|November 15, 1999
Office of the Secretary
RE: ANPR Comment, "R-value Rule", 16 CFR Part 460
The Foamed Polystyrene Alliance of the American Plastics Council (FPSA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on proposed amendments to the "R-value Rule" promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).1 We applaud FTC efforts to date in this matter and believe that the discussion contained in the advanced rulemaking is very thoughtful and balanced.
There are five main areas where FPSA believes further consideration is appropriate. They relate to the areas of:
IV.A.2 Disclosing Thermal Performance in Commercial Insulation Applications
Philosophically, FPSA supports extending the "R-value Rule" ("Rule") to insulation intended for commercial buildings. Applications involving insulation systems require that the specifier possess a working knowledge that extends well beyond simply understanding the R-value of the insulation.
However, many specifiers and architects do not really understand the technical basis and testing procedural aspects on which standardized FTC disclosure requirements contained in the R-value Rule rely. Mostly, they rely solely on manufacturers claims and Fact Sheet information when preparing specifications involving foundation, wall or roof systems. FPSA frequently receives calls from specifiers and architects wanting more information about how to properly compare insulation types. Based on these calls, it is FPSAs opinion that long-term R value is often times not an issue with which architects and specifiers have vast knowledge about.
Building systems are typically designed to take into account the thermal resistance of the insulation, as well as the contribution of heating and cooling equipment (HVAC), other building components, such as fenestration etc., and other materials used in conjunction with the insulation to achieve an overall building performance. In this regard, architects and specifiers know what R-value for a particular building, component, or component system they must achieve and specify an insulation product based on the manufacturers representation of such.
Improper installation, environmental factors, and facers, when and where they exist, all affect R-value in different ways for different products. It is nearly impossible for an architect or specifier to keep up to date with the technical data underlying such R-value claims. Therefore, while FPSA philosophically supports extending this rule to commercial applications, it should be noted that FPSA must add the caveat that it may not have any benefit unless other aspects of this rulemaking (i.e., long-term aging requirements and proper disclosure elements) are satisfactorily addressed. Without implementing guidelines designed to ameliorate these issues, applying the R-value rule to commercial applications will only add cost to the manufacturer without achieving any benefit.
IV.C.1.a Aging of Cellular Plastic Insulations
FPSA proposes that the FTC adopt the use of ASTM C 1303 (i.e., Standard Test Method for Estimating the Long-Term Change in the Thermal Resistance of Unfaced Rigid Closed Cell Plastic Foams by Slicing and Scaling Under Controlled Laboratory Conditions) for unfaced rigid cellular foam plastic insulation. And, we urge FTC to adopt a substantively-comparable, consensus-standard, alternative for faced insulation products. Further, FPSA urges FTC to adopt a 5-year aged reporting value as determined under the appropriate test method or actual real-time aging of samples. FPSA suggests that FTC retain the requirement to report R-value at 180-days, in addition to using a five-year aging reporting requirement as the primary R-Value benchmark. This will truly assist those who want to compare various R-value claims of manufacturers and assist the specifier in designing the best R-value for a given application.
Rationale and Support for FPSA PositionThe cellular foam plastics industry has struggled for many years over the appropriate test methodology for determining the long-term, in-service, thermal resistivity value for foam plastic insulations. It should be noted that the R-value of EPS products are stablethey are not affected by age.
Over the years, several attempts have been made to develop procedures to accurately predict or determine the long-term thermal performance of cellular plastic insulations such as: polyisocyanurates (PIR), spray polyurethanes (SPF), and extruded polystyrenes (XPS). These methods include:
In spite of the great time and effort to develop an appropriate model, none of these test methods have been agreeable to all cellular foam plastic industry sectors. The XPS sector of FPSAs membership has worked diligently to develop methods for evaluating the long-term thermal performance of their products. FPSA fully embraces the use of consensus standards in any comparison of R-value claims. To do less leads to the potential for mischief in reporting accurate, long-term R-values. FPSA emphasizes that the most recent edition of the consensus standard should be the ones cited in any regulatory purview.
The PIR leading trade association, PIMA, advocates the use of an outdated standard, C 591-85 for evaluation of long-term aging effects of unfaced polyurethane and polyisocyanurate product. C 591-85 requires 180-days, ± 5 days, conditioning at 73°F ± 4°F at 50% relative humidity or conditioned for 90 days at 140°F. This is the current FTC guideline for long-term aging.
