Of the 5 High-Performance, Energy-Efficient Products Builders Prefer, 3 are Walls

Originally published by: Builder OnlineOctober 15, 2014

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High-performance products are at the heart of every green home, but their prices can induce sticker shock. Here are a few cost-effective solutions that are favorites of experienced green builders.

  1. Low-VOC paints and finishes. Zero- and low-VOC paints, caulks, and sealants generally don’t cost much more than their traditional counterparts, and they give customers peace of mind knowing they won’t add toxic chemicals to their homes.
  2. Structural insulated panels (SIPs). This building system consists of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, usually oriented strand board. Builders love how SIPs save time and labor while providing superior insulation that can lower heating and cooling bills by up to 50 percent compared with stick framing. 
  3. Ductless HVAC units. Also called mini-split or VRF systems, these units deliver air into specific zones instead of routing it through ducts. They cut heating and cooling costs by up to 30 percent compared with ducted systems, provide precise temperature control, and free up space that normally is taken up by bulky ducts.
  4. Shorter plumbing runs. According to builders and sustainable consultants, devising an elegant solution to plumbing runs prevents waste such as running pipe all the way up into the attic. Something as simple as working with your plumber early in the design process can save around 10 percent in time and material costs.
  5. Combination products. Green pros say there’s nothing like products that do two things at once, such as Huber Engineered Woods’ ZIP System sheathing with radiant barrier, Owens Corning’s Energy Complete air-sealing and insulation system, and CertainTeed’s AirRenew gypsum board that converts VOCs into inert compounds.