Saving $10,000 Per Year - Could This Be The Most Energy Efficient Home In The World?

Eco-Panels has enjoyed a long relationship wtih the ClimateHouse team in New Zealand.  New Zealand is a fairly small country by population and most products are imported.  After a long international search for the most complete and energy efficient building system, the expert ClimateHouse team selected Eco-Panels in Mocksville, North Carolina as their go-to building product for both the versatility and highly customizeable nature, as well as of course being the most efficiently insulated building envelope on the market.  One of the team recently built his own home out of Eco-Panels, and because it was his own house he was able to try out a few "tricks" that he himself as well as our own company have been talking about over the years of working together.  This home is so energy efficient that the few solar panels he has on his roof is able to provide both supplemental power for his own home as well as provide more than enough energy for an electric vehicle, offering an estimated $10,000 payback on an annual basis.  Note that if this was a traditionally built stick framed home or a home built with a less efficient panel system he could simply never achieve these results.  It is even performing better than the PHPP software has estimated that it would, and according to PHPP this would be the most energy efficient home in the Southern Hemisphere.

Remember, you must START with the building envelope - then you pay attention to HVAC, solar panels, etc.  To simply stick solar panels on top of a stick framed house is insanity - ensuring forever that you will be losing a large percentage of the power that you generate from solar to envelope inefficiencies.  Imagine getting a 30-60% boost in efficiency from your solar panels!  This is essentially what Michael of the Climate House team was able to do.

With his Eco-Panels home recently featured in a DWELL photo review, the below testimonial offers a brief overview of his feedback.  We've certainly had much better performing homes than 0.4 ACH50, but it's still a far cry better than almost every other home in the US:

From: Michael
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 3:56 PM
To: Charles
Subject: Re: You still up?

Hi Charles,

We finally got to run the final airtightness test (had to be independent) in the weekend and got .4 ACH which is well under passive house .6 ACH - so will get certified soon.

This is a real test with no gap filling - ie there was a small draft on the large slider door which we did not patch up.

I think would be in the .3's easily if it was not for the metail ducting I used from NZ - the returns had small air gaps that I could not tape up, so live an learn.

Home is performing really well, as you may be aware this house has not heating or cooling.

A clear rule we have is no windows need sun for at least 9 months in temperate climates if passive house (we are considered temperate) so solar shading is really important design feature with a super insulated house.

So now with [winter starting and] ground frosts we have been sitting at the assigned 23 degrees (73 deg F) constantly in autumn (manged by the MHRV).

So no doubt it works Charles as a compete system.

A good friend has an plug in electric hybrid Mitsubishi and he lets us use it when away - this also proves the house can run net zero for energy to power the house and a car for 50km a day (not in middle of winter this is about 50% less solar) but is still working now in autumn.

Is still a law of averages but looks to save $100 a week in petrol and we are saving the same in heating/cooling and power so saving $10,000 NZD a year in energy consumption and with a battery (and car that can feed back electricity to house) would be completely energy independent from grid and fossil fuel.



You Don't Need A "Craftsman" To Frame Your House

I live in Asheville, North Carolina - an amazing city nestled in the heart of the eastern range of the southern Appalachian mountains - sometimes known as the "Paris of the South" for its sidewalk dining and a strong love of the arts, local crafts and craft-persons, food and beverage.  More recently it has been known as "Beer City USA" for its high concentration of micro-breweries.

But let's get back to that "crafts and craft-persons" notation.  Traditionally people living "off the beaten path" - as for centuries the southern Appalachian mountains certainly were (at least as far as persons of non-native American descendancy are concerned) - have had to largely fend for themselves, carving homes out of the very nature that they would live and die in.  And they would create amazing furniture and utensils that would impress the craftsman of Europe for their ingenious functionality, if not for their elegant design.  From these useful traditions would spring many modern day crafts people who continue to make a living (or at least try to) building beautiful furniture and elegant crafts pieces for the home in and around Asheville, NC.

