Insulation Guest Column: Quality Control and Proper Performance
Recently, a man came into our offices seeking employment as an installer. He said he had been working for “Company X,” and that he had made the owner a pile of money using the latest formulation of “El Fluffo” loose-fill insulation. He further stated that if the job called for 30 bags per the label, he could get the inches with about one-half that number of bags. I listened to him and informed him that according to FTC Rule 460 (Home Insulation Rule), he had been breaking the law, and could get himself and his employer fined $10,000 per occurrence. I then sent him on his way.
This got me thinking. There is a whole generation of people who were not around when — and may not understand why — FTC Home Insulation Rule 460 came into being. Many of our current Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA) members remember when this rule was adopted. Some were very aggressively involved in testifying before congressional committees to give much-needed expert information that was critical to FTC Rule 460 becoming a reality in a form that would be beneficial to both consumers and the insulation industry. But approximately 20 years have passed since Rule 460 came into existence. Perhaps we need to reflect on the basic reasons why it was needed in the first place.
Twenty years ago, we were in the midst of the energy crisis. Interest rates were in double digits, gasoline prices were at unheard-of levels, and our government was looking for ways to curb energy consumption. One of the ways to achieve this goal was to increase the R-values in the walls and ceilings of homes. This created a huge demand for insulation in general, and loose-fill in particular. Everybody was happy, right? The insulation and blowing machine manufacturers were ecstatic, and the market was literally flooded with new insulation contractors interested in making a quick buck.
Unfortunately, not all these new insulators were completely scrupulous. When government realized that many homeowners were receiving less than the stated R-value they thought was being purchased, Congress went to work to enact what would eventually become FTC Rule 460. Lo and behold, when Congress started listening to people, it found out that improper applications in attics were occurring a lot in new construction as well.
ICAA realized that the best way to improve quality control in the field was to encourage the manufacturers to produce only products which, when blown through normal blowers, would yield the required densities and R-values when the labeled inches were blown. Most of the manufacturers were willing to invest the time, effort and money to make this happen. Some weren’t, as evidenced by the actions of the character who was in my office the other day.
The goal of proper performance and quality control in the field is still very worthy for ICAA, but it takes the vocal efforts of individual insulation contractors like each of us to get the job done. So speak up to your suppliers about producing only loose-fill insulations that will yield the correct R-values and densities when the labeled inches are installed.
Again, as in the 1970s, the nation faces premium prices for fuel supplies and an expensive heating season for homeowners. Predictions are grim about the enormous rise in the cost of home heating fuel this winter. Out of this adversity, a wonderful opportunity exists if insulation contractors educate consumers about the comfort, savings and efficiency of properly installed insulation. Insulation professionals know how important insulation is, but the average consumer may not know that 50 percent to 70 percent of all energy used in the average American home is for heating and cooling. Your conservation-minded customers should know that lighting and appliances account for only 10 to 30 percent. They also should know that inadequate insulation and air leakage are leading causes of energy waste in most homes.
Educate your customers about quality control and good work practices. This industry is ripe for proper performance and the marketing of quality control. Differentiate yourself! Choose to be the recognized example of excellent performance and high integrity in your market.