The biggest news in insulation and home envelope products is not the products themselves, but how they are finding new relevance as energy prices climb and green trends soar.
Home envelope improvements open a new market to remodeling professionals. "The better we can attach the service to the green remodeling surge, the greater the chance of this being an increasing business opportunity," says Chandler von Schrader, manager of Energy Star's Home Performance program.
Manufacturers realize this movement affects sales. Dow offers the Froth-Pak, a portable polyurethane spray-foam insulation kit. The company "really saw growth and expansion" in the product about two years ago, says senior market manager Karel Williams. "It can be used in a weekend project to improve insulation around the house or to fix a draft around a roof or ceiling," Williams says.
Experts advise adding more insulation to attics and basements to improve efficiency with the least hassle. The Energy Department lists on its Web site R-value recommendations by geographic area. In 2006, Guardian Building Products released Fatt Batt fiberglass batt insulation to meet the agency's guidance of R-49 for attics and ceilings. Gale Tedhams, director of sustainability for Owens Corning, suggests the company's ProPink Fast Batt product for wall cavities and remodeling applications. CertainTeed recommends its DryRight fiberglass insulation and moisture barrier for wall cavities.
Other products can complement insulation to boost efficiency even further. In February, Louisiana-Pacific launched TechShield, a foil product laminated to heavy kraft paper. When stapled to rafters, it blocks radiant heat and decreases attic temperature by 30 degrees, says Lorraine Bittles, OSB associate product manager for LP. "We've seen a huge jump in people wanting to [make improvements] now without having to remove the roof sheathing," she says.
Spray-foam insulation fits well into remodeling applications but usually is too expensive for dealers to supply. Rick Duncan, senior market manager of spray foam for Honeywell, says his company has seen double-digit growth in the past three years in its closed-cell spray foam. He suggests dealers work with spray-foam contractors to develop a service.
Dealers can also invest in products that help find insulation problems. Flir offers infrared cameras to help building professionals detect moisture within a home. Another tool is a blower door. A variable-speed fan sits inside door frames, measures the leakiness of a house, and reveals the location of many air leaks. Three main manufacturers of blower doors are The Energy Conservatory, Infiltec, and Retrotec Energy Innovations.
Many also say dealers can go beyond supplying materials and become a source of information for qualified remodelers. Owens Corning has sponsored training sessions through Houses that Work and Environments for Living to help suppliers. "Dealers are interested, because they are getting questions from builders, who are getting questions from homeowners," says Tedhams.
Karen Steele, CertainTeed's marketing manager for the retail and lumber division of insulation, says some of her sales managers see their supplier customers becoming green educators. "Dealers could position themselves well by offering education and guidance through the whole green movement," she says.