Superinsulation techniques can cut energy costs dramatically


December 19, 1992|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Contributing Writer

Q: I have heard of conventional-looking 2,500 square foot houses that can be heated and air-conditioned for less than $200 per year. How are these houses constructed and are they expensive to build?

A: You are referring to extremely energy-efficient construction called superinsulation. There are many construction techniques for superinsulated houses, and they needn't be a lot more expensive to build than any other house. While they look like any typical house, superinsulated houses cost only a fraction as much to heat and cool.

Both conventional and some new construction methods can be used to build a superinsulated house. Thick conventional studded walls are filled with new high-density insulation. The exterior, which can later be finished with brick, stucco or siding, is covered with thick rigid foam insulation. This blocks energy-wasting thermal bridges through the wall studs.

In addition to being high-insulated, superinsulated houses are also airtight. This not only saves energy, but it reduces noise, dirt and allergens inside the home.

A continuous air/vapor barrier plastic film is attached and sealed under the drywall. Another method seals all the drywall joints and corners to block air leakage. Heat-recovery fresh air ventilation systems are sometimes used. Since you can control the fresh air, the air quality inside these homes is typically better than an average house.

Do-it-yourselfers have several new low-cost superinsulation construction options -- concrete-filled insulating hollow foam blocks, self-supporting foam core wall panels, low-density insulating concrete blocks, etc.

To use the hollow foam blocks, tack them together like a giant Lego set to build the wall. Once the wall is built, concrete is pumped into the top of the wall. The concrete fills the interlocking cavities in the foam blocks forming a very strong superinsulated, airtight, and soundproof wall.

Questions should be addressed to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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