Baby, it’s getting colder outside!
Cold weather brings extra challenges for Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation contractors. Yet, with the proper awareness, these challenges can be addressed.
One of the biggest challenges, for example, is being aware of when the temperature is about to change, and ordering the appropriate reactivity product to address the change.
When SPF is applied in colder conditions than intended for the formulated reactivity, the results can involve a smooth, glossy surface, friability, poor yield, as well as poor adhesion. The good news is that there is some ability, while limited, to adjust for fluctuations in temperature. Often referred to as “dialing in” a foam during the application, a contractor can adjust the preheats and hose temperatures, along with the pressure of the proportioning unit.
The proper storage of both components is critical for a successful application during colder weather. Both components must be at a minimum of 70°F to ensure that the supply pumps can move the material to the spray machine at an appropriate rate. Both materials will thicken as they cool. Furthermore, depending on the type of machine being used, some machines may not have the capability to heat the material to the required application temperature.
Each machine is only capable of generating a specific amount of heat. If the temperature difference between the starting temperature of the material and the required temperature for application is greater than the machine can supply, the result will be poor foam quality. This may also cause off ratio foam, down time and could potentially damage your equipment.
Here are some additional tips for successful cold weather applications:
- Warm up the substrate as much as possible prior to spraying. Keep in mind: the use of propane and gas fired heaters can result in high humidity levels. This humidity can condense on cold substrates, creating moisture issues including poor adhesion or shrinkage. As a result, applicators should avoid the use of gas fired heaters – when possible – to reduce this risk. Finally, regularly check your heaters and make sure they have proper clearance to avoid fires and are still in good condition.
- Keep your hose off the snow, ice and concrete. These elements can draw heat off the hose as fast as the proportioner can heat it.
- Always use the sun to your advantage. It’s truly the largest heater you have. Start spraying on the sunny side and follow the sun throughout the day.
- When possible, maintain heat in the area for 24 to 48 hours after spraying to help with the curing process.
- Order materials well enough in advance to give them time to warm up (about 10 degrees per 24 hours).
- Never store drums in direct contact with concrete. Keep them on the pallets while in storage. When the materials are in your rig, place something under the drums to raise them an inch or two off the floor to allow warm air to circulate underneath them.
- Do not allow your dynamic pressure to drop below 1000 psi. Pressures less than 1000 psi can result in a poor mix in the gun.
- Because it gets dark much earlier in the winter, check work lights and rig lights for safety purposes. Also, make sure extension cords are in good condition as they will be used more for lighting and heating.
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