Insulating Non-Conditioned Buildings vs Conditioned Buildings
BlueTex™ insulation products are primarily intended for non-conditioned (or semi-conditioned) buildings. For example, barns, sheds, metal outbuildings, airplane hangars, garages, storage facilities, poultry facilities, etc. While BlueTex™ can certainly be used for fully conditioned spaces (climate-controlled structures that are heated and/or cooled), however typically in these types of spaces, you will need additional insulation. BlueTex™ insulation combines the power of a radiant barrier and foam insulation for the best defense against radiant heat in metal buildings.
What is a non-conditioned building?
A structure that fits the definition of a non-conditioned building simply means this building isn't utilizing any means of heating and/or cooling inside of it.
This type of building is mostly used as a shelter or storage facility and it includes buildings that may require extra ventilation, like a garage or a woodworking shop. Common examples of commercial non-conditioned buildings are barns and poultry facilities. The inside temperature of these buildings is pretty much directly correlated to the temperature outside on a given day. Non-conditioned buildings are often “fully ventilated,” meaning they will have doors and/or windows that can be opened to allow free airflow across the building.
What is a semi-conditioned building?
This is probably the most common application for BlueTex™ foam and foil products. Typically, when we say "semi-conditioned", we are referring to a building like a garage, workshop, warehouse etc. This would be a building that for MOST of the time, you are not heating and cooling it. However, when it gets extremely HOT or COLD, you may want to run an AC window unit, a mini-split, propane heat, or some other type of cooling/heating source to take the edge off and make the building more comfortable (or to prevent freezing). You probably are not looking to keep it a CONSTANT 75º in the summer or 65º in the winter (regulating temps like this would be considered a conditioned building - see below), but you would like to make it more comfortable on as as-needed basis. Maybe you decide to heat/cool a few hours on the weekend, or a couple hours in the evenings. If that's your situation, you have a semi-conditioned space.
BlueTex™ products are PERFECT for these semi-conditioned applications! There is a trade-off between the cost of adding more insulation and the improved comfort and energy efficiency achieved. Yes, spending a lot more money on thicker/higher R-value WILL make the building more comfortable and will save energy in the long run, if you are heating/cooling on a constant basis. But, if you are only occasionally heating/cooling then you can save thousands of dollars with BlueTex™ products compared to products like spray foam or other r-value materials.
Yes, it WILL cost a little more to heat/cool per hour, but over the long run you will save a lot of money because you're only heating/cooling as-needed. Remember, the foil side of BlueTex™ (when installed properly with an air gap) will act like a tree on a cloudy day by reflecting 97% of radiant heat. This ALONE will keep the building much more comfortable when it’s sunny outside. We like to think of BlueTex™ products like a lightweight jacket: most of the time it’s all you need. Occasionally you many need something more, and that’s when you kick on the A/C or heat, to go that extra mile.
What is a conditioned building?
A structure that fits the definition of a conditioned building is one that is continually using some version of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) for heating and/or cooling and to control the humidity level inside the space. Typically, the goal is to maintain about 75ºF in the summer and 65ºF in the winter and so these places are constantly using HVAC.
Examples of conditioned buildings within the metal building space would include many red-iron or PEMB (pre-engineered metal buildings) and the fast-growing metal building segment - Barndominiums. In addition to the HVAC, these type of buildings are usually well insulated and pretty airtight. Think of them as being just like a big refrigerator (a well-insulated, airtight box). When weather changes, they adjust the methods by which they stay cool. In summer, when heat is entering the building or in the winter when heat is escaping the building, the HVAC will both pull the heat out, or add heat back into it, in order to maintain the desired internal temperature and humidity level.
If you're constructing a fully-conditioned building and are using spray foam, we have an incredible offer for you!
Insulating non-conditioned buildings
For most, the key to insulating these buildings is first understanding why the building is so hot; in many cases the internal temperature of the building can be much hotter than it is outside! The main reason for that is radiant heat - heat coming from direct exposure to the sun. So consider that a typical metal building is, at its core, just a big metal box sitting outside in full sunlight. This is really no different than a car parked in the sun. We all know that being in a parked car in the sun can be deadly. We also know that you can park that same car in the shade and sit in it all day without the same risk or discomfort.
