Business & Policy
Insulation: It’s a No-Brainer
By Jim Knisley
As I walked across the parking lot the raw northeast wind poked and prodded. Icy needles bit deep.
But walking through a door and into a truck garage the size of a poultry barn, albeit higher, changed all that. It was suddenly warm. The temperature had to be 20 to 25 degrees higher than the raw, bitter day outside.
Looking around, there wasn’t a heater in sight. There were, however, lots of doors. Mounted sideways on the walls and ceiling, these doors weren’t for going in and out: they were insulated cladding inside the garage.
The walk across the parking lot and into the garage was as effective a demonstration of the benefits of insulation as can be imagined. It was practical and persuasive. The walk was worth thousands of words.
That the garage was so well insulated shouldn’t have been a surprise – it is located at Insta-Insulation’s head office just north of Boston, Ont.
Herman Schuts, the founder and president of Insta-Insulation, is a walking encyclopedia on the effectiveness and efficacy of insulation. While most Canadians know the necessity of insulating to take the sting out of winter, fewer recognize the benefits and necessity of insulating against the summer heat.
Cutting energy demand and heating costs in winter is usually top of mind. What is too often given shorter shrift is that insulation, particularly in poultry barns, also works in the summer by keeping heat out of the barns.
But that mindset is changing. Art Kloosterman, of Agro Design Ltd., recently designed four new barns in Eastern Ontario that have insulated floors – a feature that is sometimes overlooked – for winter protection but also have R-50 in the attics.
“It was a no-brainer,” Kloosterman said.
The insulation in the floors is “amazing.” It keeps the litter drier, the birds healthier and saves energy and money. The R-50 insulation in the attic really works in the summer by keeping intense summer heat off the birds and eases the load on the ventilation system, which saves electricity and money.
Cutting energy costs has become increasingly important, he said, as the cost of electricity and propane has risen. With energy costs expected to continue to rise, steps to reduce energy use are becoming commonplace.
He said that enhancing the attic insulation from a more typical R30 or R40 to R50 was inexpensive and is “a good step.”
Kloosterman, who designs barns for a living, is a big believer in the benefits of insulation and increasingly so are the farmers he works for.
For Schuts the proof is, as they say, in the pudding.
“Poultry growers that insulated properly save money on heating; reduce bird crowding; and realize a healthier environment with reduced ammonia levels – all of which means improved yield and attractive payback on investment,” he said.
“The most efficient furnace is one that doesn’t come on,” he said.
Insta-Insulation specializes in insulated floor panels, Walltite spray-in-place polyurethane foam insulation and blown cellulose insulation for attic and wall injection projects.
The floor panels are unique and make creative use of insulated doors or parts of insulated doors. When companies build insulated doors for homes, businesses or garages they are one piece. If a customer wants windows in the doors the material is cut out to create a space for the window. The result is a beautiful door, but also an insulated panel, which from the door company’s perspective is a leftover. Insta-Insulation obtains the leftover panels and shapes them for use in floors.
The one-and-three-quarter-inch polyurethane foam panels, which come enclosed in either steel or fibreglass, have an R-12 insulation rating. The panels are covered by the concrete slab and provide immediate benefits including reduced heating costs, more comfort for the birds, lower mortality, lower maintenance costs, and better feed conversion.
Schuts says he has never met an unsatisfied poultry customer. His company’s installation of well over 10 million square feet of panel floor insulation, as well as research, can back up his claim.
Research has shown a three- to five-cent difference per kilogram of production between barns with insulated floors and barns without floor insulation. With a four-cent difference between the insulated and uninsulated barns the difference can be almost $10,000 a year (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, the Walltite spray-in-place insulation creates a gap-free, airtight seal that is resistant to moisture, sealing any cracks or crevices that cold or warm air could travel through. It also eliminates the need for a plastic vapour barrier.
The blown insulation is a recycled product that offers air barrier qualities because it is tighter and has a high R-value. An additional and important benefit for poultry farmers is that “rodents don’t like blown cellulose,” said Schuts.
Heat follows cold
Schuts says the key to understanding insulation is that “heat follows cold.” If the floor is cold, heat will rush towards it, and in an uninsulated floor the heat will move into the ground below. Insulating the floor eliminates this waste of heat.
If there is a cold spot along the wall the heat will head there. In the summer, if the attic is hot the heat will head into the not-quite-so-hot barn.
Poultry farmers shouldn’t stop at just insulating their barns, as important as that is. Farmers should also consider the benefits of properly insulating their homes. Schuts says savings to homeowners can be substantial and, depending on heat source, could amount to thousands of dollars a year with the additional benefit of keeping the house cooler in summer and reducing the cost of air conditioning.
More information about Insta-Insulation is available at www.instainsulation.com .
In the Jan. 13 edition of the New York Times, Steven M. Anderson, a retired army brigadier general, wrote of the benefits of insulation.
Anderson wrote that as the military’s senior logistician in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 he tracked the fuel needed to power the generators providing electricity for air conditioning and other essential uses.
In 2007, an army study found that spraying foam insulation on the exterior of inefficient structures would reduce their energy requirements by more than 80 per cent and improve the quality of life for the troops living in them, he explained in the article.
As a result of that study, the U.S. military spent $95 million insulating inefficient structures. A 2010 study showed this initiative was saving about $1 billion a year and taking more than 11,000 fuel trucks off the road, he noted.
The U.S. military’s payback was more than $10 for every dollar spent.
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Non-Insulated Floor Insulated Floor – INSTA-PANELS