Protect Your Home and the Environment with Soy-based Insulation

Brett Freeman

Whether you are building a new home or renovating an older house, one of the best things you can do to make it an eco-friendly dwelling is to properly insulate it. Poorly insulated homes leak air, meaning that, depending on the season, much of the air being pumped out of your HVAC system ends up outside--both heat and air conditioning. To compensate, your furnace or air conditioning unit stays on much longer than it should, leading to higher energy bills, wasted energy resources, and higher emissions of pollutants. In contrast, a properly insulated home holds in hot or cold air, which keeps you comfortable while you save energy.

Spray Foam = Tight Seal
The first generation of spray foam insulations has been hailed as green because of the superior job they do. These spray foams expand to fill whatever space they are sprayed into, creating an airtight seal with no holes, cracks, or seams to allow air to leak out of your house. But that green credential came with an asterisk, because the spray foam was largely made of petrochemicals. More recently, truly green types of spray foam made primarily from soybean oil have hit the market. These soy-based products do as good a job as their predecessors, are comparably priced, and are made from sustainable sources and contain low or no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).

More Money, But More Value
Soy-based spray foam insulation costs anywhere from three to six times more than traditional fiberglass batt insulation, and about 50 percent more than blown-in fiberglass insulation. It also does a better job, which results in heating and cooling bills that are about 15 percent lower, so the difference in cost can be made up over time.

Soy-based spray foam is best used in new construction or for renovations that involve tearing out interior walls. It doesn't have the same versatility as insulation that can be blown into place, including between interior and exterior walls, because the foam expands to 100 times its original size after being sprayed. If you tried to put soy-based spray foam in between walls, it would likely expand your drywall right off of the wall studs. Spray foam also hardens as it dries, making it difficult to run new wires behind your walls. If you think you might want to add outlets or light fixtures in the future, make sure to pre-wire for them before installing soy-based spray foam insulation in your walls.

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.




 

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


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