The performance of the insulation of a home has as much to do with design, materials used and installation as it does with the R- value. R-value is important. But how and where we put it makes all the difference.
In a slab on grade home, much of the heat can be lost at the edges of the slab. If it is Zero degrees outside and you are heating your slab to be 70 degrees, that is a huge difference in temperature between inside and outside. Without a significant thermal break to insulate your slab and keep that heat in, through conduction, the earth will suck tremendous amounts of energy from your home. With good insulation around the outside of the foundation, less is required underneath as the earth’s natural temp under the home will stay between 50-60 degrees.
In the walls of a home, framing lumber can act as a thermal bridge, allowing conduction of heat energy to pass through the wall. It is not a good conductor of energy, but it will act as a bit of a thermal bridge. It is a good idea to either put a layer of exterior insulation, or provide another kind of thermal break, such as double-stud walls.
Ceiling insulation is incredibly important. Meticulous air-sealing at the ceiling is done at all electrical and and any other penetrations. We take the time to seal up everything so water vapor and heat energy do not move where they shouldn’t.
The insulation from the bottom of the slab, through the foundation, up the walls and overhead, combined with tight air-sealing details create an amazing, high performance home that will bring years of comfort and very low energy bills. We feel it is better to spend the money on the front end. We know that energy-efficiency doesn't necessarily make people willing to spend more money on a home. But energy prices will only rise over time. A cheaper home without this level of energy detailing will not only be less comfortable to live in , but will cost dramatically more to occupy.
We have changed our minds on spray foam. I never felt ok about the blowing agents. using freon was not something I was interested in. The new formulas have allowed us to reach a higher R-vale per inch and dramatically lower the global warming potential. I spent a lot of time re-evaluating its place in my homes and was so convinced, I not only changed my mind, I went out, got training and had a custom spray foam rig build for Crestone Construction Services. This came at great cost and time, but the results speak for themselves. Ive installed foam not only for new construction builds, but I have used spray foam to insulate and encapsulate my own cabin crawl space. What a game changer. I have also used it for insulation and damp proofing a recent foundation. There are many applications where I see using closed cell spray foam now.
Currently, I am using Huntsman Heatlok HFO high lift closed cell foam. It is sprayed polyurethane waterproof glue with a stabilized R-value of 7.4 per inch!
Let me know if you are interested in Spray foam for your home or build. I offer a building science approach. I know where to use it and also where it might not be the right application. I spent years studying building science, let me take the guess work out of it and help you achieve the home performance that you deserve.
Rockwool is a renewable material with many benefits. It has a high R-value per inch, it is hygrophobic (repels water), breathes well, allows water vapor to pass through it and it is extremely fire resistant. You can hold a blowtorch to it and it will not burn. It is non toxic and does not off-gass. It is very stable, does not settle or compress and will do its job over the lifetime of the building. It is comprised of heated and spun rock and will not provide any food for mold growth. It will not provide food or shelter for termites and pests.
Dense-packed cellulose is a great insulator. It is essentially newspaper, but is actually more fire-resistant than the usual fiberglass bats. Because it is loose, you can pack it in to places and ensure that there are no holes in your insulation game. And we like that it is closer to nature than foam or fiberglass.
The windows matter. Aside from allowing us to gaze at the mountains, windows are also performing vital home functions. Each window, its placement, its functions and its coatings are carefully considered. We like using primarily fixes glass windows, with a few carefully chosen operable ones for fresh air. Casement windows and awnings make a better seal than sliders or double-hung windows.
The coatings matter. We spend more money on the coatings than most builders do. Each side of the house has a specific need for coatings. On the South, we use coatings to prevent radiant heat loss from the building to the outside, but the coatings allow full solar radiation to enter and warm the house. On the west and east, we block solar radiation from entering the building as well as an additional coating to prevent heat loss from radiation outwards. The east and west Glazing on a home is important to consider.
Many houses in the Baca have huge view windows, but look closely and you will see that year round, these windows are covered to block the sun, which defeats the purpose of a view window. Either the coatings weren’t considered or the appropriate technology did not exist for these large view windows to provide views and protection from solar-overheating. Our east and west widows will provide for breathtaking views AND will contribute to the performance of the home.