Insulating Paint Additive Manufacturers Exaggerate Energy Cost Savings
Jan 2, 2002 (Updated Jun 28, 2012)
The Bottom Line In 2002 a number of companies advertised energy savings from ceramic paint additives based upon their own sponsored research, which was exaggerated, unsubstantiated or recognized by nationally accredited agencies.
Insuladd, Thermilate, Thermakote, Thermamix, Hy-Tech Sales...whichever name they choose, they prey upon consumers with a deep desire to save money on energy costs.
THE REAL BOTTOM LINE IS, A VERY FEW KEY SUPPLIERS ARE NOW BEING MORE REALISTIC
Without trying to sound too narcissistic, in 2002 I set out to make some companies (particularly Insuladd/Thermilate and later Thermakote) tell something closer to the truth and to stop exaggerating the potential benefits of products that the average consumer may not fully understand. If taken at face value, who in their right minds wouldn't want to pony up a few hundred dollars for a product that might permanently reduce their heating and cooling costs by up to 40%? Heck, that kind of investment could pay for itself within the first year for many people. For a short time they seemed to delete those wild energy saving claims and I felt vindicated by my original review.
I note that most recently Insuladd has reverted to claiming "Scientifically Proven to Save up to 20% on Your Energy Costs." However, they fail to provide any "scientific proof", and they fail to comply with nationally recognized guidelines for making such claims. They simply provide easily procured testimonials and supported by test results they have funded.
However, as someone from the heating and air conditioning industry, I'd come to learn that when it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. I have never seen a product that promises a payback on investment in less than a year, yet these guys were making those kinds of promises.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2010
When I first wrote this review in 2002, it was to challenge one particular company (Insuladd) to prove wild energy cost saving claims of "Up to 40% on Heating and Cooling Costs". It seemed to me then, as it does now, that no paint additive such as the one being described, even with NASA engineering behind it, could possibly prove such ridiculous energy saving suggestions from a coat of ordinary house paint with ceramic particulates mixed in.
The offending companies also often alluded to being approved by EPA's Energy Star program and to being part of NASA spin-off technology programs. Which sounds pretty impressive in itself.
Recent visits to each of the three top suppliers of these types of products have shown that at least one of them has desisted in making promises of energy savings with specific percentages attached. Hy-Tech Sales or Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions seems to be the only manufacturer not making predictions about cost reductions. Insuladd quit for a short time and then, as reported, started publishing "Up to 20% in Energy Savings..." again.
The other exception has been Thermilate which became Thermakote and now Thermamix out of the UK, which began as a distributor of an American company (Insuladd) still promising energy savings "unpredicted", and now they promise simply less humidity and more comfortable living spaces. They have apparently broken away from the American distributor and either found their own source of supply or are manufacturing it themselves. Amazing to me that their previous adverts promised huge energy savings and now offer "comfort". Either way, it is not relevent, they continue to grossly exaggerate the potential benefits of their products to consumers and no one in Britain seems to care about consumer rights. Their packaging even still looks identical to their former supplier from the U.S.
There are no government organizations that I have found in support of the so-called test data or of their energy saving claims. I would welcome their input here to set me staight about how they can honestly make such energy claims. However, I have only received attacks from them on-line with no support of their energy claims.
Most of the advertisements I've seen recently from the other ceramic paint additive companies simply imply "savings on heating and cooling costs", which would still attract my attention in these days of high cost energy. Unfortunately, they still haven't provided a single case in which significant savings were achieved and the results can be verified scientifically by an unbiased third party nationally accredited test agency.
Insuladd continues to display of the coveted Energy Star Logo on some of their websites, above technical comments about their paint additives that simply flies in the face of the truth. I took the time to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and EPA had this to say about this product type:
The following Questions and Answers are taken directly from the ENERGY STAR website at:
Does ceramic paint work as insulation? Can these paints be ENERGY STAR qualified?
