What is ceramic insulation?
Ceramic insulation products are liquid coatings that are typically applied to body parts to reduce heat transfer and noise, while protecting surfaces from moisture and corrosion. They are commonly used as an alternative to sheet-type insulation products.
Ceramic insulation coatings are often applied with an undercoating gun, but can also be brushed or rolled on in some situations. They are water-resistant, biodegradable, non-toxic, able to withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be cleaned up with soap and water.
"LizardSkin" is the popular name for the two insulation products available from LizardSkin, LLC. One is SC (sound control) which contains very small rubber beads and the other is CI (ceramic insulation) which contains very small ceramic beads. These products are easy to apply and can be used together with the SC product first.
LizardSkin, LLC sells only three products to the public: their standard LizardSkin Ceramic Insulation, which retails for $159.98 per 2-gallon container, LizardSkin Sound Control Formula, which retails at $149.98 per 2-gallon container, and the LizardSkin SuperPro Spray Gun Applicator kit, a spray gun "designed to handle the high density and viscosity" of LizardSkin products like a standard undercoating gun.
LizardSkin's website says that LizardSkin Ceramic Insulation is "an advanced, water-based composition of high-grade acrylic binders with air-filled insulating/reflective and sound-absorbing particles." LizardSkin Sound Control Formula is described as "an advanced, water-based composition of high-grade acrylic binders with sound-damping particles".
 CoolCar Ceramic
CoolCar Ceramic sells a single product, described as a sound-deadener, insulator, and undercoating in one. It retails for $150 per 2-gallon container.
According to CoolCarCeramic.com, CoolCar Ceramic is "made up of microscopic, air-filled, ceramic and silicon beads which are held in suspension by resin binders".
Though spray-on ceramic insulation products appear to have a solid reputation, they are deemed by many to be prohibitively expensive.
Applied at the standard thickness of 0.040" (40 mils), LizardSkin.com reports that a 2-gallon container of LizardSkin Ceramic Insulation will cover approximately 46-50 square feet. This comes out to about $3.94 per square foot. However, they recommend a maximum thickness of 60 mils (0.060") or $5.91 per square foot, and they also say that for "maximum sound control and insulation performance both LizardSkin coatings may be used". Using the Ceramic Insulation at 60 mils (0.060"), and the Sound Control formula at 40 mils (0.040"), this comes out to 100 mils (0.100") thickness and $9.85 per square foot.
CoolCar Ceramic will reportedly cover 40 square feet per 2-gallon container, when applied at 40 mils. This comes out to $3.75 per square foot, or about $5.63 if the maximum recommended thickness of 60 mils is used.
However, the above estimates do not include labor costs.
 Alternatives to automotive ceramic insulation
 Micro balloons
One suggested alternative to commercial ceramic insulation is adding ceramic spheres (called "Micro Ballons" or "Microspheres") to inexpensive paint. "Micro balloons", also referred to as glass or quartz bubbles, are tiny hollow spheres that come in a large range of sizes and densities. Because the spheres are hollow and crush-resistant, they insulate, strengthen, stiffen, and add water-resistance to many surfaces. More on 3-M microspheres HERE.
 How to mix and apply micro balloons
Aircraft Spruce lists three consistencies associated with micro balloons:
- A "slurry", which is a one-to-one by volume mix of epoxy and bubbles.
- "Wet micro", about two to four parts glass bubbles by volume to one part epoxy.
- "Dry micro", about five parts glass bubbles by volume to one part epoxy -- enough to obtain a paste that will not sag or run.
Apply two coats. The painted surface will have a slight texture.
Wearing a respirator is suggested when handling micro balloons.
 Hy-Tech micro balloon insulating additive
Hy-Tech Thermal solutions offers a ceramic sphere mix-in paint additive. According to them, their product can be mixed into ANY kind of paint, and, unlike other solutions, is specifically designed for thermal insulation.
It's unknown whether Hy-Tech's additive is the same as the micro balloons available from RC aircraft supply stores. However, Hy-Tech says that "A great majority of ceramic and glass 'microspheres' or 'beads' being produced today are for applications ranging from medical, electronic and every day household use each having different chemical and physical properties."
