Rural Builder Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
How would you like to cut your heating bill to about $25 a month? That is what Ted and Sharon Smith did when they build their 2,000 square foot home out of Insulspan Structural Insulated Panels. “I knew this would be our retirement home,” said Smith, “so we wanted to build a highly energy efficient home that we could afford on a fixed income.” Smith has been in the heating and air conditioning business for over 30 years. When he and his wife Sharon were thinking about building a new home in southeast Michigan, they did their research. “We looked into other foam structure applications for their energy efficiency, but some of them were too complicated for us to do ourselves. Insulspan is extremely energy efficient and also easy to put together. It was almost as simple as putting building blocks together,” says Sharon Smith. It cost them about $300 to heat their home for one year which averages about $25 per month.
Insulspan panels are made of a continuous core of rigid foam that is laminated between two layers of engineered wood. This system creates an extremely strong and super-insulated wall that can be constructed in a few simple steps. It takes a builder only a fraction of the time to put together the shell of a building with Insulspan panels.
Smith installed a 35,000 BTU furnace and one and a half ton air conditioner to cool it down. With Insulspan super-insulated walls, Smith was able to buy a furnace half the size recommended for a home of this size. “A furnace will be at its peak efficiency if it runs continuously. This smaller furnace is more than enough to keep our home comfortable and keeps our utility bills low too.”
According to Smith, other homes this size usually need a three to four ton air conditioner to cool the entire space. They also saved money by installing a smaller air conditioner that keeps their home at a comfortable 70 degrees during the hot and muggy summer months.
Josh Seiser, Insulspan Sales Manager says, “It is almost shocking the amount of energy the home owner saves. Typically, home owners can save between 35 to 65 percent on their energy bills. That may sound outrageous, but we see it all of the time.” Seiser says the amount of energy savings depends on how much of the Insulspan system is used on the home. Home owners installing an Insulspan wall and roof system will save even more energy than a home built with Insulspan walls only.
Recent government studies on R-values found that structural insulated panels are highly efficient. They have much higher insulation value compared to stud framing methods, making them a better choice for building, if you are after energy efficiency.
“You might pay more for your panels, but it is worth it.” Smith says,”You will save money by buying a smaller furnace and air conditioner and then each month you will be able to keep more money in your own pocket by lowering your monthly utility bill. We also saved money on labor by doing some of the work ourselves.”
Seiser was also Smith’s site advisor. He helped Smith and his crew of friends erect the exterior walls after the deck was completed by the builder. Seiser says, “This crew was very excited about putting together our super insulated wall system. In a day and a half, we had all of the walls up and the roof was ready to go on.”
Builder Ron Crist and his crew had the home closed to the elements two weeks after the deck was finished. “At first I was skeptical about this system. We had a few bumps in the road, but they were solved. I look forward to working with Insulspan again,” says Crist.
“Some people may think running the electrical through the thick foam would be tough,” says Smith. “I ran the electrical wires for my home and I can tell you that it was a piece of cake. Almost all of the electrical chases are already cut into the foam according to our plans. If we changed our minds and the openings weren’t pre-cut, it was very easy to change.”
This house is also very strong. Smith says, “After we put the first corner panels together I jumped on top of them. I couldn’t move it. It wouldn’t even jiggle. I can’t imagine doing that with a stud wall system.” Not only are these structural insulated panels strong - they are straight. Sharon says, “Our carpenter was measuring one wall to place our counter top on our kitchen cabinets. As he continued to measure from the wall to the end of the cabinets his eyes got bigger and bigger. When he got to the end I asked him what was wrong and he said, 'I’ve never seen a wall that is so straight. This wall is perfect!'”
Because this home is so tight, he also installed a high-quality energy recovery ventilation system. It replaces the air in his home every two and a half hours. Sharon says, “I have a lot of allergies, so opening the windows in the summer to let the fresh air in only makes my eyes swell and nose run. We keep our home closed all year long and it is comfortable in every room.” Not only is this home air tight, it is also very sound proof. Smith says most storms silently pass over their home. The only evidence they have that a storm blew through is from the debris on the ground.
One early morning Smith noticed the frozen dew sparkling on the siding of his neighbor’s house. He could also see where the frost was melted on the siding every sixteen inches. He could easily see where each stud was located in that exterior wall. All the warm heat from inside his neighbor’s home is leaving through each stud within the outside walls and melting the frost on the outside. “That doesn’t happen on my home. We feel cozy in our Insulspan blanket.”