FPSA agrees with Dr. Wilkes, of ORNL, that the rules aging requirements should be improved and modified to account for technological advances made in long-term aging methodological procedures. Since, PIMA has declined to fully participate in the proper promulgation and updating of such standardsboth in the US and Canada, FPSA believes that any FTC consideration of the PIR industrys position must be considered in light of the following facts.
Long-Term Aging of Cellular Foam Plastic Products and Appropriate Test Procedures
In the early 1990s, the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC) developed a modeling procedure entitled "Distributed Parameter Continuum (DIPAC) Model of Heat and Gas Flow Through Foams". The modeling technique was originally intended for use by all unfaced or permeably-faced cellular foams. While all industry sectors were invited to participate in the models validation process, only the XPS foam producers followed-through. Phase 2 of the DIPAC model was planned to be developed to address foams with impermeable facers. The PIR sector did not support this effort and Phase 2 was abandoned.
Today, the globally-agreed upon method to estimate the long-term thermal resistance of cellular foams is the "thin-slicing" method. There are several thin-slicing standards currently in place such as:
These methods work well for unfaced and semi-permeably faced cellular foams but have not been proven to work on impermeably-faced cellular foams.
Thus, FPSAboth EPS and XPS sectorsbelieve adoption by the FTC of ASTM C-1303 and a comparable alternative for faced foam plastic insulation products would go a long way to address the long-term aging effects of rigid cellular foam plastic insulation products. FPSA does not believe that the best interests of the public should give way to any industry sector that has been remiss in participating in the development of appropriate long-term test methodology or that does not appear interested in developing a meaningful test method that assists in answering the long-term R-value question. FPSA clearly believes the opportunities have existed to do just this, and the public should not be penalized by those who would make less than a "good faith" effort to properly characterize its products long-term, R-value performance.
BackgroundIn the mid-1990s, the Canadian cellular foam user groups requested 5-year aged R-value data from the cellular foam manufacturers on their products. The XPS sector collected its long-term R-value data and stood ready to deliver on the request, but the PIR sector was not. The technical arm of Underwriters Laboratory, Canada (ULC), the Thermal Insulation Systems: Standards and Quality (TISSQ) Consortium Steering Committee asked the PIR sector to develop a method with which they were comfortable or to provide actual long-term data on their impermeably-faced products. The PIR industry did not provide the requested information. After many years of debating, the TISSQ stated that "in the absence of a better test method the committee (TISSQ) reaffirms its position that impermeable faced products would default to (Can/ULC) S770" (i.e., thin slicing). This standard specifies a 5-year aging performance requirement.
The TISSQ committee also required the PIR sector to participate in a round robin to determine the precision of Can/ULC S770. The PIR sector was to provide permeable-faced PIR products as well as impermeable-faced PIR products for the round robin. The PIR sector refused to supply product with impermeable facers for the purpose of conducting the round robin. This has resulted in significant delays in the start of the round robin and has necessitated changes to the round robin protocol.
In the U.S., PIR manufacturers, who were members of PIMA, announced at the 1997 NRCA Convention in Orlando, FL that effective January 1, 1998 they would be reporting and labeling their products based on thin-slicing testing per "PIMA-modified" ASTM C-1303. To date, FPSA is not aware of any results that have been reported by these manufacturers. The PIR manufacturers are also withdrawing support for inclusion of ASTM C 1303 in their material standards such as C 1289. Instead, they opt for the use of the 180-day conditioning period (This is also prescribed under C 591-85.).
Both the EPS and XPS sectors of FPSA believe the PIR sector has not engaged in a good-faith effort to develop appropriate methodology for determining the long-term thermal performance of its impermeably-faced products. Now, it seeks FTC approval for using an outdated consensus standard to characterize the long-term aging performance of PIR foam products R-value because a better standard does not exist. FPSA encourages FTC not to fall for this flawed line of logic.