EPA does not recommend paints and coatings be used in place of traditional bulk insulation. We haven’t seen any independent studies which can verify their insulating qualities. (My highlights.)
EPA qualifies paint only as a roof coating in our Roofs program (generally used for the top of a commercial building roof). Roof coatings are NOT insulation. They reflect solar heat off a roof rather than absorbing it keeping the building cooler. Learn more about the ENERGY STAR Roof program.
If a manufacturer uses their status as an ENERGY STAR Roofs Partner to imply that EPA or DOE recommend ceramic paint products and/or considers ceramic paint "insulation" then please report this to us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
I received an email from a representative of EPA informing me that they have asked two manufacturers to stop implying that their paint additive product is endorsed by Energy Star or EPA. The websites implied their paint additive products were Energy Star approved because they had a roofing product that is approved by Energy Star, making them an Energy Star "partner". However, their partner status does not extend to the inclusion of paint additives.
Later, in 2009, I noticed Energy Star has made this statement on their website, regarding paint additives as energy saving technology:
Question: Will the Nano insulating paint that achieves 20% to 40% energy savings be permitted in the program? Answer: Unless a national laboratory or other significant study can definitively show that Nano insulating paint is cost effective and reliable in saving energy, it will not be included in the proposed new homes guidelines.
Suffice to say that all of of the so-called insulating paint additives and particularly, Thermilate had previously all grossly exaggerated the potential fuel savings of their products, which ranged from more than 20% to up to 40%. If a company can not prove the promised energy savings they should be taken to task by the U.S. Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Federal Trade Commission.
What does the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say about this subject?
Excerpt: Quoted verbatim from the United States of America, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Letter dated 02/09/2004, it sets out the rationale for meeting the requirements of the FTC’s Rule for Label and Advertising of Home Insulation(“R-value” Rule) (16 C.F.R. Part 460).
The Rule states that R-values given on labels, fact sheets, ads or other promotional Material must be based on uniform R-value test procedures that measure thermal performance under “steady-state” (i.e., static) conditions. Section 460.5 of the Rule Specifies the tests manufacturers must use for their insulation products, including
Specific tests for reflective insulation's (see 16C.F.R. & 460.5 (b), (c) & (d). Manufacturers and others who sell home insulation must disclose each product’s R-value and related information (e.g., thickness, coverage area per package) on package labels and manufacturers’ fact sheets. In addition, the sellers on receipts or contracts be made: (1) by professional installers, and retailers in the advertising and other promotional materials (including those on the internet) that contain a R-value, price, thickness, or energy-saving claims or compare one type of insulation to another. Finally, manufacturers and other sellers must have a “reasonable basis” for any energy-saving claims they make for their insulation products. (Bold and Italics by me above.)
This FTC letter, sent out in 2004 may have more to do with the softened advertised energy saving promises made in 2001/2002.
In May 2007 a truly unbiased report was published on this product that very effectively supports everything I wrote above, in 2002 and refutes any such potential energy savings.
It may be viewed at:
This independent report is sponsored by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and the report was prepared by the Washington State University.
At least two of the companies I referenced early in my review have since tempered their energy saving claims. I also received direct correspondence from EPA that confirmed they were in agreement with my original review
RIMA International are the organization recognized by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
RIMA is responsible for ensuring that advertised "Interior Radiation Control Coating Systems (IRCCS)" on the market are tested for compliance to standards developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Their test reports highlighted those who met the minimum threshold and those who failed to meet it,
as approved IRCCS's. Minimum rating to meet IRCCS rating is .25 with a 1.00 being the worst case. The test methodology was established by ASTM and set requirements to classify effective IRCCS.
http://www.rimainternational.org/technical/ircc.html It should be noted that companies who sell this sort of product often resort to using technical endorsements by any technical organization who is willing to accept a fee for their test results and public endorsements, which are not recognized by any national organization, as they are too easy to orchestrate or are often founded upon non-technically based experiences.
