Question: What's the deal on the "new" fire test requirements ASTM E84 and ASTM E2599? Is one product better than the other?
Over the past year we have heard a lot about “new” fire codes and this talk has caused a lot of confusion among people researching radiant barrier. As an educated customer it is important that you get all the facts straight. First, there is nothing "new" to report; yes, some (very few) places have updated their building codes, but the majority of building is operating off of the same codes they have been for years. Secondly, ASTM E84 is a test that measures burn characteristics of the tested material; E2599 is simply the standard of how the product being tested should be mounted when it is tested. Sadly, some companies have downright resorted to scare tactics to imply that there is a new world-wide mandate on radiant barriers and that pure aluminum foil radiant barrier products are somehow inferior to metalized film products.
Let me clarify this for you: at AtticFoil.com we have both products to meet the particular needs of each and every one of our customers.
AtticFoil® is the best radiant barrier product available. Period. You don't just have to take our word for it either, we recommend you read some of the over 925 customer reviews on our radiant barrier reviews page. If you need a product that meets the ASTM E2599 burn characteristics test, then AtticFoil® HDF is right for you. Instead of using pure aluminum on the outer layers, AtticFoil® HDF is a radiant barrier with a metalized film (mylar-type) outer layer. This metalized film is the exact same product used to make silver potato chip bag liners.
As of now, most buildings codes have chosen not to adopt the new ASTM tests regarding burn characteristics of a radiant barrier.
Burn Test Procedure
Another thing to consider with all this hype and misinformation is the actual burn test. Having a Class A/Class 1 fire rating does not mean the product will not burn; all radiant barrier type products will burn, the metalized product is not fireproof. If you still need convincing, go to the ASTM website and you can read summary pages of each standard, so don't just take our word for it - go straight to the source!
The classifications assigned based on the testing are just a measure of the burning characteristics of each product tested, not the fireproof-ness of the products. Aluminum covered radiant barrier products (like Original AtticFoil®) are pretty difficult to start burning, but once they flash (catch fire) the polyethylene scrim inside will continue to burn at a relatively slow rate.
Ironically, AtticFoil® HDF (the metalized film Mylar radiant barrier) product starts burning very easily and burns very quickly. Truthfully, it is for this very reason that the AtticFoil® HDF can "pass" the mounting test. The metalized film products burn up faster and therefore produce less total smoke than other products when compared in an E84 burn tunnel test.
Test Them Out Yourself
We encourage you to get samples of both products and put them to the test!
Do you want a product that is harder to start burning, or do you want a product that will burn up quickly? There are many different conflicting opinions on which burn theory is best. One product (Original AtticFoil®) will resist burning all together and in some cases act like a fire-retardant, while the other product (AtticFoil® HDF) can burn up quickly, but because of that it may not cause other items nearby to catch fire.
Compare how they burn when a flame is exposed to both the surface and to the edges. You will see that the pure aluminum radiant barrier is much more difficult to get burning. In fact, there are many cases where a fire inside an attic was actually slowed down or smothered due to the fireproof quality of the layer of pure aluminum. Metalized Film Radiant Barrier products offers less protection against a flame and easily will catch fire if exposed to any flame.
Which Product Is Best For You?
This is where your research comes in, we cannot make the right decision for you - every situation and set of circumstances is different; therefore, what might be right for you might not be right for your neighbor. Please don't misunderstand us - both products are strong, offer virtually the same reflectivity and achieve Class A/Class 1 fire ratings, but that is about where the similarities stop. Ask for samples, test the samples out, and then make the best choice for your application based on your research and testing.