How SIPs and Energy-Efficient Financing Upgrade Your Home

Turns out SIPs not only save money in energy costs, they also help you afford a nicer home! According to an article about financing energy-efficient homes on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM) can help you qualify for a more expensive home.

How does it work? To verify energy savings, EEM lenders consider the HERS rating from a home energy audit. The smaller the number on your HERS report the better—and homes built with Thermocore structural insulated panels consistently score lower on the HERS index. For instance, Bart Rynish of Barton Designs achieved a HERS rating of 35 with Thermocore SIPs, saving the homeowner hundreds of dollars per year on heating bills.

Lenders figure the less you spend on utility bills, the more you can afford for mortgage payments when you build, remodel, or refinance. Not only will you enjoy the comfortable temperatures, quiet, and sturdiness of your Thermocore SIPs home, you’ll relax in upgraded livings spaces thanks to energy-efficient financing.

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.

Why SIPs Equal Multiplication

I’ve got a simple equation, even for those who hate math. Here’s the story: David Watters, owner of The Beamery, designed a 4,000 square-foot, two-level home in Nashville, Indiana. Built to Passive House standards with Thermocore insulated wall and roof panels, the home uses an 18,000 BTU heat pump as its only heating and cooling source. Throughout last summer, indoor temperatures stayed between 68 and 72 degrees.

First let me ask: How warm did your home get last summer? And how much air conditioning did that require?

Now let’s do the math on the home David designed. First the homeowners saved on initial costs. No expensive air conditioner. No furnace. Just a very small heat pump. That’s because structural insulated panels don’t need much help to keep indoor temperatures comfortable. Think of it as SIPs doing the heavy lifting so the heating and cooling system can sit back and relax.

Now let’s add in ongoing savings. Running an 18,000 BTU heat pump costs significantly less than a typical heating and cooling system—each and every month.

Bottom line, SIPs result in exponential savings. Read more about David’s Passive House and the press coverage it received. Then consider how much your savings could multiply with SIPs.

SIPs and Global Warming

The Federal Government just put forth another round of global warming information. Did you read it? Do you care? Most people say they do care. Unfortunately, most people’s actions say they don’t care.

We now live in a world where it’s possible to get 40 miles per gallon in our cars and consume 1/3 less energy in our buildings. But both options take an upfront investment—something most people aren’t doing, despite the long-term savings.

No one says they want their children to inherit a world that’s warmer and more polluted. However, without action, the experts agree that’s where we’re headed. If that does become the future, how will later generations view us? We recognize the problem but are unwilling to take steps to correct it.

I’m much better at asking questions (the easy part) than providing answers (the hard part)—until it comes to building. Structural insulated panels are a significant answer to much of the global warming process. Surely too bold a statement. Until you consider this:

  • SIPs use OSB instead of studs for structure, meaning up to 35% less lumber with SIPs vs. stick framing. Leave the trees in the ground where they do the most good at protecting the Earth and our future!
  • Buildings with structural insulated panels use less energy than stick-framed structures. Period. No debate. More SIPs equals less energy used.

Structural insulated panels can and will reduce global warming…as long as you choose to build with them.

Investing vs. Spending (or SIPs vs. Conventional Framing)

A friend recently told me a story about helping his son buy a car. His son had little money or credit history and thought the best way to get a loan would be through his dad. My friend agreed to loan his son the money for a three-year term, and figured that buying a cheap car would make it easier for his son to pay him back. The car lasted one year.

That put them back in the same situation, buying another car. This time my friend approached the purchase much differently. He viewed the car as an investment, rather than something to just spend money on. In the tradition of “you get what you pay for,” he’d learned that value is not determined in one day of shopping, but rather over the life of the product.

The same principle applies when comparing structural insulated panels like Thermocore to conventional stick-frame construction. One is just “spending money” while the other provides an investment with a clear payback in energy cost savings. Those who invest wisely in life always seem to come out ahead. When you build a new home, think about ways to invest—rather than just spend—your money.

SIPs Contribute Energy Efficiency for New Apartment Complex

Here’s an example of Thermocore SIPs in a unique commercial application:

Irvington Lofts, designed by One 10 Studio, provides housing for moderate-income residents in a historic neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis. Thermocore SIPs helped achieve multiple goals of the project. “We utilized six-and-a-half-inch insulated wall panels on the first floor for structural issues, with four-inch panels on the upper floors,” said Patrick Kestner, One 10 Studio project manager and associate. “That allowed us to stay at the budget number we needed, but also provide the energy efficiency we wanted.”

The contemporary-style apartment complex will receive a Silver rating under the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Standard. “Obviously, the SIPs are huge in being able to achieve that, since they’re the building envelope,” Kestner said.

Read more about One 10 Studio’s experience with Thermocore structural insulated panels. It’s not just homeowners who get energy savings in a quieter, sturdier structure!

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!

How Will Adding HERS Scores to the MLS Affect the Housing Market?

This is a great question posed in a recent news article. There has been a national push to include Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index scores in real estate listings (often referred to as the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS). In essence, a home’s energy performance will be included along with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. That’s the equivalent of putting the yellow ENERGY STAR rating sheet, commonly seen on appliances, onto your home.

Why is this important? Energy costs directly affect your monthly cash flow and your ability to pay your mortgage. Knowing these costs and how they compare to other homes in the area helps identify the best deal and allows homeowners to budget all their expenses.

Most importantly, the HERS rating will help recoup the money you spend on energy-efficient construction. Items like LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances have no effect; a HERS rating only reflects heating and cooling expenses—the major costs in home ownership. Unlike other eye-candy types of upgrades, investments in energy-efficient construction can now be measured and shown as an asset to a home’s value.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to improve a home’s HERS rating—and increase resale value—is to lower energy demand. Of course, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to lower demand is to build with structural insulated panels (SIPs) like Thermocore.

Making Green Building an Easier Sell

When I hear people in the construction industry say they can’t sell customers on the idea of green building, I wonder what exactly they’re trying to sell.

After designing with Thermocore SIPs, Patrick Kestner, project manager and associate with One 10 Studio in Indianapolis, shared, “When we can say you’ll get a quieter building that exceeds energy code by more than double and you’ll get payback in a couple of years with utility bills at 30 percent less, that definitely gets the attention of both residential and commercial clients.” (Read more about Patrick’s experience with Thermocore structural insulated panels here.)

Even if you’re not interested in helping the earth, who doesn’t want to save money?