Please, Don’t Listen to Me!

Anybody that has spent any length of time in the Philippines knows that while Filipinos can excel at many things, they can be really bad at others. Habitually bad! I haven’t really figured this out except that once Filipinos learn how to do something, there is no teaching that dog a new trick. In other words, when they learn how to do something and they become comfortable with that skill, there is a good chance that skill method will never change. Regardless of whether they are doing it right …or not.
Several months ago prior to moving into our new home, I offered the job of insulating the attic to my brother-in-law. The job entailed laying out rolls of foil faced bubble insulation across the ceiling joists in the attic. Because we were not present here in the Philippines when the roof was constructed, the insulation that should have been placed over the roofing rafters before the roof deck was installed never happened. So we were faced with using an alternative method of rolling out the insulation across the ceiling joists. the correct method for installing this type of one-sided foil faced product is to face the foil, or shiny side, towards the heat source and in this case, upwards. Immediately, I could see the confusion on my brother-in-laws face as he was sure the foil should face downwards. He tried explaining to me that is the way everyone around here does it. After explaining to him (it actually took a short physics presentation) the principles of how insulation works, he agreed to install it as I instructed. In warm climes, the challenge is to keep heat out of a living space, not keep it in. Whether he understood the principle or even agreed with me is a moot point…I was the boss!

Foil-faced bubble wrap
Foil-faced bubble wrap

Several months later, he and his wife decided to insulate their dirty kitchen  area, which they had remodeled, to help keep it cooler. Because there  was no attic space and it was just galvanized tin roofing over flat wood  rafters, we decided the best way was to staple the insulation directly to  the underside of the rafters, shiny side up!  I guessed by now I had  convinced him that heat from the sun needed to be re-radiated upwards.  The manufacturer’s instructions clearly state what I have always known –  reflective side to installed facing (towards) the heat source. Their dirty  (new) kitchen is about 10-12 degrees cooler now and with additional  remodeling since that time, it has now become the main kitchen in their  home.

Because the home the family above lives in is only a two bedroom home,  my nephew convinced his mama and papa to let him have the small back r  room that is attached to the new (old dirty) kitchen for his own (at one time  it was where they raised piglets for their special occasions). So he has  been working and using his own money to convert and remodel this once  dirty-dirty kitchen as his sleeping quarters. Last week I noticed a roll of foil faced insulation (just like that described earlier) on their front terrace. I asked my sister-in-law what that was for and she told me the boy was going to insulate his room. I remember telling her to “don’t forget to remind him how to install that!” and she said okay.

Yesterday, I walked over to their house to deliver a message and thought I’d take the opportunity to “inspect” the insulation job. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I seen all the foil facing downwards. I later asked my nephew why he installed it upside down and he responded “because uncle, that way if I burn it, it won’t burn.” While I really wanted to do my Homer Simpson “D-Oh!” impression while simultaneously slapping my forehead, I resisted and I could only suggest to him that the entire structure was made entirely from flammable materials and any fire would destroy everything anyway. He just smiled at me and I turned and walked away thinking I needed to immediately go home and check up on my stock of cold San Miguel in the refrigerator. I will chalk up another day in paradise and blame it on communications.

Some day soon when the sun is shining brightly, I will walk over and offer him the use of my alcohol thermometer to compare the temperature between his room and the kitchen area. I’m sure then he will realize that he needs a do-over, but that will never happen because he will be too busy changing the oil in his scooter with used and discarded motor oil!

4 thoughts on “Please, Don’t Listen to Me!

  1. The best way to remember how to put the foil backed insulation, is to think of the foil backing as the paper backing in fiberglass insulation. One should remember high school physics; cold it the absence of heat, not the other way around.

  2. Good one Randy! This reminds me of going to Mactan and watching them make guitars. I am an amateur guitar maker and was surprised at some of the methods they used. Now I’m not talking about teaching them about power tools. I am talking about standard hand tool practices. No work benches (the ground was their bench) and having the glued up guitar pieces dry in the hot and humid daytime sun.

    OTOH, since their final results were very very good (at a price you can’t match) who am I to tell them they are doing it wrong?

  3. I’m not sure what you just said Frank, but Paper Backed insulation is more of a vapor barrier and has no reflective qualities. Foil faced products are designed to be reflective in nature, reflecting heat back towards the heat source. For example, in cold weather climes and in basements, you would install the foil facing the room being insulated. Here, the foil is always facing the sun.

  4. Exactly Dave. You could teach them things like how do be more proficient and they would most likely return to the way they know best. I think it’s instinctive.

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