Energy Efficient Insulation : Affordable Zero Energy Homes

What does it take to build a comfortable, energy efficient, and aesthetically pleasing home? Many believe the answer is lots of money. It is true that when aiming for top performing and net zero homes, it’s easy to rack up building costs over $150 per square foot. However, here at IDI we believe that high performance homes don’t always require emptying the bank. In fact, with the right energy efficient insulation , you can even lower your budget.

energy efficient insulation

In the past, home performance often meant ordering expensive, and often ineffective, components for energy systems such as large solar arrays, tankless water heaters, geothermal systems, and large amounts of spray foam. Luckily, over the past few years in-the-know architects, construction geeks, and designers have been using a myriad of methods and products to create air tight structures that are more efficient and have better aesthetic appeal.

For instance, spray foam used to reign king when insulating airtight envelopes or closed attic assemblies, but now we are seeing different energy efficient insulation options take the stage. Today, most insulation projects incorporate new tools — from liquid applied air barriers to fiberglass to foam board. These tools have been rigorously tested, and they perform well — getting blower door numbers near, and in some cases below, 1 air change per hour at 50 pascals. Even when the goal is preventing the ductwork from residing in a 150-170 degrees F attic, early adopting builders are encapsulating and burying ductwork. (See Department of Energy article below.)

So, you may be thinking, “Well, all of that is fine, but the homes I work on are for real people with real budgets. What about the cost?”

The best way I can answer that is to reference the Insulation Institute’s recent article on the affordable zero energy home built by Paul Torcellini that met the DOE’s (Department of Energy) Zero Energy Ready standards without skyrocketing building costs.

As stated in the article, “ Torcellini says that one of the biggest challenges in zero energy home construction is educating consumers that it doesn’t have to be more expensive. The total construction cost for the home was less than $85 per square foot according to Eversource, the local utility.”

At 0.75 ACH 50, Torcellini’s home has almost no air leakage. Under a tight budget of $85 per month, Torcellini was able to lower power bills to less than $10 a month and earn an HERS rating of two. (To explore the full article, click here.)

I would say kudos to Paul, but he already got a 2016 DOE Housing Innovation Award for his affordable zero energy home building process. Oh, why not … Kudos, Mr. Torcellini! And kudos to all our IDI contractors out there who strive to be better resources for the builders they work for. We look forward to discussing this as well as other industry innovations at the next class in your area.

As always, we look forward to earning your business every day.

By Ken Allison
Ken Allison works for IDI Distributors as a business development and building science expert. Learn more about energy efficient insulation and tips for closing the sale when you attend one of our regional training events for applicators and contractors. Click here to find one near you.