improved with the right choice of materials.

This is not a scientific test. The purpose of this video is to demonstrate the significant differences in the way different insulation materials behave when exposed to fire.

Using a propane torch, Larry put all the most common types of insulation to the test, including fiberglass (faced and unfaced), open-cell foam, closed-cell foam, open-cell foam with FSK paper, polyisocyanurate foam, fire resistant open-cell foam, expanded polystyrene foam, extruded polystyrene foam, fire block foam, denim insulation, AirKrete injection foam, cellulose and Rockwool insulation.

According to this demonstration, the best performing materials by far were AirKrete injection foam, cellulose and Rockwool, but Larry explains that this should not constitute grounds for avoiding the use any of the other materials, because each different material has its specific application. When it comes to green building and remodeling, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Smart energy-efficient retrofitting is about evaluating each home’s features, energy consumption patterns and finding the best materials and techniques to achieve the most energy savings while making homes more comfortable, healthier and safer.

Dr. Energy Saver dealers nationwide have improved the homes and lives of many homeowners across the United States and we’d love to help you too! Call us or visit our website to locate a dealer near you!

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Can you try to burn hempcrete ? It is supposed to be fireproof and is supposed to be a natural insulation material too. They build entire walls with it. Would love to know how it performs in this test

  2. SO SAD 1 DAY WE WILL SAY HTF DID WE EVER ALLOW FOAM IN ANY FORM TO BE USED IN LARGE AREAS ESPECIALLY HOMES, IT'S AERO SPACE STUFF USED IN EXTREME DESIGNS MANY YEARS AGO, THE GREATEST IDEA EVER IN HOME BUILDING ((NEWS PAPERS)) TREATED CHOPPED IS AMAZING HEAT RETAINER!! & U CANT BELIEVE HOW GREAT & AMAZING THE SOUND PROOFING EFFECT IS USE IT IN YOUR WALLS!! INCREDIBLE ESPECIALLY IF YOUR IN A CONDO/ TOWNHOME

  3. You know a lot of chemical names and acronyms and appear to be knowledgeable in the field of chemistry. What are the names of the chemicals you are inhaling while doing these tests in your confined garage. Do it outside or use a fume hood. I would prefer to be breathing from a hose connected to a tailpipe rather than in the room you are currently in.

  4. Thank you – excellent info and something I was wondering about and was figuring I’d have to do myself – now I don’t. The thing that concerns me is even those where it stopped burning because you took the flame away – is that unlike your torch, home fires don’t just stop (well unless put out) and once other materials catch on fire (framing, interior items) – then the insulation will also continue to burn. From doing various craft projects I have had opportunity to burn a few of the rigid foams and the smell on some are awful – not to mention, the smell of spray foams being insulted. I have read horror stories of people ending up with toxic homes that the smell just doesn’t go away and people are made sick. You weren’t using any breathing protection, but I suspect your building has an excellent air purification as most folks wouldn’t burn some of these in an enclosed non-ventilated space. I’d like to see testing that discusses toxic fumes of the various insulation products used here both when burned and after being installed and you move in to a new home or back into a remodeled one.  I believe we have to consider not only efficiency in insulation but also our health (personal and environment) short and long term. Many of the efficient buildings are being built so air tight that mechanized ventilation systems must be installed and run 24/7 providing proper draft for gas stoves, fireplaces, wood stoves, etc BUT mostly for the quality of the air inside the home. By all accounts, the air in our homes is much more toxic than outside air. But here is my concern – what happens when the unit breaks down, or power is off for extended periods. In my current home of 30 years, we have had 3 instances where the power was off due to natural causes (snow storms, hurricanes, etc) – those 3 events without power were each a length of 9-11 days, 2 in winter, one in dead heat of summer (90-95F with 80%+ humidity). Well opening the windows in the winter is just not acceptable to provide ventilation, and the tightness of some of these homes makes lighting a fireplace, or wood/pellet/gas virtually impossible much less keeping it going without smoke. I know several folks where even with a special ventilation system, their backup wood stove nor their AGA gas cook stove won’t operate as it did prior to building the new home. I’m getting ready to have a small custom home built and I want an efficient home but not to the point of being dependent on some mechanized system to be able to breathe.
    Wood like to see water testing such as when flooded, pipe breaks, roof leaks. This would tie in with testing of various types of drywall especially comparing to Magnesium board (MgO) – both fire, water as in most cases – insulation is covered with something. If not doing this with all types used in this video – then the 3 top winners and a couple of most commonly used foams (spray and rigid).  
    Then there is more in-depth look at the 3 clear winners of the insulation to cover cost per square ft to install both remodel and new home; how installation affects performance as quality of contractors and their work force has sharply declined from say 20 years ago. When talking to various levels of folks while preparing to build a new home – hearing comments like “rockwool is installed the same as fiberglass (or magnesium board is the same as regular drywall – if you want to spend more money, fine); and it is really the same -just shove it in, nail it up, works the same, why spend more money, or the one I love talking about anything green “now your talking about some real money, hope you have really deep pockets” is scary. Yet, they don’t have the cost differences and they don’t want to quote those differences – just say “look when we deal with those materials or methods – we use it and hand you the bill afterwards – be prepared to spend more money for all this nonsense”. What kind of answer is that? And women are definitely at a disadvantage with these guys – sometimes I feel like I’m in the 70s trying to buy a car.
    I’m going to check your other videos and website to see if you have already covered the testing mentioned above. Thanks again.

  5. As I watch Mike Holms show the best way to build your house is with foam insulation or Rock wool.
    Also treat lumber with fire retardant. This way the house wouldn't burn. Yes you can spray this on older homes lumber.

  6. Ha ha, this makes me chuckle, been told by an architect that natural insulation’s have less of a fire rating than modern, fibre glass and foam insulation’s. But apparently the PIR is the only way to do it. But I’m demonising modern methods. The tower block fire in London was fed by the PIR foam insulation and funny how here in U.K. PIR and spray foam bolt have a fire rating at the moment.

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