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.

A Warm and Happy New Year to All

As we start a new year, we are very grateful for the projects we’ve been involved with and the customers with whom we’ve had the pleasure to work. We’re in our 16th year of designing and manufacturing energy-efficient structural insulated wall and roof systems, and we’ve tried to remain industry innovators in efforts to provide better insulation and a faster build. Comes in handy with the frigid, snowy weather that’s hit so much of the U.S. over the past month!

I believe that 2014 will increase awareness of energy-efficient building as an investment, not an expense, with products like SIPs improving monthly cash flow and creating more comfortable environments. So happy New Year and happy building from all of us here at Thermocore!

SIPs on Video

Seeing is believing, so click on the links below to explore the Thermocore difference:

  • Click here to watch Thermocore’s manufacturing process, including the electronic equipment and human care that prepares the SIPs to your specifications, and the infrared testing that ensures each insulated panel performs as promised.
  • Click here to see a time-lapse video of Thermocore SIPs installed on a net-zero project in Indiana.

Who Drives Change?

Have you ever stopped to wonder how real change comes about?

According to marketing experts, most new products are picked up by people referred to as “early adopters.” These consumers like to be out ahead of the curve, don’t mind a little risk, and–most importantly–think independently. They’re not influenced by the status quo. Early adopters document the truth and spread it to the masses.

We’ve all completed difficult projects, then later discovered a new tool or method that would have saved time and effort. Unfortunately, construction remains one of the greatest defenders of the status quo. Change comes painfully slowly and, for the most part, only when drawn into the market by the end user. Construction is very much a “pull” rather than a “push” market. Rarely do you see builders bringing the latest and greatest to the table.

Think about house framing, which hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Think about home insulation; the bulk of the market is fiberglass batts, which have been around for more than 60 years. These two components make up the structure and energy efficiency of your new home–with technology that’s decades old! What other areas of your house use technology that old? Is it because nothing else is available? Is it because no other alternatives have been approved? NO. For instance, I happen to know of some pretty easy-to-use, energy-efficient structural insulated panels!

There are many improvements available to the current standard of stick building and batt insulation. The question then becomes, “How do we get these technologies into the mainstream?” The answer is an educated consumer. Do your Google research about SIPs and other alternatives and bring the data to your builder. Ask him why he’s not using more modern techniques and technologies like structural insulated panels. If he refuses to listen, move on to someone who WILL do the research and listen. Remember: The consumer drives change, so let’s get behind the wheel.

What Makes an Upgrade Worth the Investment?

Many builders tell me that SIPs are too expensive. But these same builders tell their clients that “upgrading” to hardwood floors, cherry cabinets, and granite are all worth it. They say that chair-rail and crown-molding upgrades are worth it. Really?? I challenge anyone to show me the economic equation that proves the payoff. Financing any of these non-functional upgrades at 4% over 30 years pretty much eliminates any possibility of a return when you sell your house. The reality remains that most “upgrades” are a financial pit with little or no chance to recoup your investment.

Ahh, but there are exceptions. A few products actually return more than you spend, and most have to do with the climate of your house. Heating, cooling, and insulating systems influence your monthly expenses more than any other products in your home, so new alternatives can quickly produce positive cash flows when compared to standard building options. No surprise, the one with the highest return is structural insulated panels–a one-time, no-maintenance investment. You’ll also save money with smart HVAC and water heating choices.

Before you build, investigate the costs and rewards of potential upgrades. When you talk with your builder, start with the options that carry the best investment value; they’ll make all the other “non-investment” ideas that much easier to swallow.

Happy Holidays and Low Utility Bills to All

As 2012 comes to a close, we reflect on some highlights of the past year. In the last 12 months, Thermocore invested over $225,000 in new equipment to better serve our customers. That investment ranged from high-pressure foaming equipment that creates a stronger, more consistent SIPs insulation core to CAD software that speeds the production of SIPs drawings. These technology investments not only help your next project; they also reflect our belief that better buildings lead to a better environment for generations to come.

We’re also very proud of our participation in Purdue University’s Solar Decathlon home (read more here). In their first year entering the international competition, Purdue’s INhome placed second overall out of 19 teams, and tied for first in the Energy Balance category, producing more energy than it consumed. Accomplishing this in a $250,000 home proves that money is not the enemy to net-zero design. With the right material selection, net zero is very obtainable on any budget.

Lastly, we want to thank all our customers and wish you many low utility bills for years to come. Happy holidays and happy New Year to all!