Exceeding the Strictest Energy Codes with SIPs

Happily, some areas are taking formal steps to increase energy efficiency and ultimately save homeowners money. While some builders struggle to meet the stricter energy codes with the same methods they’ve used for decades, others like Paul Tyrer, owner of Expert Handyman Services, Inc., in Traverse City, Michigan, are willing to try new strategies like SIPs to improve air tightness and lower utility bills.

Paul started with 2 x 6 construction with cellulose insulation blown into the walls. When Michigan adopted the stricter 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), he looked for a more energy-efficient method.

The 1,400 square foot home built by Paul using Thermocore structural insulated panels tested at 1.98 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals—“much better than the current code requires and twice as good as the [new] code will require,” according to the home’s blower door test report.

Now Paul is building more homes with SIPs so he won’t have to worry about meeting Michigan’s new IECC requirements. And why not! Paul said he can finish construction faster. Plus, “There was no added cost to using Thermocore structural insulated panels,” he said. (Read more about Paul’s experience with structural insulated panels.)

Those who keep doing the same thing get the same results. Don’t wait until you’re required to conserve energy; start saving money now with structural insulated panels.

SIPs, Hats, and Heat Loss

I recently ran across an article that challenged the old wives’ tale about wearing a hat because you lose most of your heat through your head. The article said, “The head as a body part represents about 10% of the average adult’s total body surface area, so in reality, only 10% of your body’s heat is lost from your head.”

Don’t count on a hat alone to keep you warm on cold winter days!

What does that have to do with structural insulated panels? In the building world, a parallel myth suggests that the most important place to insulate is the attic. Don’t get me wrong—the attic and your head are both important in the warm game. But the attic isn’t nearly as important as your walls in controlling energy costs.

According to a study out of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, “Heating and cooling loads associated with wall areas are the highest among all building envelope systems. That includes attic, doors, and windows.”

If you ask most builders where they’d like to see more insulation in a house, they’ll most likely answer “the attic.” However, just like the head in the body, the attic accounts for only a small portion of the building envelope so it doesn’t make the greatest impact in the energy equation.

Don’t build your home based on old wives’ tales. Modern building envelopes need the most insulation in the walls, with systems like Thermocore SIPs. Insulated attics, like hats, are great. But structural insulated panels give you the warmest coat possible. That’s how you win the warm game.