So for the past several years this review cited Insuladd. their former distributor Thermilate and Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions (AKA: http://www.hy-techsales.com ) For the record both Insuladd and Hy-Tech Sales/Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions have made significant attempts to tone down the energy saving claims and to focus more it seems on roof coatings which are EPA approved and to making generalized statements about their paint coatings. Thermilate as at this writing, continues to make wild promises of up to 40% in energy savings on your heating and cooling costs. They have absolutely no technical support for those promises and they are running the thin edge of the wire in making such promises to consumers.
Use your head and don't buy into their promises of up to 40% in energy savings.
MY REVIEW FROM 2002 RESUMES HERE
This review began when I saw an advertisement from INSULADD, and I saw the magic words that many technically challenged companies use when fishing for uninformed consumers and I couldn't resist following them to Insuladd's home page. Here's their hook, in case you've missed it.
"Reduce your heating & cooling costs up to 40%!" (2001/2002 Advertisement, published on Epinions.)
Insulating house paints can save you hundreds in your utility bills. Insuladd is easy to use and easy to order! Reduce your utility bills quickly ,easily, forever!
What person, in their right mind, wouldn't want to save "up to" 40% on their utility bills? I probably passed this advertisement a hundred times in my travels on Epinions and never gave it a second thought. I just automatically thought, "Cow Dung" and moved along. The other day, the words, "UP TO" registered and I decided to have a look at their product out of a sick sense of curiosity.
It seems they sell bottles of ceramic fiber, in microscopic dust form to mix with house paints. A one quart bottle of dust per gallon of "your favorite house paint". Then by spreading this stuff all over the outside of your home, they claim, you will increase the insulation value of your home and save big on heating and cooling costs. Hence the imaginative name for their product, Insuladd. They are literally suggesting by the name that this product is adding a significant insulation factor to the walls of your home, simply by painting a thin layer of it to the outside or inside of the house.
I had to read through their technical data, test reports that support their claims and testimonials, before I could pass my judgement on their product. COW DUNG, would make a better insulation than Insuladd.
Their technical reports cite U.S. military tests. Using Insuladd on a rocket launcher and testing one with the product and one without. It seems, the one with Insuladd applied kept the cab temperature 6.1 degrees F cooler in a test chamber with heat lamps radiating down on it and in another test a whopping 2.8 degrees F cooler.
" 5. At every location monitored the cab painted with Insuladd had lower temperatures during the test. On the first day temperatures in the cab peaked at 131.7 F in the launcher with the paint additive and 137.8 F for the other launcher. On the second day the cab temperature peaked at 97.7 F and 100.5 F. End of Report"
Now, I may be no rocket scientist, but, I had to wonder how this test data related to home heating and cooling. Are there a lot of families out there trying to keep their rocket launchers cooler in the summer? How does a 2 to 4% temperature differential between two rocket launchers equate to "UP TO" a 40% reduction in your home utility bills?
The short answer is, it doesn't. Those two little words in their ad are their protection against class action suits from those who smear this stuff all over their homes and then see no real benefits from it. They can always say, we said "UP TO" we didn't say a 40% reduction was guaranteed. So, "UP TO" may be from 1% to "UP TO" 40%... although the latter is extremely hard to imagine. In fact, I would venture to say, they have never seen such dramatic results, in any home heating and cooling application.
There are a couple of other examples of tests done in their area, in the state of Florida, which would tend to support that the ceramic dust, will deflect some of the radiant heat on a hot sunny day, which may, in turn reduce the heat gain to the home. So in theory, the cooling system should not need to work as hard. However, a bit of ceramic dust in your paint is not going to represent a major insulation factor on a cloudy day. This product, if it is useful at all, is only going to marginally deflect the heat from those sides of the home that are in direct view of the sun. Inside walls treated with this stuff, would have no impact on the energy consumption and it would represent virtually zero "added insulation".
