Green Buildings

US Department of Energy testing 52 per cent less BTUs needed to cool container using Super Therm.

US Department of Energy testing 52 per cent less BTUs needed to cool container using Super Therm.

Super Therm helps cut energy costs

June 2011

AS ENERGY prices rise, thermal reflective coatings will continue to be the fastest-growing segment within the coating industry and among these, low-density ceramic coatings are set to revolutionise the concept of insulation, says Reda Ashkar of Dubai-based BMC Gulf, a provider of specialised engineering services and turnkey solutions for industrial and private projects.

Ceramic coatings call for a rethink on the perception of heat transfer and ‘R value, according to Ashkar. They block the sun’s heat from being absorbed by building materials, thus addressing a key requirement for effective thermal insulation.

He explains: “For over 50 years, the engineering and architectural community has excessively depended on the ‘R’ value for all things related to insulation. The R value is simply a time-based formula for thermal heat transfer. It essentially shows us how fast heat is moving through the walls or roof.”

However, Ashkar says, the problem with R value is that it incorrectly assumes there is no way to stop or block the sun’s heat from being absorbed or loaded. “What we should be calculating is not ‘how fast’ heat moves but rather ‘how much’ heat is being transferred in the first place. Heat can only transfer once it has been absorbed. So if we can stop the heat from being absorbed, then we can stop it from being transferred.”

Traditional insulation only focuses on a single source of heat transfer, mainly conduction. In reality, there are three sources of heat transfer, namely conduction, convection and radiation. Traditional insulation does nothing to address hot air moving through the building or blocking radiant heat from being absorbed into building materials. Moreover, expansion and contraction of building materials, caused by heat load, exposes traditional insulation to moisture or leaks, which renders it ineffective. So if there is a leaky roof, chances are that the insulation is no longer working properly and must be replaced, he adds.

“A good analogy of this would be a hot coffee cup; it’s always given to you with a dry napkin. If the napkin is wet, the heat would transfer through the moisture, and you would drop your cup. This is the same with wet fibreglass or even concrete full of moisture. The heat just passes effortlessly through the material. Each one of these problems independently causes a large drop in the R value, but together they compound the problem, and require air-conditioners to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even though the sun is only out for 12 hours a day,” says Ashkar.

“Simple logic would lead us to accept that the ‘R’ value formula can only begin once the heat has loaded, but if we can stop the heat from being absorbed by reflecting the sun’s heat, the ‘R’ value is no longer relevant,” he adds.

With the problem identified, the solution should be simple, he says: stop heat load, stop moisture, and stop air movement within the building. “Traditional insulation and waterproofing products claim to do this but fail in the extreme desert environments. The only products designed to withstand the desert environment are thermal reflective coatings, which block the heat load, stop moisture and air penetration and effectively seal the building envelope,” he claims.

Super Therm, produced by the US’ Superior Products International (SPI), is one such tried-and-tested green product that has over a 15-year track record and has been tested to reflect 83 to 95 per cent of the sun’s heat, says BMC Gulf, which is a specialised applicator for products from SPI.

“Super Therm is designed to keep your roof cool, by reflecting heat and stopping moisture and air flow,” he says.

The secret to Super Therm is held within the low-density ceramics originally developed in cooperation with Nasa in 1995, which reflect all three spectrums of heat – ultraviolet (UV), infrared, and visible light.

The product has been tested to some of the most stringent standards and used by industry leaders, according to Ashkar. He elaborates: “Super Therm is an ASTM-tested waterproof, moisture and sound barrier, and a fire-, mold-, mildew- and dirt-resistant coating, all in one coat. Super Therm is always applied at 250 micron DFT (dry film thickness) about the average thickness of a standard business card.

“Originally an oil and gas technology, Super Therm is used by Saudi Aramco, Halliburton, Saipem, Mitsubishi, Vela International and Mubarak Marine, among others. It is a water-based, non-toxic paint, which is Masdar approved, Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-qualified, Energy Star certified, and is currently the best way to go green and save money.”

“Furthermore, the US Department of Energy has tested Super Therm, in three completely different climates and found a 36-month return on investment (ROI). A typical user will save roughly 25 to 30 per cent on his overall energy bill, with a single coat of Super Therm that translates to over 50 per cent reduction in his HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) bill.”

Ashkar points out, however, that not all thermal coatings are made equal. “Many competitive thermal coatings are still relying on traditional methods of slowing the transfer of heat rather than blocking it,” he says. “Competitive products, which claim energy savings, require additional thickness, sometimes as much as 3 to 5 mm. These products rely solely on glass hollow sphere beads, better known as ‘glass bubbles’. Glass bubbles are essentially microscopic dead air space, which only slows the transfer of conductive heat. Low-density ceramics, on the other hand, reflect heat before it loads. The best visual representation is available through the use of thermal imaging, which shows how much heat is actually loaded into the surface.”

SPI has researched, developed and tested proven solutions to the real-world problems related to heat and corrosion. It holds the distinction of having scientific research and testing relationships with major corporations from around the world, including Nasa.

In addition to Super Therm, SPI offers solutions to the most common surface-related problems such as corrosion protection, heat loss mitigation (hot pipes), concrete repair and asbestos encapsulation.

In the UAE, BMC Gulf has completed coating applications for various organisations including Dubai Drydocks, which is now running its own internal pilot studies to assess the actual energy savings by using Super Therm.

Barakat Quality Plus, a leading juice producer in Dubai has done Super Therm coating trials on its refrigerated trailer roof. “Super Therm will dramatically slow down the loss in insulation performance, extending the useful life, and increasing the effectiveness of the trailer. It helps to keep refrigerated trailer on the road, generating revenue by maintaining excess cooling capacity, decreasing unit maintenance downtime, and expanding its productivity. It is Energy Star qualified as a 20-year roof coating, he says.

Further information about BMC Gulf can be obtained from its website

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