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The Development of Thermal Insulation Paint
Ceramic insulation coatings were originally developed by NASA for use on the space shuttles. Research by other private companies has allowed the technology to be now used for paints for use in homes, cars, boats, and roofs. Its use on ISBUs (Integrated Steel Building Units) has been very successful because the steel surfaces are very easy to bind with and the thinness of the paint layer and its low weight increase usable space and allow for easier portability of the units. Normal paints also have some insulation properties in their ability to reflect sunlight. But this is based more on color (white reflects best), and a dirty paint surface will lose all such properties.
The active ingredients in ceramic home coatings are microscopic thermal balls made of glasslike material. These balls are hollow and contain air or vacuum and, though the size of the balls is about the thickness of a human hair, this gives the material the look of powder. These microscopic beads of ceramic are called microspheres or cenospheres and are as hard as rock. They are completely non-toxic and can therefore be considered very eco-friendly. The addition of these ceramic spheres also reduces the weight of the paint quite a bit. While normal paint would weigh about 11 pounds per gallon, thermal insulation paint can weigh as little as 6.5 to 7 pounds per gallon. Such savings can be substantial for structures and also affect transport costs. It is also a fact that such small diameter ceramic spheres also play a part in the technology in use for Stealth jets.
Image Source: Wikipedia: Applying paint
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Other benefits of Thermal insulation Coatings
The other benefits of using ceramic home coatings besides the obvious one of lower temperatures are its abilities to resist ultraviolet rays. They also resist corrosion and are anti-rust and would be therefore a big advantage for steel clad structures and ISBUs. The hollow spaces of the ceramic cenospheres also help to absorb sound, thus adding to its advantages. Besides being antiseptic, these paints would also not allow mold to grow on them. This can be a great advantage in areas that have long damp seasons. And to round off its properties, its ability to retard fire makes it a safer paint for even industrial use, where high temperatures may be a norm due to the processes in progress. A temperature difference of about 30º F is easily possible with properly applied paint. The durability of ceramic paints is also high because it is less affected by weather conditions.
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Use of Thermal Insulation Coatings
A true thermal insulating paint will have thermal differentials that are actually measurable irrespective of the location of the paint; i.e. inside or outside. A reflective paint will only work on the outside when it is exposed to the sun or any heat producing source. A test to determine thermal insulation can be made by checking the weight of the paint before you buy it. It should be 6 lbs per gallon, almost a third or more below normal reflective paint. R values cannot be claimed by thermal insulation coatings unless there is clear data and testing to support them. Manufacturers that have a quality control assurance like ISO 9000:2001 would be more reliable as producers of this paint. There are also additives that can be mixed into any paint and such paint would then have the same properties as thermal insulating paints. They may affect color shades in very dark paint, but this problem can be avoided by applying a coat without the additives. Proportions of paint and additive are generally 1 to 1.
Best results for thermal insulation paint or paint having ceramic additives are obtained when two coats are applied. This allows even distribution of the small spheres of ceramic thus enhancing its insulation properties. The painted texture of the surface would have a slight texture because of the spheres and would have the appearance of suede. It however helps to hide small defects on a wall surface. Ceramic thermal coatings in such states as California, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico that have hot, dry temperatures would give better results if applied on the outside of walls. For areas with severe winters, it is suggested that they be applied on the inside walls. Costs of these paints are about $110 per gallon and can cover 150 sq. ft when applied in three coats.
Thermal insulation paints can be applied in the same way as other paints, though a sprayed paint will give better results due to the constant churning of the paint which ensures even distribution of the ceramic spheres. You can also use rollers or a brush to apply the paint.
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Mascoat Products - The Truth in Insulation Coatings (PDF)
ISBU Association - All about NASA Related Ceramic Insulation Coatings
Nanotech Energy Solutions - Interior Home Insulation Paint