Healthier Home = Healthier Household

Healthier Home = Healthier Household

How your choices affect the cost of your new home.

With all four children plus mom suffering from asthma and allergies, Paul and Cindy opted to invest $3,000 in a high-performance air filter and air purification system when building their new home. They feel it was the best choice they made, particularly when it cut their family’s dependence on maintenance and rescue medications in half! We rarely appreciate feeling good and take our health for granted. Learning about some of the healthy choices to consider is the first step to making the best new home investment decision.

Indoor Air Quality is becoming an increasingly important aspect of new homes. Today’s tighter homes can potentially trap airborne pollutants, from annoying odors to molds, pollen, and bacteria. An estimated half of illnesses are directly related to or aggravated by the air we breathe. These same pollutants can trigger adverse reactions in the 40% of U.S. households having one or more members suffering from asthma, allergies, or another respiratory ailment. Some of today’s building materials and furnishings can release chemicals bothersome to sensitive individuals, or harbor indoor air pollutants. Wise product choices can greatly reduce indoor air quality problems.

Eliminate Sources of Air Pollution. The first step is to improving air quality is to eliminate sources of possible indoor air pollution, removing paints, cleaning chemicals, gasoline, pesticides, etc., from inside the home. If they will be kept in an attached garage, you will want to ensure the garage is air-sealed from the walls/ceiling of adjoining living spaces in the home.  

Bed Covers. Bedding can be a significant source of allergens. Dust mite allergy is the most common allergy, and there are two million dust mites in the average double bed! Many doctors recommend a mite-proof box spring and mattress and pillow encasings. 

Radon. According to the U.S. EPA, radon, a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless gas causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It is a radioactive gas that is produced from the breakdown of uranium in the ground and leaks into the home through the foundation. The EPA has developed a nationwide, county-by-county map indicating potential radon levels broken into levels 1 (most serious), 2, and 3. (See map at right.) Adding radon-resistant construction features typically add $350 to $1,000 to the cost of building a new home (Source: EPA).

Radon Zone Mape

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Air Filtration. Filtering the air you breathe is the second step for improving indoor air quality. Air filter effectiveness is expressed by its MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) Rating, which describes the filtering effectiveness of increasingly smaller particles. MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, with higher numbers doing a better job of filtering more (and smaller) particulates in the air. Traditional furnace air filters are designed to protect the furnace—not people. Typical ‘disposable’ one-inch fiberglass filters have a MERV rating of between 1 and 4. One- to two-inch pleated filters with MERV ratings between 7 and 12 will remove most harmful contaminants (e.g., mold, dust). Yes, you won’t have to dust as often! Larger pleated filters with MERV ratings of 13 and higher can capture bacteria, smoke, and some viruses. But higher MERV ratings are not always good. Because they are so effective at filtration, they actually restrict airflow, causing furnaces and air conditioners to have to work harder and operate for longer periods of time to achieve comfortable temperatures. Filters with MERV 13+ ratings should be used only when the HVAC system has been designed for such high filtration.

Air Purification. Air purifiers, the third step in improving air quality, destroy bio-aerosols. Most models employ ultraviolet (UV) light(s) around which air passes prior to being circulated through the ductwork. Bio-aerosols, mold, viruses, and other live organisms in the air exposed to UV light for a long enough period of time are destroyed. Installations wherein the UV light is adjacent to the air filter may work best, where the UV light can kill living organisms trapped in the filter.

MicroPure Air Purifier

MicroPure®: MX4™ Ionic Oxidation utilizes propriety metallic technology and UV light energy to naturally produce ionic air scrubbers and destroy many indoor pollutants, such as bacteria, viruses, mold, VOC's, mildew, allergens, and odors.

(Photo courtesy of Dust Free)

Wise Product Choices can help minimize potential problems.

  • Enamel-coated wire closet shelving is highly preferable to particleboard shelving. Particleboard can off-gas chemicals and block air currents moving in the closet. With wire shelving, there is no outgassing and air moves between clothes hanging in the closet, helping them stay fresher, longer.
  • Factory prefinished wood floors give off little or no VOCs—a problem that can continue for up to 6 months after finishing traditional wood floors on site.
  • Low-VOC or no-VOC paints and adhesives.
  • Use a mildew-resistant paint in the basement.
    (Photos courtesy of Sherwin-Williams; click on the image to enlarge.)
  • Frameless shower doors are not only elegant, but easier to clean and keep clean because they eliminate the frame and its glass seal where contaminates can breed.


