Why Is Styrofoam a Good Insulator: Lets Debunk the Myth

Why is Styrofoam a good insulator?

Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene foam, is a petroleum-based plastic, otherwise known as extruded polystyrene foam.

It is among the most used types of plastic for several reasons.

First, this material is lightweight, an effective insulator, and an even better shock absorber.

90 % of this product is made up of air, which explains why it’s an excellent insulator.

Thanks to the above properties, Styrofoam is commonly used for packaging and insulation purposes.

Styrofoam also happens to be thermoplastic with means that it can turn from liquid to solid at a given temperature.

Because of its thermoplastic nature, Styrofoam is quite versatile and can be molded to the finest detail and used in making disposable containers and a variety of craft material.

Dow Chemical owns the Styrofoam brand name.

The material was invented during the second world war by Ray McIntyre.

Other lesser-known brands are Greenguard, Foamular, and Foamcore.

Manufacturers provide the material in the form of foam beads that are then molded into different products.

The Flow of Heat Energy

To understand why Styrofoam is a good insulator, you must first understand how the flow of heat energy occurs.

Heat energy moves from a hot to a cold object, which means that this energy is lost.

There are three ways in which heat moves from one object to another.

One is conduction, which is the transfer of heat through the collusion of tiny particles within a body.

For example, a spoon placed inside a hot cup of tea conducts heat.

Two is convention or the transfer of heat through movements of molecules in liquids and gases.

When fluids heat, they expand, and the heat is transferred via a convention current.

Lastly, there is radiation or the transfer of energy through electromagnetic waves.

Thanks to these waves, heat transfers from one object to another.

To keep something warm, you have to stop the heat transfer from the hotter object to the colder one. This is the same concept applied to insulation.

Insulation prevents the transfer of heat through conduction, convection, and radiation.

When you insulate your home, the aim is to ensure that the environment indoors remains stable no matter what is happening outside.

You can enjoy your warm indoors in winter and not have to worry about the summer heat as long as you are inside your home.

Why Is Styrofoam a Good Insulator

Styrofoam is mostly made of air, making it a which is a poor conductor of heat. Instead, it functions as a perfect convector.

The small pockets in the Styrofoam trap air, which helps prevent the flow of heat.

This, in turn, reduces convection and conduction, making Styrofoam a perfect insulator.

Styrofoam cannot be compared to materials like metal because it allows heat to flow through it.

The likes of glass and air function, much like Styrofoam, which makes them good insulators.

Unfortunately, the glass may be good at preventing heat flow, but it lacks some of the properties that make Styrofoam insulators more versatile and ideal for widespread use.

Styrofoam is used to fill cavities in walls, and this works to keep the house warm.

By trapping the air inside, this material prevents the loss of heat from inside your home when the temperatures outside drop.

Styrofoam Versions

Styrofoam is available in two types: Extruded and intruded. These two are different in two ways.

One, is that the extruded format is water-resistant while the intruded version is not.

Also, the extruded version is a better insulator and has a higher R-value than the intruded variety.

The R-value value for extruded Styrofoam is R-5/inch, while that of intruded variety is R-4/inch.

R-value is the measure of how a two-dimensional barrier like a window, insulation, or a wall resists conductive loss of heat.

This means that the higher the R-value, the better the performance insulation wise.

Whether yours is the extruded or intruded version, you can add the R-value by installing two layers instead of a single sheet.

When put on top of each other, these two Styrofoam layers will offer double the performance.

Two layers of Styrofoam take very little space, so you do not need to make significant changes in the architecture.

The double performance also adds to the reasons why Styrofoam is an excellent insulator for your home.

Where Styrofoam Insulation Is Used

For home insulation, Styrofoam can be used anywhere from roofs, walls, and floors to ceilings, basements, and attics.

This material can also be used for acoustic and exterior insulation in commercial and residential buildings.

You will also find this form of insulation in public buildings as well as appliances like freezers, refrigerators, and other cold storage.

Why Styrofoam Is Extensively Used

Well, for one, it is an excellent insulator considering it is 90% made of air. One type of Styrofoam is also water-resistant, meaning that it can be exposed to the elements without any fear.

Styrofoam is also durable and requires minimal if any maintenance after installation. You need to fix it right to enjoy excellent insulation for many years.

Styrofoam is also recyclable making it ideal if you are concerned about the environment. Other reasons why Styrofoam is an excellent insulator include:

Affordability. Check what is available on Amazon and see how fair it is compared to other forms of insulation.

Final Thoughts on Why Styrofoam Is A Good Insulator

Lightweight and user friendly. You can install it on your ceiling without having to worry about the extra weight hanging above you.

Moisture and water-resistant. You can install in wet areas without comprising its quality or reducing the material’s insulating properties.

Loads of mechanical resistance. Thanks to this feature, Styrofoam can be installed on floors and other areas that bear heavy loads.

Long-lasting making it even cheaper in the long run. With proper care, Styrofoam should give you excellent insulation for 50 years or so

Readily available from whichever part of the world you live in. The fact that it lightweight also means that you can carry it from one location to another with relative ease.



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