It’s pretty basic - the only way you're going to cool it down is to block or reflect heat from the sun! Being in the shade makes a HUGE difference. That being the case, usually the best we can hope for in a building or a car in the sun, is for it to be no hotter than ambient (outside) temperature. The key to getting results like this is to block the radiant heat.
Radiant heat in non-conditioned buildings
Think back to the above example about the car parked in the sun. In both scenarios (car parked in the sun and car parked in the shade), the outside *air* temperature is the *same* whether the car is in the shade or the sun. So what's the difference if the air temps are the same? The difference is the car in the sun is absorbing the sun's radiant heat.
Now think of your building that is heating up - it's in sunlight most, if not all, of the day! Just like the car, it's going to heat up - and at some point in the day it's going to become hotter inside the building than it even is outside the building! We know that shade would help solve the problem, but outside of moving your building or planting a bunch of trees, how can you do this?
Creating "shade" inside your building using radiant barrier
How do we put a non-conditioned building "in the shade” to block the radiant heat? Well, it's pretty simple - use radiant barrier! A radiant barrier will reflect the radiant heat away from the building. Did you know the 99% pure aluminum surface on all BlueTex™ products is, in fact, a radiant barrier! The foil layer will REFLECT 97% of radiant heat that hits it.
Radiant heat is the INVISIBLE part of the light spectrum. So this means even though you don't see the light, you can FEEL THE HEAT! Here's an example: if you put your hand near the inside wall or roofline of a metal building that sits in direct sunlight, you will feel the radiant heat on the inside of the building, even though the actual sunlight isn't in the building. All you have to do is get the reflective foil insulation somewhere between you/the inside of the building and the exterior metal and just like that, you are “in the shade” (from the radiant heat). Remember it’s not the light that makes the building hot, rather it’s the infrared radiation or radiant heat that makes the inside of the building hot.
The only requirement for this set up to work is that you MUST keep an airspace on one side of the foil, this is most often going to naturally occur between the exterior metal and the foil layer. This airspace is critical to the product working - the heat must radiate (or emit) from the metal, across the air gap, in order for it to be reflected (by the foil layer).
What you can expect after you install BlueTex™ insulation
When you install a BlueTex™ insulation product with the foil side facing outward, the effect is just like putting the building in the shade (or like having a really cloudy day). If you combine that effect with some basic ventilation (think open doors and/or windows, static roof vents, etc.), the building will both feel and actually be much cooler!
Remember: the building is non-conditioned, so it will still be close to ambient (outside air) temperature. That means if it's a 90ºF day, the interior of the building should be close to 90ºF too. Even so, it will feel significantly cooler, since you have taken out (blocked) the radiant heat.
Another added benefit to using a radiant barrier is that when you reflect the radiant heat right at the source (ie. close to the exterior metal), before it gets inside the building, the contents of the building will be much cooler (which also lends to an overall cooler interior). Things like stored items, cars, farm equipment, supplies, shelves, tools, etc. will all be as much as 20ºF cooler after the BlueTex™ insulation is installed! Not only that, but the concrete floor is going to be significantly cooler too! It will literally feel like the difference between night and day inside the building.
What’s the ABSOLUTE BEST PART? INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY! When you or your employees are more comfortable and you're NOT literally being “cooked” inside the metal building, everyone is happier and more productive! There are many studies that show that as the work environment gets hotter, employee productivity decreases dramatically.
With all these benefits and a pretty simple install approach, BlueTex™ insulation is the best investment to make the biggest impact in a non-conditioned space. Now that you've learned the difference between these structures, it's time to get started on your installation!
NEW Construction instructions for how to add BlueTex insulation during new construction for non-conditioned, semi-conditioned, and fully conditioned spaces.
RETROFIT Construction instructions for how to add BlueTex insulation to existing construction for non-conditioned and semi-conditioned spaces.
FULLY-CONDITIONED We are looking for buildings that will be fully heated/cooled for case studies. Find out if your building will qualify for huge rebates and a custom consultation.