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A Spray Foam Roof Lowers Electrical Costs and Maintains Ideal Temperatures Inside a Building Containing a Large Freezer

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A Spray Foam Roof Lowers Electrical Costs and Maintains Ideal Temperatures Inside a Building Containing a Large Freezer

By Juan Sagarbarria

One of the major budget points for someone who owns a cold storage business is energy consumption. Since keeping a consistent, near-subzero temperature while storing goods for others is the nature of the beast, energy bills can easily skyrocket, especially during the summer. Case in point: the operator of a New York-based facility Holley Cold Storage had endured years of bone-chilling energy bills and seasonally fluctuating temperatures before he decided it was time to do something to control the energy consumption of one of his main freezers and put money back in his pocket over time with energy savings.

The operator realized that the underperformance of the freezer stemmed from the building where it was located having poor insulation. The building’s main structure was built in the 1800’s and the existing cork insulation was, in all probability, not so distant in age. After learning about spray foam’s benefits, the owner entertained the thought of having the building insulated with spray polyurethane foam. He quickly discovered that this was not possible because the 100 x 100 freezer that took up the entire concrete block building was filled to the brim with stored products, and the amount of time it would’ve taken to relocate all of the contents of the freezer would have resulted in a halt in productivity that he simply could not afford. Luckily, the superlative insulation that Holley Cold Storage’s owner sought was still possible to attain… with a spray foam roofing system.

The owner reached out to Oak Ridge Coatings’ Richard Franklin, who then brought in Whited Foam & Coatings (WFC), a contractor based out of Brockport, New York. While increasingly active in terms of spray foam applications for the agricultural cold storage and control atmosphere industry sectors, this was one of WFC’s first spray foam roof applications, and ultimately a successful one.

“Their transition into spray foam and polyurea roof applications has proven to be the right move,” said Franklin. “They certainly rose to the occasion during this project and showed that their work speaks for itself. The roof that protected the freezer was getting battered by heat and, even at full capacity, the inside temperature was getting up to 6ºF, which wasn’t ideal. WFC took care of that problem.”

The project consisted of installing a spray foam roofing system to the 10,000 sq. ft. flat roof surface atop the freezer. Prior to WFC’s arrival, Holley Cold Storage’s maintenance workers removed the built-up and modified roof system that had been continuously patched over the years. Despite the initial roof system removal, WFC crewmembers still spent well over 40 working hours with two crewmembers powerwashing and brooming the substrate, ridding it of all the loose debris and dust that had settled in the aggregate over the years.

“We needed the surface to be completely clean before we proceeded with the application,” said WFC’s Matt Whited. “The amount of mud that had gathered up there was remarkable.”

The WFC crew experienced high winds and rainy days, which increased downtime and stretched the project another week than what was intended. Despite the conditions, WFC remained intent on delivering a successful application. To mitigate overspray, the crew held behind the sprayer 6-by-6 windscreens made of PVC pipes, wind burlap, and zip ties. When applying materials along the roof edges, the crew also placed a 16 x 3 wooden frame along the edges of the roof to further reduce overspray. In order to spray the edges of the roof, the crew utilized a scissor lift while maneuvering 250 feet of hose attached to their spray gun. Prior to the application, the crew applied ORPR811, a single-component primer coating made by Oak Ridge Foam & Coating Systems. The primer was applied at 400 sq. ft. per gallon and it was crucial for foam adherence, given the building’s aged state.

Using a Gusmer HV-20/35 proportioner and Graco Fusion AP gun, the WFC installed six inches of 3 lb. spray polyurethane foam made by Oak Ridge. Crewmembers began applying the foam to the middle of the roof surface and subsequently worked their way out to the edges. The crew installed 22 sets of foam that were installed in five lifts in alternating directions, which ensured uniformity of the final product. During the foam application, WFC crewmembers wore PPE consisting of Tyvek suits, gloves, and full-face respirators. They also used a foam gauge to ensure that the precise specified depth of foam was applied.

“It is no secret that spray foam hardens and shrinks when it cures,” said Whited. “The foam gauge allowed us to check our depths and make sure we were putting down the right amount of foam for every inch-and-a-quarter lift that we did. Overall, it made the job easier and smoother.”

Then, the crew topped off the foam with 50 mils of grey ORSLM, a polyurea coating made by Oak Ridge. The polyurea was applied in two passes with a PMC PHX-40 hydraulic proportioner and a Graco P2 Probler gun. The polyurea coating provided the roof with heat reflectivity that cooled the roof surface while the spray foam provided the building with an R-40 value and optimal insulation. It took the crew 27 working days to complete the SPF roof installation.

Following the project’s completion and the curing of the materials, the owner of Holley Cold Storage got on the roof on a hot day and revealed his satisfaction to the WFC crew.

“He had this smile from ear to ear,” said Whited. “I think it was due to the fact that he was running his freezer at a normal capacity and the temperature was below 1ºF: that’s when we knew we had done a good job.”

Whited added that aside from the freezer performing better at a consistent temperature, the energy savings are projected to pay for the investment of the spray foam roof in under two years.

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