Heat losses through windows, around doors and through the roof are going to remain the same, unless you want to paint your windows and shingles with this stuff? Under heating season conditions, this material may even work against the heating system, by reducing heat gain through the walls and forcing the central heating system to work harder. In some parts of the country, that could offset the savings on electric cooling bills with increased heating fuel bills.
About twenty years ago a company came out with two little magnets and a mounting bracket. Their ads claimed that homeowners who invested in their product could save "UP TO" 40% on the fuel bills by simply strapping their magnets onto the fuel line to their furnace. The cost was only $29.95 and you could install it yourself. Why do they claim "UP TO 40%"? First, they're banking on your greed for fuel savings and your gullibility. Second, they're betting you won't know the difference after a year or two of trying their product and third, you won't come after them for your $29.95 back.
The company explained that the magnetic current passing through the fuel, straightened out the carbon molecules and reduced friction for improved combustion efficiency. They further claimed the magnets would work equally well on cars, trucks, furnaces running on any type of fuel, including natural gas. COW DUNG!
Some people actually told me it worked! Until I explained that the overall temperatures for the previous years had been colder and their fuel savings were a result of a warmer winter. Regional temperatures are measured around the world by what is known as degree days, which are recorded each year and averaged out. The degree days for any given year are available from your local utility or from home heating oil companies. By comparing your fuel consumption for previous years against recorded degree days, you can come up with a fairly accurate picture of your actual fuel costs.
The magnet people disappeared for a while, only to reappear a few years later with the same product in a different package. Intended now for humidifiers and water coolers. Now, they claimed the magnetic current would reduce the calcium in water by "UP TO" 40%. I have no idea how many consumers still have those useless magnets hanging off of their fuel lines, water pipes and their humidifiers. I'll bet they wouldn't admit to it anyway.
Another sweetheart of the 1980's was the "Thermiser" and again the company's advertisements screamed, "SAVE UP TO 40% ON YOUR FUEL BILLS".For the low, low price of $350.00 (average) you would receive a stainless steel box with flue collars on either end and a baffle plate that restricted the flow of flue gas to the chimney. The baffle was sized to reduce your flue pipe by 1". They were tested by UL, the American and Canadian Gas Associations (AGA/CGA) and found not to be a danger if installed properly. No tests were done to verify the company's fuel saving claims. I conducted a test myself on a typical gas furnace. The result? COW DUNG. Absolutely no effect on the steady state efficiency and an almost immeasurable reduction on off-cycle heat loss from the furnace. (Less than one percent) Yet thousands were sold and I presume many still hang uselessly on chimney pipes around North America.
Imagine the benefits to the world energy crisis and the environment if all of these advertisements were honest and the energy savings were real. With Insuladd mixed in with your house paint, a thermiser on your chimney, and magnets strapped onto your fuel lines. You could save, "up to 120%" on your fuel bills! Which as we all know is impossible without generating free fuel in the process.
Insuladd with their "space age" dust falls into the same category for those who expect any real energy savings on their heating and cooling bills. However at only $12.95 per quart bottle of dust, can you afford not to buy a dozen bottles and coat your house in it?
I even have my doubts on their claim that it's non-toxic and safe as, microscopic ceramic fiber dust has come under a lot of medical scrutiny over the past few years and has been linked to lung disorders very much like asbestos. The University of Cincinnati has cautioned the heating industry about the handling of ceramic fiber logs that have been broken or worn and may produce fibers and dust that can be inhaled. I somehow doubt that it's a good idea to be pouring it from a foil bag into your paint and stirring it up. (Their own website refers to it as "microscopic ceramic particles" and shows contractors whipping it into a bucket of paint without a respirator.)
If you're the kind of person who is still willing to buy some, ceramic dust even after after reading this, please write to me. I have some "magic coffee beans" that will produce "UP TO" 40% more coffee per cup of boiling water. I'm willing to let them go for only $19.95 a pound. This is a time limited offer, while supplies last. This product has been tested and verified by my unbiased brother, who is also the vice president of the Magic Coffee Bean Company.