www.pexuniverse.com PexUniverse - PEX, Plumbing, Heating, HVAC Supplies Industrial equipment supplier in Brooklyn, New York

Foam Board Insulation

EPS foam board insulation is the optimal combination or performance, reliability and price for insulating PEX radiant heated concrete slabs (above and below grade).
Available in two options:
Standard 4ft x 8ft foam board sheets in 1", 2", 3" and 4" thickness - PEX pipe either secured directly to foam with PEX stapler and staples, or secured to the top of rebar or wire mesh (slab reinforcement), which either lays on top of or raised above the foam board.
Pre-formed PEX foam board insulation with knobs for holding the PEX pipe in place. Installation does not require a stapler or staples - the pipe is simply "walked-in".
All insulation panels we sell are 2lb/cu. ft density (25 psi rating - sturdy enough to walk on) and are made in the USA.

More About Foam Board Insulation

EPS vs XPS foam board insulation - which is better?
This debate was settled when results from a 15-year in-situ study involving both EPS (Extruded PolyStyrene) and XPS (expanded PolyStyrene) were published, indicating that EPS has retained 94% of its' original R-value vs only 52% for XPS. In addition, XPS has absorbed over 18% of water by volume, whereas for EPS, this number was below 5%.
EPS is a clear winner both in price and R-value retention, making it an optimal choice for variety of insulation needs.

Rigid foam board insulation is a great choice for radiant heated slabs, where PEX tubing or electric heating cable is embedded in concrete to create the most quiet, energy-efficient and comfortable heating solution available today. It offers best price-performance ratio and is reliable and easy to install.
Rigid foam board is also suitable for insulating walls, roofs, attics and crawl spaces thanks to it's light weight and very low moisture absorption.

EPS foam board density - why it's important
When foam board is used to insulate floor slabs - above or below grade, with or without radiant heat, it must be dense enough to walk on without crumbling - otherwise it looses efficiency and may compromise the slab itself.
2 lbs/ft³ (2 pounds weight per cubic foot of volume) is the recommended density for slab insulation and is the type available at PexUniverse.
A less common indicator of the foam density is it's compressive strength, which shows how much pressure (psi) needs to be applied to deform the foam by 10% (ASTM D1621 standard). For 2 lbs/ft³ EPS foam board, this number is 25.0 psi.

Foam Board vs Bubble Insulation
These products, although both classified as insulation, belong to slightly different categories.
Reflective bubble insulation has a significantly lower R-value (best is R-3.8, comparable to 3/4" thick EPS foam board), but it is moisture-proof and acts both as a moisture barrier and as an uncoupling membrane - features which the foam board insulation does not have. It can be layered, but with obvious cost increases. In addition, neither PEX nor heating cable can be secured to the foam board.
Foam insulation will, in most cases, require a poly moisture barrier and due to it being in sheet form, will take substantially longer to install than bubble insulation, but it offers higher R-value and allows to secure PEX tubing directly on top with PEX foam board stapler.
Why not both? Used as a bottom-most layer, bubble insulation will act as a moisture barrier, uncoupling membrane and a basic thermal break, while EPS foam board installed on top will provide the necessary R-value.

Which foam board thickness - 1", 2", 3", etc. do i need?
The short answer is that 2" is the most common and popular insulation thickness used for radiant floor heated slabs. Attics and crawl spaces are different and may need thinner or thicker insulation.
Over 3" and thicker insulation is generally installed in very cold US climates. The best practice is to do your own research and consult a professional familiar with climate in your area and project specifics.
Note: only 1-1/2" or thicker foam board accepts PEX foam board staples.

Is EPS foam insulation eligible for rebate(s)?
You would need to check with Energy Star (for federal) and your local utility (for state) to determine whether a tax rebate or incentive can be applied.

Layering multiple foam boards
Multiple foam boards can be stacked to reach total desired R-value. It's always best to stagger the boards, so that none of the seams match.