We recently spoke with InSoFast user Michael Self about rebuilding his home in Orange Park, Florida. Self came to us in search of making an energy efficient change to his home after it suffered massive devastation from a fire last year. After insulating the exterior walls with InSoFast UX 2.0 panels, his energy bills decreased from around $200 per month to an astonishing $60 per month. In the interview we talk with him about the process of rebuilding after the fire, his experiences with InSoFast and how he turned some surplus panels into a strong and buoyant regatta raft.
Can you tell us about your background?
I work for the By Design Group in Orange Park, Florida. As a contracting group we work mainly with hurricane protection but we recently have also gone back to doing remodeling and repairs. I’ve been in the business for over 40 years. We rarely work with insulation products at By Design Group. On some jobs we’ve had to do some attic insulation, since it was part of the scope of the project.
Your home in Orange Park, Florida recently suffered massive devastation from a major fire. What were the initial steps involved with rebuilding your home after the fire? How did InSoFast come into the equation?
The insurance companies contractor that came out was just going to put KILZ Latex Primer over the sheetrock where there was smoke damage and paint it. Since I have done fire damage contracting before I knew that process wouldn’t tackle the smell of smoke. The trusses in my house stand from outside wall to outside wall and none of the interior walls are load bearing, so I decided that I would just gut the entire thing. I acid washed all of the concrete block and the structural brick and painted an encapsulating paint on the trusses to prevent any smell from permeating down into the house.
InSoFast came into the equation when I was watching TV in my rental house. An episode of This Old House came on that featured the InSoFast panels. If I went the traditional route I knew that I still had to take off all of the old furring strips, put new furring strips up and insulate in between the furring strips. So I went online after I saw the episode and called InSoFast.
In order to use the panels for insulation in the rebuilding process, you had get approval at the state capitol in Tallahassee. Why was this necessary and what characteristics of our product had to be evaluated for approval?
I went down to the Building Department and they said InSoFast has never been used in the state and was not a Florida approved product. I spoke with Dean and he sent me some more information to take back to the Building Department. They eventually sent back a report that was stamped and approved for code compliance. Included in the report were the manufacturers installation instructions, all the labels with instructions onsite for the inspector and the DSR report which is an ICC-ES evaluation report. Once it was approved I called InSoFast and placed my order.
Tell us about your experience installing InSoFast.
The product came quickly and the installation was very easy. In certain areas I put mechanical fasteners through the panels into the concrete to make sure the extra weight of additions like kitchen cabinets didn’t pull the glue loose. We did all the electrical after the InSoFast was up which worked out really well. Sometimes when feeding the wire down from the ceiling I found that in order to avoid snagging the panel you have to make sure there isn’t any copper wire hanging loose at the ends.
After I finished installing the panels none of the interior walls were up, but you could walk into the house and tell immediately that there was a difference. Not only in sound but in tightness of the house. Using InSoFast also actually saved me money. Furring strips are cheap but the labor involved with traditional insulation is what costs so much. By the time I installed InSoFast I saved money in both materials and labor compared to doing it the old fashioned way.
You held an open house during construction and invited friends and builders to witness the process of an InSoFast installation. Why did you decide to organize this event? What was the overall reception of the panels by the attended guests?
I invited people I know in the trade to stop by the site during construction. They were interested in seeing how things were progressing. Some also came by to offer their suggestions and help. They were very interested and impressed with InSoFast. Home Depot also got involved in the project. They took pictures of the panels and sent it to their corporate headquarters for consideration.
How long did it take to finish the rebuilding process? Did you make any other energy efficiency changes in the new design plan?
The construction started in December of 2012 and I moved back in the house during March of 2013. I did several things to keep the house energy efficient. I put in Low-E windows and insulated the attic with about 24 inches of spray cellulose insulation. I also put in an energy efficient hot water heater and air conditioner. My normal electric bill in the summer used to be about $175-200. This summer my largest electric bill was $67 and I credit that mostly to InSoFast. All of the energy efficient decisions that I made for the house existed before, except for several inches of cellulose in the attic and the InSoFast. I already had Low-E windows and energy efficient appliances. There was originally about 8 inches of cellulose insulation in the attic, which was increased to 24 inches during the rebuilding process. Before the fire there was nothing between the furring strips and no insulation on the exterior walls. The biggest change I made was the InSoFast, which is now providing full insulation on my exterior walls which I did not have before. Adding InSoFast has made a huge difference in the efficiency of the house.
Are there any tips you would give homeowners when making choices about energy efficiency?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a warmer climate or a colder climate. If you are in a position to be able to insulate it can make a huge difference on the efficiency of your home. In Florida solar heat gain is probably the biggest seep of efficiency because of the temperatures and long hot days.
Whenever I’m dealing with any house I’m always looking at the efficiency of windows and doors for solar heat gain. I didn’t have any hard data on what InSoFast would do for solar. I’m living it now, and I credit InSoFast for a good part of the change of efficiency in my electric bill. To go from around $200 to $60 a month is incredible. In South Florida there is generally more consideration made in terms of insulating against the heat. Here in North Florida we have a long summer and a very short winter. Of all the homes I’ve worked with in North Florida I rarely see good exterior insulation done on houses, especially the older homes. If the house was built prior to the mid-80’s there were no codes that require insulation.
We love when customers find ways to keep InSoFast out of the landfill. Can you fill us in on the story behind the regatta raft built out of InSoFast panels? We hear you even built an ice chest out of your panel waste?The raft was built for a race at a local fishing camp and restaurant. It’s a really popular local spot right on Doctor’s Lake which is a branch off the St. John’s river. Every year they have a raft race with two categories- mechanical and non-mechanical. It wasn’t my raft or idea but the plan was to decorate the raft into a big frying pan with a catfish in the pan, since they sell a lot of catfish at the fish camp. The other people on the raft would be dressed as chefs. There were 4 girls participating in the race who needed to be able to carry the raft and get it into the water. They told me they wanted a 4×8 platform covered in plywood, with four 2×4’s on opposite sides where inner tubes would be tied.
I was trying to consider weight so I added a few ribs on the bottom and set the InSoFast panels in the middle. Both myself and co-worker stood on the raft and it was super strong. It was also so light that I could pick up the basic frame by myself with only one hand. They covered the whole deck with an indoor/outdoor carpet and bought a kiddie pool that was painted black to look like a skillet. There were four adults on the raft and one child who wore a fish costume. The raft wasn’t the fastest but it was the best engineered and best decorated raft in the race. They won a $500 prize.
I had 10 panels leftover from my project and used 4 for the raft. With the leftover 6 panels I plan on building a permanent cooler against the house on the back porch. I’ll install a drain plug and the InSoFast on the sides for insulation. I’ll be able to use up all the panels without sending them off to the landfill.
We find that most people associate insulation with colder climates. It is important to remember that insulation is a barrier for both cold and hot air. Those of you in warmer climates will receive the same exact energy advantages by insulating your home with InSoFast. The drastic changes in the energy bills of Michael Self’s Florida home is a fitting example of the effectiveness of insulating for heat.
Special thanks to Michael Self for your involvement with InSoFast.