Since 2005, when the AG Sealants Platform was first introduced we have received a lot of questions, the most of them were, "What is the difference between spray foams and spray sealants"? The answer is Spray sealants stop air and moisture from coming into buildings and is very much rooted in our passion to bring to farmers a solution to this very old problem.
As most farmers know, making something that holds up in the incredibly harsh environment in which they work in is not an easy task. This is why AireBarrier spray sealants were created, so farmers could know that the agseal they receive is a durable air sealant for their energy retrofit project. You see, sealant technology does matter!
This case study is unfortunately a familiar story for many farmers
who have made a decision to use poultry spray foam in the sidewalls of their poultry
house. There are many reasons why poultry spray foam will not create the durability farmers need. While it can work in the roof line of many ag buildings, it will
not hold up over time in areas where it is exposed to moisture, bugs
and heavy equipment. This is why we offer Ag-tite Spray Foams and Ag-tite Spray Sealants which both work through the patent pending Spray Foam Hybrid.
Before actually looking at the products, it is first constructive to look at agricultural buildings in general. For the most part, they are very large structures and rely heavily upon inexpensive ventilation systems to force the air from one side of the building to the other. So, unlike most other building envelopes, the concern is not necessarily insulation value, but whether the air is operating in a barnseal. If the building is not tight, and leaks a lot of air and water, that in itself will cause a tremendous amount of inefficiencies and will of course cost more in energy useage.
of these unique dynamics, most of the opportunities to poultry house insulation areas are on the sidewalls where most of the leaks occur. As the
building gets older, it moves and racks, which causes a lot of the
joints to wear, crack and open up. When that happens, the
ventilation flow is changed and this creates a lot of other problems. The best change to correct the issues is not to look at the roof, but to find
the "Low Hanging Fruit" on the sidewalls.
So why doesn't spray foam hold up? Will all foam last? There are actually many reasons for this which will be listed below, but it is important for this discussion to understand how we categorize "spray foam". While there are various types of foam, most are broken down into two categories. One is the Open Cell (.5 lb) and the other is Closed Cell (1.7lb - 2.0 lb).
While there are some applications where Closed Cell spray foam could be used, especially in the repair of a roof or ridge cap, there is absolutely no application where an Open Cell foam should be utilized. With that said, for the most part, any of the foam insulators should not be applied for the following reasons:
1) It is very difficult, if not impossible, to spray any foam insulation and leave a smooth surface. This is critical to the durability of any product and as we will discuss later, this is what makes the Ag-tite unique.
2) Spray foam will leave seams or ridges after they are sprayed, and these are areas that darkling beetles can use to gain access into the material.
3) Spray foam at lower densities are less likely to adhere to all of the different material that is in an ag building. Because there are so many dissimilar materials like wood, OSB, concrete, plastic and steel, adhesion is a very important issue. The higher the adhesion rate, the more likely it will stay connected over time.
4) Spray foam, whether .5lb or 2.0lb is basically designed to be used in residential or commercial markets. It was not designed for the rigors of agriculture and was in fact designed to be covered with some type of protection, like dry wall, after it has been sprayed. There are several chemical blending companies that make polyurethane foam that prohibit it from being left exposed and many suppliers have never gone back to look at their product after it has been sprayed in an ag building to see if it holds up. They just want to sell product and hope for the best.
5) In most cases, energy efficiencies for ag buildings can come primarily when the building is air sealed. This was proven by Sealant Technologies when they created Ag-tite that was first test sprayed for the 2005 study with Auburn University (see Poultry Studies). Because ag buildings rely so much upon ventilation, when you improve that, you gain significant improvements in not only energy, but feed conversion and other production gains.
6) Most open and closed cell spray foams have a very thin skin after they have been sprayed and have cured. The first line of protection for any product going into the ag market is the skin, and when that is broken damage to the product starts. In most cases, the skin on most foams is so thin that you can poke your finger through it. A thick skin is critical to having a durable product.
7) Finally, spray foam manufacturing companies focus on selling the open cell (.5lb) and closed cell (2.0lb) products which are used primarily for insulation, not for sealing. Most of their customers are in the commercial, industrial or residential business. If they can sell foam to the ag industry, that is an added bonus but they are unwilling to develop products specifically designed for the agriculture industry. In some cases they are willing to just sell the foam and are not concerned where it is being sprayed and if it will hold up.
So why did the foam in this case study which we are presenting here fail. There are many reasons why this foam did not even last 2 years. Here are some of those reasons for consideration:
1) The company that did the work was primarily a company that sprays foam in residential houses. While they did use a 2.0lb foam, and while it probably looked good after they sprayed it, the fact that the company had not done much work in the agriculture industry, so they did not understand what they were up against when it came to moisture, bugs, etc.
2) When they did spray the walls, they sprayed the foam just the way they would do it if they were spraying a residential house. There were many areas on the wall which presented opportunities for the darkling beetles to break past the soft shell and get into the foam.
3) Another aspect that occurred over time was that the farmer would spray wash his house, and when he did the high pressure water would also break through the skin of the foam and cut into the product.
4) The company that applied this foam blended the foam with a black paint, which over time will break down the foam. If a foam is to take on a color, like black or white, it needs to have a very special colorant put into the foam chemistry so that the product doesn't not break down and so it maintains its color over time.
5) The company that applied this foam to this farm only used one type of product, which is true in almost all cases. It is impossible to create a very durable project if you only have one type of foam. The application company must have different products for different areas of the house. If they only use one product for everything, it is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. I just won't work over time.
So what does work? Since 2005, Sealant Technologies has been applying their Ag-tite program and many of these applications are still intact today. While we are constantly working on making our program even more durable, we believe that we have found ways to make this technology work for the farmer. They include:
1) Focusing on polyurethane sealants and not polyurethane spray foams. We believe that if the farmer looks for ways to seal his building verses insulating it, then durability can be achieved.
2) Make sure that the air sealants have a very hard yet flexible coating after they have cured.
3) Use heavy density chemistry which means that the sealants need to be at least 3.0lb in density.
4) Have different sealants for different areas of the ag building. Ag-Tite has 7 different sealants in three different colors that we can use for the specific project.
5) Use colorants in our chemistry, not paint.
6) Have a sealant chemistry that has high adhesion. The product must stick to all different types of surfaces, including concrete which is one of the most difficult surfaces stick to.
6) Have trained applicators who are only focused on spraying ag buildings. This is everything. When we focus on ag, the project we are working on will be applied, sprayed and finished according to what the farmer needs, not according to some other type of customer.
7) Have different price points including the ability to quote entire solid sidewall projects or simple maintenance jobs.