180-day conditioning period to determine long-term R-Value
The 180 day conditioning period is really just that, a conditioning period. The 180-day point tells nothing about the real aging curves of foam plastic materials. There are three stages of aging during the service life of a rigid closed-cell plastic foam:
For XPS foam, the 180-day value falls within the secondary stage of aging where the slope has decreased and the aging process has slowed. The thermal resistance of the foam does not change significantly throughout the secondary stage of aging. Therefore, reporting the 180-day value for XPS materials offers a reasonable in-service thermal resistance value. However, for PIR foams the 180-day R-value falls within the primary stage of aging where the slope of the aging curve is very steep. The thermal resistance of the foam is still rapidly changing during this stage. Thus, the 180-day value is not representative of actual in-service thermal resistance for the PIR material as would exist three- or five-years out.
In summary, both sectors (i.e., EPS and XPS) of FPSA would like to see all cellular foam manufacturers provide and report 5-year, long-term thermal performance data for their products as tested by ASTM C 1303 or a substantively-compararable test method for faced cellular foam plastic products. If the FTC is serious about providing the consumer with meaningful R-value information (i.e., aged data for cellular plastic foams), it must be willing to force the use of an aging method for all cellular plastic materials as they propose to do in Canada. (Canada is moving toward a 5-year reporting standard.) The industry must enjoy a level playing field from which to work. More importantly, the consuming public deserves it! To do less flies in the face of exactly the objectives of having an "R-value Rule" at all.
IV.D. 1 Laboratory Accreditation and Test Frequency
FPSA does not recommend changing the current requirements for R-Value testing. Internally, manufacturers should be testing their products much more frequently than either 2 or 3 years to insure compliance with the 10% R-value tolerance rule. If significant changes, such as a switch in blowing agent or other substantive product reformulation changes have not been made to a product, then the R-value should remain consistent and a third-party check every 3 years is sufficient. When a manufacturer makes a significant change this material needs to undergo third-party testing and a new 3-year cycle is initiated.
IV.D.2.a Testing Temperatures
Mean TemperatureSpecifically, FPSA supports the Commissions comments regarding the reasons for requiring thermal resistance testing using a mean temperature of 75° F. We agree that, consumers will benefit from consistent reporting of R-values at a standardized test temperature. As the Commission accurately states, insulation manufacturers are not restricted from including reference to R-values at other mean temperatures as long as they include R-values obtained at a 75° F mean temperature.
Temperature DifferentialsRegarding the temperature differential issue, ASTM specifications for building insulations typically specify temperature differentials along with a mean test temperature. Various temperature differentials are currently specified in the ASTM standards. In an attempt to standardize the temperature differential issue, the FPSA proposes the use of the recommendations in ASTM C 1058 "Standard Practice for Selecting Temperatures for Evaluating and Reporting Thermal Properties of Thermal Insulation". ASTM C 1058 recommends a temperature difference of 50 +/- 10F for the range of interest. Therefore, using the guidance of ASTM C 1058, the FPSA proposes the use of a temperature differential of 50 +/- 10F.
IV. E. 1 a. Labeling Requirements.
FPSA further agrees with the Commission that sufficient information should be supplied to the consumer to allow for R-value comparison, but too much information may have the opposite effect. Sometimes, less is moreparticularly when it comes to labeling. However, this view must be tempered if the information supplied does not fully-capture the R-value that the consumer believes he or she is getting.
Actual R-Value performance is affected by moisture absorption, proper installation, air permeability and other environmental and installation factors. For example, certain faced insulation products depend on the facer to guard against the blowing agent from diffusing out. Such diffusion results in loss of the products claimed R-value. Therefore, FPSA would embrace the use of a single sentence that would appear in both the "Read this before you Buy" part of the R-value labeling requirement and at the top or bottom of the table of R-values supplied on the manufacturers fact sheet:
This language is simple, straight-forward and will take care of any potential R-value loss related to aging.
FPSA again commends the FTC for engaging the industry in this Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. I may be contacted at 703/253-0643 if you have any questions or if we might be of further assistance.
FPSA is a Business Unit of the American Plastics Council
1. The Foamed Polystyrene Alliance, a Business Unit of the American Plastics Council, represents over 50 manufacturers, as well as equipment and resin suppliers of the polystyrene foam industry (both extruded and molded). Our mission is to conduct research, develop technical data to substantiate product performance and to address regulation and legislative initiatives of importance to the industry. FPSA and its predecessor, the EPS Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry, has a 27-year combined history of representing the polystyrene foam industry in regulatory and technical matters.
2. It should be noted that the PIMA-modified 1303 test does not cover foil-faced insulation products.