Residential Exterior Insulating Paint: InsulAdd

Insulating paint, or radiant barrier paint, is a relatively new product that is still under scrutiny. It essentially uses traditional paint with an additive that reduces the buildup of heat by reflecting it, thereby insulating the building from the outside

Oddly enough, the development of residential-use insulating paint began at NASA in an attempt to cool down shuttle components that became too hot during launches (the resulting products were too costly, highly toxic and environmental disasters). When businessman David Page, owner of Tech Traders Inc., saw a potential market for insulating paint in the residential sector he consulted with NASA’s Technology Transfer program office, a branch of NASA that provides technical assistance to small businesses.

With Page’s expertise and his new access to NASA technology, “Insuladd” was created for residential applications. Insuladd’s house paints, primers and roof coatings are non-toxic, economical, green and extremely effective. They have received a lot of positive attention from U.S. and international media for being non-solvent, low VOC and even California code compliant. Sounds great, right? Well, don’t get too excited just yet.

Is Insuladd worth it?

It costs roughly $45 per $5 gallon for the additive, which is a small price to pay if Tech Trader’s claim is true: that it can cut the amount of heat that seeps into your home by 20 percent. A 1/5th decrease on your energy bill would certainly be worth it if that’s the case. However, there are skeptics out there. The EPA, in 2009, expressed their concern that there weren’t enough studies performed that validated the performance of insulating paint. Other skeptics claim that the hype was bigger than the savings – they say that the “NASA technology” used in Insuladd provided great build-up, but the savings on energy costs have yet to be seen as worth the cost of the product, especially in homes located in mild or average climates. Energy Ideas ClearingHouse – an independent alliance between Washington State University and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance – confirmed and supported the claim that 20 percent less heat penetrates homes coated with Insuladd paint, though they also remarked that it worked best on areas of the home exposed to direct sunlight all day long (not many areas of any homes are exposed to direct sunlight all day). EnergyIdeas also found that in winter, more heat escaped the house. They also asserted that insulating paint requires more maintenance than regular exterior paint: the products’ ability to reflect heat fades relatively quickly, requiring recoating more often.

But NASA disagrees. They stand by their man David Page and his product, arguing that Insuladd helps generated heat and air conditioning remain inside the home, thereby reducing homeowners’ energy bills. They say that this not only helps the homeowners’ finances and therefore the economy, but it helps the environment as well.

Proponents of insulating paint and their adversaries agree on one thing: the product should not be used in place of standard insulation and energy-efficiency practices but as a supplement to them in order to achieve optimal results.

So, the question remains: is insulating paint worth it? We don’t know. We’ve never used it, and there are compelling arguments on both sides. One thing is clear, however: $45 per 5 gallons of paint is not a significant cost increase when painting a home’s exterior. Unless you live in a mansion, ten gallons is more than enough paint for the average home – so it may be worth a try.

The following article from NASA provide great supplemental information to this article:

  1. Read: NASA article, “Insulating Paint Powder Turns Every Color ‘Green'”
  2. Read: NASA article, “Additive Transforms Paint Into Insulation”

Find me, Richard D’Angelo, President of CraftPro Contracting and this article’s author on Google+. You can also visit CraftPro on Google+ and join our community of home improvement, maintenance and renovation professionals.

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