Breathing Air … Think Smarter, Not Harder!

Fresh air systems on your spray foam rig are not only crucial to its longevity — they are also required by law. If there is one thing I would preach over anything else, it would be breathing air systems. Money can replace most things, but not your quality of life.

Employers are responsible for creating safe work environments. This means if something were to happen, it would fall back on you as the business owner.

Employers must ensure crew members who are exposed to SPF on the job have clean, fresh air to breathe. According to OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.134, employers are required to provide fresh air systems for spray foam employees that meet the requirements for Grade D breathing air.

In this article, we’ll go over safety requirements, the fresh air systems for spray foam rig options, and the pros and cons of each system.

IDI Rig Series: Part III Breathing Air

Grade D Breathing Air

Grade D breathing air, as described in ANSI/Compressed Gas Association Commodity Specification for Air, G-7.1-1989, includes the following:

  • Oxygen content of 19.5%–23.5%
  • Hydrocarbon content of 5 milligrams per cubic meter or less
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) content of 10 parts per million (ppm) or less
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) content of 1,000 ppm or less
  • Lack of noticeable odor


Most breathing air systems are supplied by either oil-lubricated air compressors or ambient pumps. Let’s dig a little deeper into spray foam rig air filtration options and talk about what would suit your company and spray foam rig best.

Ambient Air Filtration Systems (Low-Pressure SAR)

Ambient air pumps, also called rotary vane pumps, are driven by electricity to provide air. These pumps are placed in a cool and safe environment where no foam is being sprayed and clean atmospheric breathing air exists. This industrial air filtration for insulation option moves clean air from a safe location to your respirator.

These pumps flow air through the pump to maintain fresh Grade D air for your sprayer. When you buy your spray foam rig from someone educated on these products, you can rest assured they are fully tested and OSHA-approved.

Pros: Ambient air pumps are portable alternatives to air compressors. They’re an ideal choice when expensive CO monitoring or high-temperature alarms are not required.

  • Less upfront cost
  • Easy to maintain
  • It doesn’t require as large of an air compressor

Cons: Most of these pumps do not supply cold air to the worker. Another downfall of most ambient pumps is that they are low pressure, which means sometimes your sprayer feels like it’s not getting enough air. Other factors to consider include:

  • Limited hose length
  • Lack of cooling devices
  • Improper pressure setting can damage pumps
  • Lower pressure feels “stuffy” to the person spraying

Oil-lubricated Air Pumps (High-Pressure SAR)

This type of spray foam air filter is the one I recommend most. High-pressure SAR systems, or oil-lubricated systems, use air off of your compressor in your spray foam rig.

High-pressure SAR systems are popular due to their ability to support numerous workers, along with their ability to provide enough pressure to operate many of the personal cooling devices offered by manufacturers today.

You may want to consider personal air coolers for your employees.

How much does labor cost your company? What if there was a way to decrease time spent on a job by adding cooling devices for your crew? Is there an advantage to finishing jobs faster and moving on to the next job?

Though popular, these systems are often operated incorrectly according to the standard, which can put your employees at risk. This is why it’s important to partner with a company that can teach you how to keep your fresh air system properly maintained and calibrated. Typically, most of these systems require a minimum of 15 CFM of air, which can increase depending on how many people are using it.

Pros: These are great options for people with spray foam rigs that have large enough air compressors to power all of their insulation equipment as well as their air systems.

  • Vastly underestimated, personal air cooling can reduce labor costs and boost the morale of your installers.
  • Increased hose lengths, typically up to 300 ft. per worker, provide the ability to support over three workers.
  • Can increase the lifespan of your rig and equipment.

Cons: This upgrade to your rig will increase the cost (but can increase your ROI and the lifetime of your SPF equipment and rig)

  • HP systems require a larger air compressor, which may require a larger generator.
  • This system also needs filter replacement and routine calibration.

Air Filtration and Compressor System Requirements

OSHA requires air compressor systems to be tested for air purity every six months by samples taken at the connection to the distribution system. For an air compressor or pump, that connection is most likely the coupler where the breathing air supply hose is inserted.

These air tests can be conducted with results ready within 24 hours by kits available from numerous sources online. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Consultant Directory or OSHA Regional Office near you can assist in referring you to proper sources as well.

What You Should Know About Air Respirator Equipment

Air respirator equipment is an important part of any spray foam rig air filter system. Before you purchase respirator equipment, consider what respirators offer the best protection and if your insulation installers should be fit-tested.

The two most common air respirators are masks and hoods:

  • Hoods: offer much more protection by protecting your entire head, face, and neck. This style of respirator also adds airflow around your entire head, which is especially beneficial when using personal cooling devices.
  • Masks: offer a bit more movement, but are more expensive to replace. If we’re being honest, everything in contact with spray foam will eventually need to be replaced!
  • The deciding factor: for many, it’s the fact that masks require a fit test, and hoods do not. If you don’t want to argue with employees about shaving and are interested in less-expensive replacements and increased airflow, hoods are for you.

If mobility is more important, and your crew is ok with maintaining their fitted mask and medical cards, go with masks!

How Fresh Air Filtration Systems Affect Your Bottom Line:

All of these fresh air systems are very important to you as a business owner. If one of your employees gets caught on a job without OSHA-certified fresh air, the fines could cost you your business.

Or, if your system affects the longevity of your rig while on the job, your ROI, projects, and bottom lines could suffer.

Invest in the Best Rig or Trailer for Your Business

Whether you’re looking for the best spray foam rig air filter option for your business or trying to keep your investments in proper shape, contact your local IDI experts to understand your options!

See why our custom and basic spray foam rigs are your best option for taking on more projects, growing your business and improving your bottom line for the long haul.

By: Ken Allison, Director of Business Development

Ken specializes in business development and building science. You can find him at any of our training events around the country helping local contractors grow their business. Contact your local rep about the next training event near you to hear Ken’s advice first-hand.

Read the Full Series:

Read our full rig series to determine what type of rig you should invest in to get the most ROI. Learn about the important factors that should go into your rig purchase decision — and how they could affect your rig’s performance on the job … and your profitability!

  1. Introducing Our Mini-Series (what you should know about owning a spray foam rig)
  2. Important SPF Rig Weight & Capacity Considerations
  3. Air Pressure & Volume — Is Your Equipment Sized for Optimal Performance?
  4. Choosing SPF Equipment With the Best ROI
  5. Choosing Power and Auxiliary Equipment
  6. Other Cost-Saving Considerations


Have a question on anything insulation, pricing, or want to place an order? With hundreds of products and countless services, our experts will help walk you through the process of getting ready for your next project. Get in contact with our team today for help and guidance on the right products and best techniques for you and your business.