The insulative properties are among the key benefits of using ICF systems. With forms made from rigid insulation, builders can create concrete walls with a more reliable thermal barrier. It makes for buildings that are more efficient and sustainable.
However, not all ICF products use the same insulation. The technology has come a long way in over half a century of ICF innovation. In this post, we will cover types of ICF insulation and how technology is making them even better.
Insulation Advances in ICF Systems
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)
While it isn’t the first material ever used for insulated concrete forms, EPS is the most common today. Scientists at BASF invented expanded polystyrene around the middle of the 20th Century. Many view it as the original foam ICF.
EPS is an exceptional insulating material due to its high thermal resistance and reliable compressive strength. It is also easy to mold and cut into various shapes. Builders like EPS because it is affordable.
Manufacturers produce EPS by expanding tiny polystyrene beads using steam and pentane. The expansion process occurs in the mold to achieve the desired shape.
Part of what makes expanded polystyrene an effective insulator is that it is mostly air. The insulation panels are about 98% air and 2% plastic. This composition makes it an effective insulator and makes the blocks light and easy to handle.
Extruded Polystyrene (XPS)
Extruded polystyrene is an advance of EPS. The material is chemically similar, but the manufacturing process is different.
Like EPS, XPS is a reliable foam insulation. You get about 25% more insulation from the same thickness. It is also about 50% stronger than EPS foam. However, with these benefits comes an increase in costs. XPS foam costs about 50% more than EPS for the same amount of material. That is why it is much less common.
The production of XPS starts with the same polystyrene beads of EPS production. However, the process involves mixing the beads with chemicals to liquefy the material instead of heating them to expand. A gas-blowing agent creates bubbles in the liquified material. It is then extruded into a shaping die to create the sheets.
With its enhanced strength, XPS might be a better choice for projects in demanding environments. It also has exceptional moisture resistance.
Graphite Polystyrene (GPS)
Graphite polystyrene is one of the latest innovations in ICF insulation. It is an advance on traditional expanded polystyrene insulation. The innovation of GPS is that it has powered graphite as an additive. Graphite gives the blocks a distinctive dark grey appearance.
The manufacturing process of GPS is very similar to EPS. The key difference is the infusion of graphite. Just like EPS, molding is part of the production process. Manufacturers can mold and cut it into a multitude of shapes.
The way the graphite cell structure reflects radiant heat is what separates GPS from other ICF products. With this feature, you get all the benefits of EPS, but it is a more effective insulation. GPS can be up to 33% more insulative than EPS. It also does this while being much more affordable than XPS.
Are you interested in building with ICF blocks? Click here to contact the SuperForm team. Our innovative ICF system outperforms the competition in several ways. We also offer ICF blocks with EPS and GPS foam.
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