Sherwin-Williams Harmony Paint
  • Energy-efficient sealed, outside air combustion natural gas fireplaces, furnaces, and water heaters utilize a special vent pipe to bring outside air into the combustion chamber to feed the fire, and all products of combustion are exhausted out of the house instead of potentially spilling (‘backdrafting’) into the home. An illustration may be helpful. Let’s assume you build a fairly tight home. With the clothes dryer, bathroom exhaust fans, or kitchen range hoods running, you are likely exhausting more air from the home than can naturally leak in, causing the home to depressurize. Traditionally vented gas appliances cannot vent the products of combustion outside if the home is depressurized.
  • Touchless faucets and toilets help minimize the spread of germs. (Photos courtesy of American Standard and Delta Faucet; click on image to enlarge.)
  • A seamless integral sink formed of the same material as the countertop eliminates the seam or rim, which is an area that’s often hard to clean and where mold and bacteria can grow.
American Standard Toilet, Delta Faucet

Fresh Air Exchangers. A fresh air exchanger expels potentially stale, polluted indoor air and brings in fresh outdoor air at a controlled rate. Some models incorporate a high-performance air filter, filtering out any contaminants and allergens in the outside air before it is circulated through your home.

Lighting. Most of us underestimate the importance of natural light. Windows not only connect us to the world around us, they are very important for health. The number of windows, their sizes and placement, open design concepts, transom windows between living spaces with walls, and even lighter interior colors all increase light levels in the home, known to reduce eyestrain, headaches, and fatigue. According to lighting pioneer Dr. John Ott, the UV rays in natural light actually help our bodies absorb calcium and reduce cholesterol.

Water Purification. “Although the U.S. has one of the safest drinking water systems in the world, there are an estimated 4-32 million cases of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) per year from public drinking water systems,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When looking to purchase water filters, look for those that have been certified by the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency.

Most people rely on the water filtration that comes with their refrigerators. Such filters are typically rated for about 300 gallons, or six months of use, and will set you back $80 to $100 per year for replacement filters. Water filtration systems that attach to the end of your kitchen faucet run around $30 but are typically rated for only 100 gallons before the (approximately $10) filters need to be replaced. For larger households and/or filtered water for cooking, consider under sink water filtration systems that can provide 50 to 100 gallons of filtered water per day for $200 to $300 and expect to spend another $50 or so per year in replacement filters. Whole house systems provide filtered water for all of your needs – drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundry. Often rated 5 to 10 years and from 500,000 to 1,000,000 gallons, such systems are priced between $800 and $1,500, plus you’ll want it installed by a plumber.

Quiet. Due to their superior insulation and air sealing, much of the unwanted clatter that goes on outside cannot be heard inside energy-efficient homes. Few things in life are as important to our health as a good night’s sleep. Having a home free from outside noise not only betters our chances for rest, but the quiet promotes concentration, reduces irritability, and has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health. Inside our homes, quiet appliances, bath fans, and furnaces reduce ambient noise.  Solid core doors, and various soundproofing measures can be taken during construction to minimize noise transfer from one area to another.

Healthy home product choices typically aren’t as exciting as kitchen and bathroom selections, yet nothing is more important than the health of everyone in our households. As a nation, we spend the majority of our time indoors, so building a healthy home just makes sense. Next time we look at choices for building stronger/safer homes – yet another definition of a high-performance home.

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(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Cover image courtesy of VELUX.

5 Green Choices that Won’t Break the Bank

5 Green Choices that Won’t Break the Bank

Eco-friendly home upgrades can be beneficial for a variety of reasons for both you and the environment. From installing new systems and appliances to reducing our waste, every green choice we make helps us create a better environment for the planet. It’s important as citizens of this planet that we consider our daily actions and the ways that we can do our small part.

However, these home upgrades can become costly depending on the choices you make. Incurring expenses such as these can be particularly difficult to manage as a new homeowner who has already invested a lot in the house buying process. Because of this, it’s important that you research your options and decide what is best for you. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of green choices to implement into your new home that won’t break the bank.

Check for Proper Installation

When you purchase a new home, it’s always important to have a proper inspection completed. This will help highlight any areas of the house that need improvement. Many home inspectors also offer what’s known as a green home inspection. Ask about these services during your inspection. This can provide an expert opinion on any areas of your home’s structure or systems where efficiency may be lacking, such as leaky air ducts.

