Volume 6, Issue 9 (October 2009)
Assessment of Energy Rating of Polyurethane Spray Foam Walls: Procedure and Interim Results
The application of polyurethane spray foam (SPF) insulation in buildings provides a durable and efficient thermal barrier. The industry is also promoting the SPF as an effective air barrier system in addition to its thermal insulation characteristics. In an effort to address these issues, a consortium of SPF manufacturers and contractors, jointly with the National Research Council of Canada’s Institute for Research in Construction conducted an extensive research project to assess the thermal and air leakage characteristics of SPF walls as well as conventional wall assemblies. The objective is to develop analytical and experimental procedures to determine a wall energy rating (WER) that captures both the thermal and airleakage performance of a wall assembly. The experimental part included two streams of testing: (1) To determine the wall air leakage rate at different conditions and (2) their thermal resistance, R-value, at different temperature differences. An analytical procedure was also developed to calculate WER by combining the heat loss due to thermal transmission and that due to air leakage with the aim of arriving at WER. Six conventional full-scale wood frame wall assemblies were built, two with glass fiber batts and of four with medium density SPF. Some walls were constructed without penetrations and others were built with penetrations. The testing regime included: (i) Initial testing of air leakage and thermal resistance; (ii) conditioning in the dynamic wall test facility according to an established routine; and (iii) retesting for air leakage and thermal resistance. This paper presents the results of six walls included in this project. The focus of this paper will be on presenting a brief summary of the project objective, testing protocol, and the theoretical approach to determine the WER number for the six walls.