Federal Efforts To Ensure the Effectiveness and Safety of Thermal Insulation Can Be Improved

EMD-80-4: Published: Nov 26, 1979. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 1979.

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Three major federal energy conservation programs give considerable emphasis to the installation of thermal insulation material in residences. Questions have been raised as to the availability, effectiveness, and safety of insulation material installed in homes. An evaluation of these problems and the actions taken by federal agencies to alleviate them was made.

In 1977 a shortage of fiberglass insulation, the primary insulation material used to retrofit homes, occurred because of increased demand. While this shortage was alleviated by substituting cellulose insulation, there may be another insulation shortage in early 1980. The shortage has been predicted because demand is expected to increase again, yet fiberglass and boric acid, new safety requirements in cellulose, are not expected to be on production until mid- to late 1980. Improper installation of insulation results in lower thermal resistancy and potential safety hazards, including fires, structural corrosion, and the release of noxious fumes. The Department of Energy (DOE) has taken action to alleviate these problems by proposing various installation and inspection standards under its Residential Conservation Service Program. However, there are several provisions which should be strengthened or amended. Various federal agencies have also proposed labeling requirements and acccompanying tests, but they have not suggested a way to certify laboratory competence.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: DOE should amend its proposed rules for the Residential Conservation Service Program by specifying that utilities be responsible for randomly conducted post-installation inspections for the life of the program and for any extensions thereof, and that the utilities make such inspections available to all customers at customer expense. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should take the lead role in coordinating insulation material labeling requirements of all Federal agencies. In this role, the FTC should stress the need for a single label to satisfy all the agencies' requirements.

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