It’s important as a new homeowner to be aware of these efficiency gaps so that you can fix them and improve your home’s energy output. Otherwise, air will be able to escape, causing certain systems in your home such as heating, venting, and air circulating (HVAC) to work harder, thus increasing wasted energy, utility bills, and the effect your carbon footprint has on the environment. Thankfully, before you purchase the home you can also get a home warranty, which will help cover any maintenance and repairs of these systems.

Aeroseal - Sealed Ductwork

Photo courtesy of Aeroseal

Invest in Smart Home Technology

Another cost-effective green upgrade is incorporating smart home devices into your home. Whether you choose to purchase a smart thermostat or a smart outlet, these simple devices can help you monitor your energy consumption. Thanks to the increasing demand for smart home devices, they have become more easily accessible and affordable. There is a wide range of vendors to choose from, so be sure to research the difference in these devices’ capabilities before committing to one.

Roost Smart Sensor System

Depending on which devices you choose, you could save an average of 5%-22% annually on your energy bills. The savings you will notice on your energy bills will quickly accumulate enough to pay for your initial investment into these devices.

Photo courtesy: Roost Home Telematics 

Choose Eco-Friendly Lighting and Appliances

One of the easiest home upgrades you can make is switching out your home’s current lighting and appliances for more eco-friendly options. Though LED light bulbs cost a little more, they can last significantly longer than their incandescent counterparts and also use less energy. This project can also be completed in one short afternoon, making it well worth your time. (Photo courtesy: iLumigreen)

iLumigreen Lighting Example

When choosing appliances, you’ll also want to look for the most environmentally friendly options available. Appliances that use less water and energy typically cost about the same as traditional options. Simply ask your local appliance store to show you options that are certified by the federal Energy Star program. These products are labeled with the official Energy Star seal and will be marked as so. This signifies a product that meets the requirements of the program's energy-efficient rating system.

Repurpose Furniture

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 12.2 million tons of furniture and furnishings waste is produced each year. This waste can be hazardous to the environment and producing new furniture only adds to our global carbon footprint. By purchasing used furniture from an antique shop, a thrift store, or simply repurposing an old piece that you or a family member already own, you can  avoid contributing to this growing statistic. By upgrading the fabric and using green-certified paint, you may be surprised to see what potential is hiding in an old piece of furniture. These upgrades can also help you save money on expensive furniture sets.

Evaluate the Landscaping

Many new homeowners tend to only consider eco-friendly upgrades on the interior of their homes, but many external factors can help contribute to lower energy costs too. Properly planning and maintaining your landscaping can help promote an eco-conscious environment for both the exterior and interior of your home. For example, when trees are planted in the right locations, they can help decrease heating and cooling costs. This is because trees create natural shade in the hotter months and when they lose their leaves in the colder months natural sunlight can pass through, helping reduce your heating costs as well.

Choosing to plant trees is an affordable option and also great for the environment. Trees have been proven to reduce pollution, improve air quality, save water, and create a natural habitat for wild animals. (Arbor Day Foundation)

No matter which upgrades you chose to make on your new home, you’ll be creating an eco-friendly environment that is beneficial to your family, the environment, and your wallet. The idea of green home upgrades doesn’t have to equate to large amounts of investment. Thankfully, there are a large number of eco-friendly projects you can do that won’t break the bank.

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Cover photo: <a href=''>Nature photo created by freepik -</a>

Green and Energy-Efficient Homes

Green and Energy-Efficient Homes

How your choices affect the cost of your new home.

“People don’t buy a new home because of the energy efficiency, though they’ll brag about that later,” according to home builder Hugh Fisher in Warwick, Rhode Island, referring to his net zero-energy ready homes at Wynfield Place. Bragging rights extend beyond tiny utility bills of the homes at Wynfield Place to the related benefits of improved comfort (no drafts, quieter); and a healthier home with improved indoor air quality, due in part to the tighter construction and also because there are no byproducts from fossil fuels (natural gas or heating oil) being burned.

Achieving a super energy-efficient home essentially boils down to three elements: energy-efficient construction; energy-saving products; and to get all the way to net zero-energy, a system such as solar, which can generate as much power as the home needs. Previously, we addressed energy-efficient construction, such as SIP and ICF building systems, high-performance air sealing and insultation, windows, etc. Now let’s look at products you choose for your home.

