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R50, Local, Sustainable and No Itching

Posted by on July 7, 2011

One of the things that came from our energy audit done by Southern Energy Management (SEM) was to increase the insulation in our attic.  I will talk more about the SEM report in a later blog.  Nineteen years ago, our house was constructed to the required R30 insulation in the attic. Now, construction consultants recommend at least R49.  I was not looking forward to adding itchy fiberglass insulation to the attic in the summer.

Fortunately, my timing to tackle this project was good. Last week, in Paul Toma’s newsletter from Common Ground Green Building Center in Durham, NC, I was introduced to EnGuard™ insulation made by Vita Nonwovens, a product made from recycled plastic bottles in High Point, NC. This product does not itch nor require the wearing of any safety equipment.

On Friday, I drove to High Point and picked up 13 bags of their R21 insulation, which will take our attic insulation to R51. I was able to meet Jim Evans, their operational manager, who gave me a quick tour of their facility. They receive the recycled polyester in bales. The bales are plastic soda bottles that have been chopped up and broken back down to a fiber. The fiber is put into a giant hopper and mixed with a few other products in order to make it fire retardant. Then the fiber is rolled out in sheets and run through a gas dryer. Here the sheets are formed into 2 x 6 feet by 5.5 inch pieces.

Here’s a quick cost comparison:  you can buy fiberglass insulation, wear a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans in a 90 degree attic with a dust mask for $.80 per square foot or work with a much more sustainable product in a t-shirt and shorts for $1.15 per square foot. The total difference on this project was a little over $200 bucks.  Another thing I learned is that fiberglass insulation loses its R-value over time, while EnGuard is resistant to long-term degradation and has a robust compression recovery. For the Vita Nonwovens operation 50% of the materials are sourced within 500 miles of High Point.

With the help of Michel from Sustainable Alamance, we installed most of the 13 bags on Saturday.  I have to pick up an insulation-cutting tool from Paul next week to cut some strategic pieces in order to finish the attic.


2 Responses to R50, Local, Sustainable and No Itching

  1. Sandra Sarlinga

    Hi Eric, very interesting journey. I will follow every step!

  2. eli may

    Great stuff Eric,look forward to chatting with you about this at the CSM!
    See ya soon, eli

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