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5 September 2016

Concerns Growing over Environmental Impact of XPS Insulation

When trying to improve the energy efficiency of your home, and by extension reduce your carbon footprint, ensuring that your home is properly insulated is often the first port of call. It seems highly logical- insulate home, conserve heat, save on energy usage and costs- but unfortunately, for certain forms of insulation, you may be doing more harm than you realise.

The problem lies in the production process of many popular forms of XPS (extruded polystyrene) insulation. These boards of rigid foam insulation, which carry many names depending upon the manufacturer (“Blue board” or Styrofoam by Dow Chemical; “pink board” or Foamular by Owens Corning; and green insulation board by Kingspan are among the more concerning brands according to researchers), are produced using large quantities of HFCs.

HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, are man-made greenhouse gases designed to replace CFCs (chloroflurocarbons) as a cooling agent, aerosol propellant or, most applicably to this article, blowing agent used in the production of XPS insulation. The change was made as HFCs do not deplete the ozone layer in the same way that CFCs do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on global warming and the environment as a whole, as they are still considered to be among the most potent of greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately, many consumers and even the builders that use these products on a daily basis are largely unaware of the negative impact they are having on the environment. Speaking to TriplePundit, Jonathan Fulford, President of Artisan Builders, had some strong words to share with those in the industry:

“Putting up blue board insulation all over a house is worse for the climate than not insulating at all, it is actually better to have no insulation and to just crank up the heater and the air conditioner because of the global warming potential (GWP) of many types of home insulation.”

While many within the insulation industry, in particular the suppliers of the aforementioned products, still argue that their products have a positive impact overall, it seems that more research may need to be done not only into the impact of XPS products, but also into the production of cleaner, more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.