Heating and cooling your home can account for over 46% of your utility bills as reported on the website. Natural gas is the most common fuel, followed by electric heat, which is considerably more expensive to operate. Compared with a standard 80% efficient gas furnace, a 90% efficient furnace may save you around $100 per year for a 2,000 sq. ft. home, and a 95% efficient furnace might save $150 per year. But your home’s energy-efficient construction, your climate, size of home, and personal preferences play a large role in the amount of energy you will use. If a 95% efficient furnace is $1,000 higher than the 80% efficient furnace, that $150 annual savings becomes about a 7-year payback based on utility savings. Still, the more energy-efficient furnaces are typically higher quality and expected to last longer, so delaying replacement expenses helps offset the higher purchase price. And with the very efficient furnace, your home might be favored when it comes time to resell.

Water heating is often the second largest consumption of energy in the home.

Annual operating costs for a 50-gallon standard natural gas water heater averages $309 per year, with comparable electric water heater averaging $626 per year to run, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While standard “tank-type” water heaters keep their tanks full of hot water 24/7, tankless water heaters heat the water on demand. Super-efficient tankless water heaters can be several hundred to about one thousand dollars higher than their tank-type counterparts but save $108/year in energy costs on average.

As with furnaces, the more efficient tankless water heaters are expected to last longer (20 years) as compared to 10 years for a tank-type heater, so factoring in replacement costs, tankless water heaters often make financial sense. Plus, heating water on demand, you never run out of hot water. Solar water heating is gaining traction, but Solar’s average installed cost of $3,422 (Angie’s List) can be double the installed costs of other water heaters. That’s a 7-10 year payback for solar water heating compared to standard natural gas water heaters, or a 3-5 year payback when compared to electric water heating.

Appliances use almost as much energy in the average U.S. household as water heating. Fortunately, comparing energy consumption across models is fairly easy with the Energy Guide labels

Lighting, the other main category for household energy consumption, is estimated to account for 10% of your utility usage. LED lighting has dropped so much in cost and the LED bulbs last so long that choosing LED lighting is a no-brainer, though the color temperature of the LED bulb should be taken into consideration when buying.

Photo courtesy: iLumigreen (Click on image to enlarge.)

iLumigreen Lighting Example

The nine residences at Wynfield Place were built net zero-energy ready, getting all the way to net zero-energy meant adding a $25,000 - $30,000 solar shingle system to the homes. But due to these homes’ already low energy consumption, the incremental energy savings from the solar shingles could not cash flow vs. the added hit to the monthly mortgage, so the solar shingles were optional.

Fortunately, making energy efficient choices goes hand-in-hand with earth-friendly choices. According to the website, “More than 60% of U.S. electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, which releases greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere.” Simply, the most environmentally friendly thing you can do in a new home is to make some of the energy-efficient choices above. That’s true for conserving clean water, too. On-demand water heaters often deliver hot water to your faucets and showerheads quicker than tank-type systems, meaning less water down the drain waiting for hot water. Similarly, many of more energy efficient dishwashers and clothes washers use less water in addition to less electricity.

Sample Shingles

Longer-lasting product choices are generally better for the environment. Roofing choices that last 40- or 50-years don’t end up in landfills nearly as quickly as cheaper shingles. Selecting paint that’s scrubbable means the occasional cleaning rather than repainting. And, some product choices have recycled-content options. Several manufacturers offer carpeting made from recycled plastic bottles that is priced competitively with nylon carpet. Recycled glass tile options and even countertops can be beautiful alternatives.

Photo courtesy of Atlas Roofing - Class 4 Impact Rated StormMaster® Shake Style Shingles (Click on image to enlarge.)

So, there are numerous reasons to feel good about making wise, energy-smart, and environmentally-friendly product choices, starting with the fact that some of them may actually reduce your total monthly cost of home ownership due to energy or insurance savings. Some may increase your home’s resale value, recouping that additional initial investment when you sell your home. And all the while, you’ll know you made a difference in creating a healthier planet for our kids and grandkids.

Still, sometimes these energy wise and green building choices require trade-offs. To meet your budget, you may have to choose between investing in added energy efficiency or, say, that chef-inspired kitchen you’ve been dreaming of. Then there’s your home’s appraisal value. Perhaps all of the energy efficient upgrades add $15,000 to your home’s price, but aren’t reflected in your appraisal, which comes in $7,000 less than where it needs to be for your mortgage. Behind the drywall, that high-performance insulation is a “hidden asset” the appraiser doesn’t see. It is imperative the appraiser becomes aware of these added measures.

Energy and the environment are two lenses used to look at high performance homes. Next time we turn our attention to choices to create healthier homes. 

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Cover image: The Bassett (plan #42240) as built by Big Sky Homes using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) construction technology.


