For optimal energy efficiency, EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) rigid foam insulation is an excellent choice. It effectively reduces air leakage in roofs, walls, and below-grade assemblies, contributing to significant energy savings. The required insulation thickness varies depending on building design, climate, and energy costs, emphasizing the importance of selecting the most cost-effective R-value per inch.
EPS stands out with its R-value ranging from 3.60 to 4.20 per inch, distinguishing itself as the only rigid foam insulation maintaining stable thermal resistance from the point of manufacture. This feature makes it ideal for buildings with space constraints and those requiring higher insulation values. For instance, EPS with an R-4 per inch rating can double the insulation of traditional materials of the same thickness.
Unlike other insulation materials, EPS does not require long-term thermal resistance (LTTR) testing. This is because it does not experience thermal drift, ensuring a consistent R-value throughout the building's lifespan. This absence of thermal drift translates into cost savings and reliable performance over time.
A practical application of EPS is in Slab-On-Grade floors. The U.S. Department of Energy1 notes that insulating the exterior edge of the foundation slab can cut winter heating bills by 10 to 20 percent. Such insulation also provides thermal mass, moderating indoor temperatures.
Innovative building systems like Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) have demonstrated increased energy savings when using EPS. A 1993 Florida Solar Energy Center study revealed that a building with EPS insulation had only 1.8 air changes per hour (ach), compared to 3.9 ach in a conventional stick frame construction. ICFs made with EPS also show similar efficiency in studies conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Houses with ICF exterior walls built using EPS require approximately 44% less energy for heating and 32% less for cooling compared to traditional frame houses. When installed correctly, EPS insulation minimizes heat transfer, enhancing the building's energy efficiency. Further studies from the Cement Association of Canada (CAC) and the Northwest Territories Housing Corp. (NWTHC) confirm that homes with ICFs for above and below-grade walls have lower air infiltration rates than other types of wall assemblies.
In summary, EPS is a robust and reliable insulation choice, offering long-term thermal stability and cost-effectiveness. Its use in various structural systems like SIPs and ICFs further reinforces its position as a leading material in energy-efficient building design.