Is Foam Board Insulation Sustainable?
Yes, all foam board insulations are sustainable to some degree because they all help to reduce the heating and cooling loads of homes and buildings. As most heating and cooling fuel sources are currently carbon-based, these energy savings, in turn, will reduce “Operating Carbon Emissions.”
However, a wide range of “Embodied Carbon Emissions” are generated when the various types of foam boards are manufactured. In this sense, some types of foam board insulations are way more sustainable than others.
For instance, foam board insulations made with Graphite Polystyrene (GPS) foam have relatively low levels of embodied carbon emissions, primarily because they use air as their blowing agent.
On the other hand, foam board insulations made with Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) foam have far higher levels of embodied carbon emissions because they typically use gasses with high carbon content for blowing agents.
The difference in embodied carbon emissions can make a BIG difference in overall sustainability. Choosing a GPS foam board insulation instead of an XPS foam board insulation can reduce embodied carbon emissions by a significant amount – this initial embodied carbon savings can represent a home’s entire operating heating & cooling carbon output for a decade or longer.