Cost of Ownership – Total Monthly Housing Costs

Cost of Ownership – Total Monthly Housing Costs

Principal + Interest + Taxes + Insurance (PITI) – that’s been the standard way of defining monthly housing cost and often been a factor in determining how large of a monthly mortgage payment you can afford. Today’s historically low mortgage interest rates in many areas have made purchasing a new entry-level home on par with renting:

Example PITI Housing Costs

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Of course, a higher initial down payment reduces the Principal + Interest portion, and if you are fortunate enough to have 20% of the purchase price available for a down payment, you can finance the home through a conventional mortgage, at an even better interest rate, and with no mortgage insurance premium. You can’t do much about your Taxes (sigh). But your choices can certainly impact your homeowner’s Insurance costs. New construction homes are often rated differently and are less expensive to insure because they are less likely to have issues and claims.

Likewise, because the roof is new, it is usually rated more favorably reducing your premium. Impact-resistant roofing products can further reduce insurance costs in hailstorm-prone markets. If it adds $6 per month to your mortgage payment to upgrade to impact resistant shingles, but having those shingles saves you $200 per year on your insurance, that’s a win! Fire and security alarm systems can save you money on insurance premiums, with deeper discounts if they are monitored by a third-party.

Photo: Atlas Roofing - Class 4 Impact Rated StormMaster® Shake Style Shingles

Sample Shingles
Still PITI is incomplete without “U” – Utilities should be factored in to provide a truer picture of your total monthly housing costs. It may be possible that spending extra money up front on energy-efficient construction nets you lower monthly housing costs. Assuming 5% mortgage interest rates, spending $8,000 more for energy efficient upgrades adds about $55 to the monthly mortgage payment. If those energy saving measures are projected to save that much or more on your utility bills, spending a little more now for energy efficiency can be one of your best investments. And with energy costs likely to rise in the future, that investment performance will only get better!

Built to the current energy code in effect for your location, most new homes today are more energy efficient than resale homes. Still, the energy code is the minimum; high-performance building products and systems can dramatically cut your energy usage. While there is no single “best way” to achieve an energy-efficient home, many approaches deliver outstanding results and may provide other benefits as well.

Building systems. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) are commonly made of two “skins” of insulating foam, stacked in place, and filled with concrete and reinforced steel. The resulting 9- to 11-inch thick exterior walls deliver superb energy performance as well as creating an extremely strong home, which is better able to withstand natural disasters. Design Basics offers more than 125 home plans for ICF construction. Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) are typically made from two “skins” of OSB or plywood that sandwich a thick slab of insulating foam. SIPs can be used for roofs as well as exterior walls to create highly energy-efficient homes, which are also stronger and safer than most traditionally built homes. Design Basics currently offers 50 plans for SIP building. Please note that Design Basics can adapt any of our home designs for ICF or SIP construction.

While the elevation remains the same, the exterior walls on the floor plan (below) appear thicker on an ICF plan. Varying from 9 - 11-inches thick, ICF exterior walls are 5 to 7 inches thicker than the 2 x 4-inch exterior walls of the typical home.

Cotter - #42031 ICF

Example ICF construction.

ICF Installation
High-performance insulation. It costs a lot to keep your home cool in the summer, so the goal is to keep as much of that conditioned air inside your home as possible. High-performance insulation seeks to 1) eliminate air leaks, and 2) slow the transfer of outdoor temperatures through your walls. There are numerous approaches and products available to accomplish this, at different price points. Talk with your builder, as she or he may have a preferred solution. Similarly, better energy-rated windows and doors may be part of your solution.

HVAC systems. You may pay a lot of attention to the efficiency rating of traditional furnaces and air conditioner SEER ratings; or, a heat pump may be a more efficient choice. Yet often overlooked is the fact that a surprisingly high amount of conditioned air can leak out of your home’s ductwork, so ask your builder or HVAC contractor about the steps taken to seal the ductwork. Also, if your home will be built with one of the building systems or high-performance insulation, the heating and cooling equipment needs to be sized appropriately. A rule of thumb such as, “one ton of air conditioning for every 500 square feet,” may work in determining the size of air conditioner for other new homes in your area, but may be too much for a tight, energy efficient home, causing your system to cycle on and off quickly and inefficiently. Even the ductwork should be sized differently for a high-performance home. An alternative, geothermal heating and cooling is very energy efficient, taking advantage of the earth’s relatively constant ground temperature below the frost line to keep your home comfortable.