Hy-Tech has a research relationship with NASA, and was featured in a NASA publication devoted to highlighting technologies that were spun off from the space program (the additive was inspired by the ceramic tiles used to protect the space shuttle from the heat of atmospheric re-entry).
Hy-Tech offers a "1-gallon package" of ceramic additive (NOT 1 gallon of spheres, but a pre-measured amount of spheres for mixing in with 1 gallon), for $12. The instructions say to mix 1 part additive in with 4 parts paint.
In addition, Hy-Tech offers two specialty coatings that may be suitable for automotive use: a "Hi-Build rubber-like Thermal/Sound Control Coating" for $40 per gallon, and a "Super Hi-Build rubber-like Sound/Thermal Control Coating" for $60 per gallon.
It has been suggested that micro balloons NOT be mixed with a power mixer, as it may crush the spheres. However, Hy-Tech sells a power mixer on their ceramic additive page, which suggests that it may be suitable to use one (needs confirmation).
Fiberglass Coatings Inc. has a "Fillers" category that includes glass microspheres at what seems to be a lower price; for example the 5-quart tub is $20.38 as of March 2010.
 Metal Shield
Metal Shield is the brand name of a product manufactured by Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions, for use as an automotive rustproofing, sound deadening, and insulating product. It's described as containing "a blend of space age ceramic insulating microspheres and an industry standard-setting anti-corrosion resin."
Metal Shield costs $50 per gallon. It can be sprayed on, brushed, or rolled. Hy-Tech recommends 6-8 mils per coat, which yields approximately 150 square feet per gallon ($0.33 per square foot). However, they also say that Metal Shield "can be applied up to 20 mils thick for additional soundproofing and insulating properties with no sagging or running". At 20 mils, this would be closer to $1 per square foot.
 Kool Seal
Kool Seal is a name used to refer to various types of reflective roof coatings manufactured by KST Coatings, a business unit of Sherwin Williams.
The Kool Seal product that most resembles LizardSkin type products is Kool Seal Xtra-Lite Premium White Elastomeric Roof Coating. This product costs $90 for a 5 gallon bucket at Ace Hardware stores. This product is white, and the description on the back of the bucket says: "Xtra-Lite white elastomeric roof coating is formulated with innovative Xtra-Lite microspheres and 100% acrylic elastomeric resin......the coating forms a thick rubber-like blanket of protection that expands and contracts... It remains flexible from -30 to 160 degrees F..." The ingredient list is water, acrylic polymer, calcium carbonate, titanium dioxide, and polyvinyl beads. This seems to indicate that the microspheres are polyvinyl and not ceramic, and thus may not be as effective as actual ceramic microspheres (needs confirmation).
Also, see: Kool Seal Duralite.
Another product that is in the same category as Koolseal and Lizard Skin, is Tremco 642-801. The products, whether they be Koolseal or Tremco, are used for light reflectivity in commercial roofing applications. These products are waterproof and air proof, so no rust. Tremco brand metal roof coatings do contain high volumes of ceramics. While drying, the Tremco materials grow fibers that etch themselves into the substrate.
SuperTherm doesn't appear to offer an auto-specific product, but they do have a demo shot during an episode of Bob Vila's show which shows how effective these materials can be. It's quoted as giving an R-factor of 19 for a 10 mil (0.010") dry coat of their material. That's about the same as 6" of household fiberglass insulation. If this is accurate, this would be a tremendous amount of insulation propery for its thickness (needs confirmation)!
 Other possible (non-sprayable) alternatives
- Grace Ultra from Grace Construction. It is a roofing underlayment that is made from butyl Rubber with an adhesive backing, and is designed to protect sloped roofs from the effects of wind driven rain and ice dams in applications where the membrane must withstand high in-service temperatures for extended periods of time. This membrane offers excellent performance at elevated temperatures, in hot desert southwest climates or any application where superior heat resistance is a requirement.
Grace Ultra is 30 mil (0.76 mm)thick, Dynamat Xtreme is 0.067" (1.7mm) thick.
- Hotrodders forum threads