Insulating Paint: What It Is and How It Works

Insulating Paint: What It Is and How It Works

Insulating paint is a concept based on a long-sought-after goal of insulating structures by applying a specially formulated paint coating — instead of more labor-intensive, conventional methods such as installing insulating material in the attic and inside walls.

In the 1990s, NASA pursued research into insulating coatings to protect space vehicles from extreme heat during re-entry into the atmosphere. Today, several manufacturers produce insulating paint for structures.  Limited tests have been conducted on these products thus far and results have been both minimal and mixed: 

  • One organization concluded that insulating paint applied on the small scale of a typical residence would not meaningfully reduce energy costs.
  • Another test found that the paint provided only the same heat-rejecting function as applying any conventional light-colored exterior paint.  
  • A major university test, conversely, noted that insulating paint could reduce heat gain in a house by up to 20% when applied to walls that face continuous direct sun exposure. However, performance data from when paint is applied to walls that are not sun-facing was not available.

Research is ongoing, but the development of a paint coating that functions as efficiently as other insulating materials is still in the indefinite future. At present, most experts agree that winter heat loss and summer heat gain — as well as the increased energy costs that result — are best controlled by the following standard methods:

  • Upgrade insulation in the home to meet current DOE energy standards. Here in northern Georgia, DOE recommends insulating the attic from R-30 up to R-60 and interior wall cavities R-13 to R-15. This translates to 10 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation in the attic and 3 1/2 inches inside walls. For cellulose loose-fill insulation, the attic depth ranges from 8 inches to 17 inches. Inside walls, cellulose typically fills the wall cavity.  
  • Perform standard air-sealing procedures to locate and seal cracks, gaps, and other openings that allow heat to enter or leave the house.

For more about the future promise of insulating paint — as well as proven options to improve the insulating value inside your home now — contact Powers Heating & Air.

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