PITIU. It is rooted in a number, but it means so much more! You can’t measure the worth of added protection for your family and cherished belongings provided by alarm systems, or the environmental impact of roof shingles that don’t end up in a landfill after hail. And that energy-efficient home? Your home’s lower energy use will keep tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of our atmosphere every year.

Looking at total monthly housing costs and investing a little more up front can give you improved cash flow, a better home, and bragging rights!

Next time: Replacement and Maintenance Costs

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Atlas Roofing Photo Courtesy: An Independent publisher, not an Employee or Agent of Atlas Roofing Corporation.
Cover photo: <a href=''>Business photo created by freepik -</a>

SIP, SIP, Hooray!

SIP, SIP, Hooray!

We have been looking at the fallacies of comparing new homes on the basis of “cost per square foot” because it’s nearly impossible to get an apples-to-apples comparison. Here we look at another apples-to-oranges comparison – building your home using structurally insulated panels as compared with traditional stick-frame construction.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) are most often made from two “skins” of oriented strand board (OSB) sandwiching a thick slab of insulating foam. SIPs can be various sizes, from smaller panels that can be set in place by two people, to larger panels set in place with a crane. SIPs are used for roofs and exterior walls to create highly energy-efficient homes that are also stronger and safer than most traditionally built homes.

There are minimal design limitations with SIPs and most existing home designs can be adapted for SIP construction. SIP roof systems create natural design opportunities, such as cathedral and sloped ceilings.

For Example: Design Basics’ Kendrick plan (#8532SUL), adapted for Insulspan® brand SIPs, offers dramatic amenities not found on the conventionally framed Kendrick plan including sloped ceilings for much of the main floor plus a 262 sq. ft. loft overlooking main floor entertaining.

#8532 Kendrick
Kendrick - #8532SUL ML
Kendrick - #8532SUL UL

Energy Efficient. One of the primary ways homes lose energy are air leaks (how “tight” a home is). On a cold winter day, you pay a lot of money to heat the air in your home, only to have most of that “conditioned air” leak out within an hour! Since the air pressure inside your home has to equal the air pressure outside, the warmed air that leaked out gets replaced by cold outside air that leaks in. By their very nature, the panels used in SIP construction create a very tight home with minimal air leakage.

Insulation is designed to minimize the other primary reason for energy loss, conduction, heat transfer through walls, windows, the roof, etc. Fiberglass is the most common insulation material used in homes and can work well, but some wall cavities are challenging to fill completely, particularly around plumbing and electrical. Many traditional insulation products also tend to settle, leaving a gap at the top. Such challenges potentially leave voids that show up in your home as “cold spots.” Also, with conventional framing, the wood studs, typically spaced 16 inches apart, are quite poor insulators. Exterior wall and roof insulation’s effectiveness is measured by R-value. SIP manufacturer Energy Panel Structures reports that a conventional 2x6 framed wall filled with R-19 insulation actually delivers an R-value of 13.7, 80% poorer than a comparable SIP wall, which achieves R-24.7.

Green. Since SIP constructed homes use considerably less energy than traditional construction, SIP homes are inherently environmentally responsible. And because SIP panels are precision cut and delivered to the jobsite, there is considerably less jobsite waste from building your home that ends up in a landfill.

Stronger/Safer. SIP constructed exterior walls and roof panels are fully covered in OSB – on both sides. This makes for an extremely strong wall and roof system, better able to withstand high winds and flying debris. SIP manufacturer Enercept claims that SIP constructed homes are 2-1/2 times stronger than conventional, stick-framed buildings.

The home at right (Greensboro - #2326) was built using Insulspan SIP construction.

Greensboro - #2326
Cost. A SIP constructed exterior wall and roof package will probably cost more than conventional construction for the same home. How much more depends on many factors, including the complexity of the home’s overall design. Partially offsetting the higher initial cost of SIPs are reduced costs for site labor, waste disposal, and a smaller, less expensive HVAC system. There also may be tax credits offered to both the home builder and the homeowner for building with SIPs. Then there’s the ongoing utility savings and you may enjoy lower homeowner insurance premiums. Finally, there is the added resale value of a super energy-efficient home.

What does building your new home with SIPs say about you? That you care about a quieter, healthier home for your family. That building a stronger, more comfortable home were high priorities. That doing your part to protect our environment and being kind to Mother Nature matter. That you wouldn’t settle for less than building an energy-saving home with lower utility bills.

View dozens of homes designed for SIP construction on our website. Design Basics can also adapt our other, stick frame home plans for building with SIPs.

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