Those living in extremely cold climates such as Canada and Alaska need lots of insulation so their home is warm and comfortable. We typically recommend using scoria, pumice, perlite and vermiculite, but from what we’ve been told these materials are not readily available or cost effective in the far north. Hideo, one of our readers, wrote and said recycled polystyrene is available by the container load, at least in their area. Here’s a possible solution for making rigid foam board insulation out of recycled polystyrene. (This hasn’t been done yet, but Hideo is planning to conduct experiments soon.)
The original idea came from Benefits of Recycling.com. “Another little known solution is spraying Styrofoam with an organic citrus peel extract called limonene. This actually shrinks your pile of Styrofoam to about 1/20th of its original size! The resulting gooey substance can be used as super glue.” Limonene is available from companies such as Green Terpene.com.
It seems you could make rigid foam panels with recycled Styrofoam using limonene. It melts Styrofoam into a glue that will bind itself together. Limonene is fairly expensive ($53/gallon or $175/ 5 gallons), so you’ll need to find a wholesale bulk price. Perhaps less expensive binders will be discovered in the future.
Details: Form the rigid foam panels in wood or metal molds about 2’x4’x10”. I suggest adding 1” layers of foam in the mold at a time. Mist the foam with a hand pump garden sprayer and then add another layer. Repeat. Apply moderate pressure from concrete blocks on top of plywood to settle the contents and create flat, uniform panels. (A layer of plastic prevents the plywood from sticking to the Styrofoam, workbench and form.) Experiment until the panels are rigid. At approximately R-4 per inch, the panels would be rated at about R-40. You could also make ceiling panels and insulated window shutters for nighttime use. Making the panels could be a profit generating home based business.
Floors: After testing the panels to be sure they don’t compress excessively, pour a concrete or geopolymer slab on top of the panels and install hydronic radiant floor heating (hot water flowing through PEX pipe) for maximum comfort. The floor will always be warm, and the air temperature will be uniform from the floor to the ceiling as hot air naturally rises. No ductwork and no blowing fans necessary. All you need is a small circulating pump and energy source (propane?).
People will soon realize that free polystyrene can be used as valuable insulation and then the price will jump, so I suggest lining up contracts with the best suppliers to take all their polystyrene for free. (Same thing happened with “waste” vegetable oil from restaurants. Companies who got in on the ground floor years ago cornered the market and probably made a fortune making biodiesel. Now it’s almost impossible to get.)
Foam shredding equipment (may not be necessary)