QUESTION: I am considering painting my house with the same type of insulating paint used on the space shuttle. Can this type of paint really lower my utility bills? Can I roll it on like ordinary paint?
ANSWER: You are referring to "ceramic-filled" paint and it is ideal for use on houses. It is available in many grades of exterior, interior wall and roof paints that can lower your heating and cooling costs.
This paint is not actually used on space shuttles, but it contains the same type of insulating ceramic particles in the shuttles' heat shield tiles. On your house exterior or interior walls, it looks just like ordinary paint.
Many ceramic-filled paints use durable water-based acrylic paint with fine ceramic particles (often borosilicate) mixed in it. These are tiny hollow ceramic spheres, several times smaller in diameter than a human hair.
Ceramic materials possess unique heat-resistant and insulation properties. They block heat radiation (loss or gain) and they dissipate heat rapidly. You can hold a cigarette lighter under a metal strip coated with ceramic- filled paint and touch the top of the metal strip without getting burned.
With ceramic paint on your indoor walls, heat that is normally lost through the wall is reflected back indoors. This not only reduces your heating bills, but it makes you feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This also allows you to set your thermostat back and save more energy.
In the summer, you get the greatest reduction in air-conditioning costs and improvement in comfort by painting the exterior of your house with ceramic-filled paint. Painting your existing roof with a light color is effective for lowering cooling costs and it can increase the life of your shingles.
You can roll, brush or spray on ceramic-filled paint. You apply it several times thicker than ordinary wall paint. The thicker layer of paint seals tiny cracks to block outdoor and indoor noise transmission. The ceramic particles themselves are a good sound insulator.
There are several new types of non-ceramic "easy clean" flat wall paints available. These can save energy because the walls remain bright for years. A clean bright wall reflects more light, so you need fewer lamps turned on.
One type of easy clean paint, called Ever-Clean, has a unique non-porous surface, although it looks like ordinary wall paint. Typical stains, such as crayons, coffee, grease, etc., wipe right off. Another paint, called Silken Touch, has fine Teflon particles in it to reject dirt and stains.
Write for Utility Bills Update No. 907 listing manufacturers of ceramic-filled and easy clean paints, prices, specifications, and application instructions. Please include $2 handling fee--cash or check--and allow three to four weeks for delivery. Send your requests to James Dulley, c/o Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.
Why Fluorescent Lights Flicker at Night
Q: I replaced my incandescent bulbs in my garage/work area to reduce my electric bills. Sometimes, late at night, they tend to flicker. Why do they do this?
A: Your fluorescent lights probably are flickering because it is colder at night than during the day. They do not operate well at colder temperatures. The problem will probably disappear in the summer.
Fluorescent lights are much more efficient than your old lights. Because they are more efficient, they give off less heat into the room. This is a real advantage in a small garage in the summer. Installing several two-tube fixtures is best with pull-chain switches. This allows you to turn on only as many as you need.