O-Town Inspections 

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What is Aerogel?



Aerogel is a class of porous, solid materials that exhibits an impressive array of extreme properties. Invented in 1931 and used for decades in scientific applications, aerogel is becoming increasingly feasible as a building insulation, largely due to a decrease in the price of the material.
Aerogel is still prohibitively costly for most homeowners, and the few who can afford it probably don’t know what it is. At expensive properties with environmentally friendly features, however, inspectors should be prepared to encounter the material. Also, the prevalence of aerogel is likely to increase in the coming years as it becomes more affordable and widely known. 
Physical Properties and Identification 
Aerogel holds 15 world records for material properties, a few of which are listed below. Aerogel is:
  • lightweight. It is, in fact, the lowest-density solid on the planet. Some types are composed of more than 99% air, yet they still function as solids;
  • extremely high in surface area. It can have a surface area up to 3,000 square meters per gram, meaning that a cubic inch of aerogel, if flattened out, could cover an entire football field; and
  • strong. It can support up to 4,000 times its own weight. In the picture at right, a 2-gram piece of the material is supporting a 2 grams of aerogel can easily support a brick5-pound brick.

The following qualities will also assist with identification. Aerogel:

  • appears blue due to Rayleigh scattering, the same phenomenon that colors the sky;
  • feels like Styrofoam® to the touch. Although a slight touch will not leave a mark, pressing more firmly will leave a lasting depression or even produce a catastrophic breakdown in the structure, causing it to shatter like glass; and
  • is rigid. Despite its name, it is hard and dry, little resembling the gel from which it was derived.

Performance as an Insulator

Composed almost entirely of gas, which is a poor heat conductor, aerogel can almost nullify the three methods of heat transfer (conduction, convection and radiation). Boasting an R-value of 10 to 30, NASA has used the material to protect astronauts and equipment, such as the Mars Rover, from the extreme cold of space. As compared to conventional insulation material, the R-values of vermiculite, rockwool, fiberglass and cellulose are approximately 2.13, 3.1, 3 and 3.1, respectively. Silica aerogel is especially valuable because silica is also a poor conductor of heat.  A metallic aerogel, on the other hand, would be less useful as an insulator.

Production
Aerogel is derived from gels, which are substances in which solid particles span a liquid medium. The first aerogel was produced from silica gels, although later work involved alumina, chromia, carbon and tin oxide. Through a process called super-critical drying, the liquid Aerogel granules, manufactured by Cabotcomponent of the gel is removed, leaving behind the hollow, solid framework. The resulting aerogel is a porous, ultra-lightweight lattice composed of more than 90% air. Ordinarily, drying of a gel results in its shrinkage and collapse (think of Jell-O left out for a few days), but super-critical drying is performed under intense heat and pressure that preserve the structure of the gel.  

Manufacturers offer the material in a variety of forms, such as the granules pictured at right, made by Cabot, which are sometimes used as insulation in skylights. Aspen Aerogel® offers 57-inch wide rolls of the material in 0.2- and 0.4-inch thicknesses, while Thermoblok® comes in 1.5-inch wide strips that are used to cover framing studs and help prevent thermal bridging at a cost of about $1.99 per foot. 

Safety

Aerogel safety is dependent on the safety of the gel from which it was made; it will be carcinogenic, for instance, if the gel from which it was derived had this quality. Fortunately, silica-based aerogel is not known to be dangerous, although it may irritate skin, mucous membranes, eyes, the respiratory tract, and the digestive system. Aerogel is hydroscopic and extremely dry to the touch, which can, in turn, cause it to dry out unprotected skin. Gloves and goggles are recommended for inspectors and contractors who must handle the material.

Aerogel does not seem to be an environmental threat. Aspen Aerogel’s® website states: “Aerogel blankets do not meet any of the characteristics of a U.S. EPA hazardous waste,” and further notes that scrap aerogel may be disposed of in landfills that are approved to accept industrial waste.
In summary, aerogel is a safe, remarkably effective thermal insulator whose use should become more widespread as it becomes more affordable.

The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an O-town inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
 Standard plunger
1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers -- one for the sink and one for the toilet.

 

2.  Combination Wrench Set

One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.


3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.


4.  Adjustable Wrench

Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

Caulking gun

5.  Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
 
6.  Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
 
7.  Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure -- not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
 

8.  Hacksaw
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.
 
9. Torpedo LevelTorpedo level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle -- not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they're no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw. 

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.


14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop. 

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.

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Otowninspections.com

Central Business District Orlando FL 32801

Mon - Sun: 7am - 9pm

(321) 247-9777

contact@otowninspections.com

Otowninspections.com


Mon - Sun: 7am - 9pm

(321) 247-9777

contact@otowninspections.com

Your inspector is always ready to answer your questions.

Our support team is always ready to answer your questions.

Your Inspector is always ready 

to answer your questions.

Proudly Servicing Orlando & 

The Surrounding Area 

Proudly Servicing Orlando &

The Surrounding Area 

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Official Business Address: 1201 Roma Ct Orlando Fl, 32825

Official Business Address: 1201 Roma Ct Orlando Fl, 32825