Thank you, Allison. We have a split system unit (actually 5) with the heat being propane. The foam guy said that it needed ventilation, so completely sealing the attic wouldn't be a good idea. It sounds like you are saying that the systems need to be vented out of the attic or replaced with some type of closed system. But I shouldn't bother spraying if the plan is to leave the soffet vents open. Is that correct?
OK, Peter, I finally went back and read Alex Wilson's article on what he perceives as a serious problem. I haven't seen the full report, but based on the summary he wrote on the Green Building Advisor website, I question the science. It seems to me that he's chosen the wrong metric and he's basing his conclusion on too many assumptions because he doesn't have enough data. You can see my comments at the end of his article.
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I don't know if it's common or uncommon, but installing a layer of rigid foam above your roof sheathing in order to interrupt thermal bridging is always a good idea, and is preferable in all respects to a roof assembly without any rigid foam above the sheathing. If you decide to install rigid foam above the roof sheathing, you shouldn't use closed-cell spray foam under the sheathing; either use open-cell spray foam (which is vapor-permeable) or a fluffy insulation like cellulose, mineral wool, or fiberglass (any of which will allow the roof sheathing to dry to the interior).
In addition, it's difficult for an inexperienced installer to evenly spread the insulation foam over a surface. Miissing spots can leave holes and gaps for cold air to get through. Proceed with this project yourself only if you're doing a small insulation project -- such as installing foam in a crawl space or around your plumbing. Leave larger projects like the attic, basement or garage to the professional insulation contractors. Insulation professionals have the tools, equipment and background knowledge necessary. Moreover, they know how to accurately price insulation, whereas you could inaccurately budget for a DIY project and end up paying significantly more. Don't take the medical, physical or financial risks that come with pursuing this as a DIY project unless you're absolutely certain you have the skills.
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A. You can use closed-cell spray foam that way if you want, although you should realize that the spray foam will prevent the roof sheathing from drying inward. This approach should only be used if the roof sheathing is bone dry, because it will never dry when sandwiched in this manner. Most building scientists would prefer to see fiberglass rather than closed-cell spray foam under the roof sheathing in this type of assembly.