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New analysis capabilities allow deeper dive on builder practices data.

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Ed Hudson, MBA
February 22, 2018

You’re Getting Colder: Market Data Not Always What You Think

Energy codes have more stringent insulating requirements for cooler climates. So, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that a manufacturer offering a new insulation product touting better energy performance should introduce it the cooler, Northern region of the country? Perhaps. But the market doesn’t always play out the way you think it will; the way that seems most logical. As a prime example, Spray Foam Insulation has enjoyed much bigger market share in warmer climates than in cooler (see map below). Using Tableau, Home Innovation’s Builder Practices data can provide insight not readily seen using more traditional methods of analysis.

Spray Foam Insulation Market Penetration

Source: Annual Builder Practices Survey, 2017

Home Innovation Research Labs has been tracking and analyzing building materials usage for decades. Recently, we’ve developed some new data formats that allow more granular analysis of market sizes and trends. One such capability is analysis of building materials usage by IECC Climate Zones. What this particular analysis revealed seems counterintuitive—that spray foam insulation, considered a high-performing insulation with R-values of up to about 7 per inch, becomes progressively more popular the further South you go.

When spray foam was first becoming popular, I recall some of its proponents stating matter-of-factly that it was destined to be popular first in the North. Even Icynene, a pioneer of spray foam insulation in homes, is based in Canada, the great white north. Coincidence? Or part of a larger market strategy? Perhaps a bit of both.

So why has spray foam penetrated the market deeper in the American South? Our Builder Practices reports reveal that spray foam has become significantly more popular as an attic insulation rather than in walls. The common practice in the South, where concrete slab foundations are typical, is to put HVAC equipment and ducts in attics, which get incredibly hot during the summer. For energy-efficiency improvement, builders in the South have generally found it easier and less expensive to move insulation from the attic floor to the underside of the roof deck to keep the attic cool, rather than to relocate the ducts and HVAC equipment into the living space of the homes they build. Spray foam is one material favored by building codes in this type of attic configuration. Conversely, for homes in the middle and northern latitudes, HVAC equipment and ducts are traditionally placed in basements or in floors between living levels, which are usually part of the home’s conditioned space.

The climate zone map above doesn’t provide the entire picture on spray foam usage. The map alone would lead you to expect somewhat higher volumes of spray foam being used in the South. But by overlaying additional Builder Practices Report data, we see that the actual market volume of spray foam insulation is even more pronounced in the South due to the high volume of new home construction taking place in that region.

Spray Foam Insulation Installed in New U.S. Homes, 2016

Source: Annual Builder Practices Survey, 2017

Home Innovations collects data on hundreds of building material types. Now, with the ability to hone in on county-level tracking for material purchases, the potential for geographic analysis is greatly enhanced—we can provide metropolitan and micropolitan areas; rural and urban; unique sales territories; and any area that can be defined by grouping one or more of the 3,007 U.S. Counties.

Interested in getting the beyond what’s on the surface of your product’s market picture? Get in touch.

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Comments

Carlos Morgan
March 5, 2018 7:37 PM
"What the spray foam companies don't tell you is that is voids your Shingle warranties. I had to learn the hard way."