Going Green - Exterior Paint Going Green - Exterior Paint

Going Green - Exterior Paint

Global warming is a very real threat. Scientists have given the thinking person enough data to insure that it is not just the figment of Al Gore's imagination. Research shows that almost everything - from the food we eat to the paint we use in our homes -- has a carbon footprint, impacting the environment in some negative way. This article discusses the effect paint has on the environment, and what is being done.

What is VOC?

In 1996, Revisions to the Clean Air Act demanded that paint manufacturers do something about volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are solvents that help paint dry quickly, provide a smooth finish, flow easily and promotes leveling and curing. They helped control thickness, hardness and smoothness of a typical application.The paint industry's research and development teams had to find a way to make paint meet the standards of durable and long lasting solvent based paint, yet be environmentally safe.The paint also had to be priced in a range that was acceptable to contractors and home owners.

The problem with VOCs is that when they evaporate, they contribute to the creation of ozone, a common pollutant and potential safety hazard. The amount of VOCs in a traditional latex paint typically falls between 200 to 300 grams per liter. Traditional solvent-based alkyds may have 400 to 500 grams of VOCs per liter.

Where To Begin?
Removing these solvents made a paint that was hard to apply, did not flow smoothly, and was very hard to touch up. Jeff Spillane, senior marketing manager of Benjamin Moore, states that "When you take those elements out of a coating and don't replace them with something similar, you lose flow and leveling. You lose cure time."

Manufacturers replaced solvents with plasticizers or similar solids. This produced a paint that was very hard to handle and apply compared to the traditional latex and alkyd products.They dried too quickly, and did not leave a good finish. These paints also did not touch up well, and painters had to change the way that they painted.

What Was the Manufacturers Solution?

Paint manufacturers had no choice but to come up with a paint that would not only meet federal guidelines, but would also meet the needs of painters and contractors. This led to the development of water-based low VOC paints. These paints did not get rave reviews from painters and contractors. But with the regulations becoming even more stringent, the paint industry was forced to develop and manufacture a water based paint that was eco-friendly and gave painters the high performance they demanded. This led to not only water based technology, but also the use of resins.

What Are the Limitations?

Although low- and non-VOC paints have come a long way in the past decade, there are limitations that cannot be avoided. In exterior paint, the lack of glycol makes it hard to get a good finish in an environment below 40 degrees. Many industrial settings suffer also. Mechanical rooms and rooftop equipment require a higher degree of protection, and the water-based technology does not often work well in these settings. The answer for this has been the development of elastomeric high-build coatings. These paints are said to perform close to zinc epoxy urethane systems, which is the industry gold standard in paints. The downside is the price, which can reach $50 to $60 per gallon.

Looking Ahead

Government regulations and societal demands are forcing paint manufacturers to develop paints that are eco-friendly and that meet standards set by painters and contractors. The R&D departments of the paint industry are striving to produce paints that will work well in all applications, and a great deal of progress has been made in the past decade.

Tom Dougherty, marketing manager for Pittsburgh Paints, says "We're continuing to address VOC issues in all of our product lines without hindering quality. In fact, we're looking to improve quality. It's a case of market and societal trends driving an industry toward product improvement.

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Alden Smith is an award winning author, regular contributor to DoItYourself.com and publishes Eco Friendly America. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.

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