So what does all this have to do with your house or Eco-Panels as the provider of your "building envelope"?  First off lets remember from previous postings that the "art" of most modern stick-frame construction methods that most homes are still built with today were pioneered (no pun intended) in the mid-west in the 1830s.  These wood working skills would flow readily from the hands of craft persons already adept at the fashioning of log homes or furniture from the trees of the land, and as economies have evolved many home builders have naturally arisen from long family traditions of working with wood.  But I would argue that we not be impressed by the "art" of stick framing a home, for it is far more important that this home provide a safe, strong, healthy and energy efficient structure for a family to reside.  Let the crafts people do the pretty trim work for the home - the crown moulding, the post and beam vaulted ceiling, the cabinetry.  These can certain make a home feel "warm and inviting".

The stick framing is there for one reason only - not to showcase a person's art - but to provide structure for walls and the roof overhead.  Don't forget it.  And it is the thermal bridging of this stick framing - where the frame structure accounts for approx 25-27% of the building envelope and allows through the wood frame the almost free flow of energy from the inside of the home to the outside (or vice versa) - that makes this one of the LEAST ENERGY EFFICIENT methods of construction allowed by law (when you also consider the strength of the structure we can accurately say that it is the WEAKEST and LEAST ENERGY EFFICIENT method of construction allowed by law).  Wood has an R value of approx 1 per inch, and when 25-27% of your house (according to USDOE) is approx R4, and you have another 20-40% of a wall system that is windows & doors that are in the range of R3 to R4 ("R" measures thermal resistance, and a low number is BAD) - all of a sudden you have 50 to almost 70% of the walls of a home that has an insulation value of R3 to R4.  Pulling from such a low baseline it almost doesn't matter what you insulate with inside of the wall cavities.  Building scientists working for US Dept of Energy have long noted that a building's walls offer the single greatest opportunity for energy loss, lack of in-home comfort and high energy bills.

Leave the building envelope - the outer shell of your home - to the experts at Eco-Panels.  Tell your builder that they can still frame the interior walls traditionally, and yes you sincerely appreciate their fine craftsmanship where you can see it in the final touches of the trim carpenter.  But lets not confuse stick framing with any sort of art - it is far more serious than that.

Caution: If you DON'T want to see your sheetrock installers strip down

I heard a nice testimonial from Luke Burrell of Hearthstone Innovative Homes - builders in the Asheville area who recently (they are one of the few "green builders" who are actually serious about building energy efficient homes) told me that he walked into one of their homes using our panels on a cold day when the sheetrock crew was working and he was caught totally off-guard that the house "...felt like a sauna!"  The furnace in the home had not yet been hooked up and the sheetrock crew, as was normal for winter time, set up a kerosene heater in the house since the "sheetrock mud" that they use to seal the joints can not be applied in the cold.  Apparently it did not take long in this 1,300 sqft house for this heater to cause the guys to start shedding their cold weather clothes and actually have to adjust their work routine just a bit to accomodate the faster mud drying process.

Typical of a great builder interested in finishing the job faster, Luke's summary comment was "great if it makes the whole sheetrock hanging process go much faster!"

New Tiny Home Shell Model Coming to Asheville!

UPDATE (original article below): This is a picture of the tiny home taken of how it looked one day after the panels were delivered:

Eco-Panels manufactures the most efficiently insulated building system on the market today, and with it we can help homeowners, builders and developers build the most energy efficient homes in the world - helping to reduce energy consumption by up to 95% (according to our clients) compared to a traditionally built stick-framed homes (stick frame is the least energy efficient method of construction, but by far the most common).

Just in time for Christmas - Eco-Panels will be setting panels for a Tiny Home Shell in Asheville, NC, on December 15.  This unit will have the shell erected and dried in in just a couple of hours, and the windows have been pre-installed at our factory.  In fact this may be the first Passive House or Net-Zero Energy tiny home on the market!

Structures like these could be used for "Man-Caves", "She-Sheds", "Mother-in-Law Cottages" or otherwise just nice and comfortable backyard offices or even simple year-round playhouses for children.

Tiny Home Shell Packages - Panel Kits Pre-Assembled or DIY

Eco-Panels manufactures the most advanced structural insulated panels on the market today.  This week Eco-Panels is pleased to offer DIY kits of Tiny Home Shell packages using our advanced panel system - or you can simply purchase standard panels and DIY!  Stick framing makes for a very energy inefficient building envelope no matter how you insulate it due to all of the thermal briding.  Using our panels you too can create the most efficiently insulated Tiny Homes in the World!

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