Thinking Of Building A New Home?

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Are you thinking of building a new home?  Or purchasing a newly built home?  Great!  We are here to help.  Probably 98% of our business is derived from clients that approach our company looking for a "better way" to build a home.  More and more clients building homes today have educated themselves through on-line research and speaking with informed individuals and they realize that stud frame construction - the weakest and least energy efficient method of construction allowed by law - will cost them MORE MONEY over time than if they had purchased a better solution to start with.  While most clients either bring a builder to the table or ask us for assistance in helping them find a builder - I'm guessing fully one third of our clients are owner-builders - and often darn smart owner-builders as well.  We provide all the assistance and advice we can - for free - with the hopes that you will purchase panels from our company.

So if you are looking for a new home - BEWARE purchasing a spec-built home.  You know those builders that always seem to have homes for sale through their website?  We have actually approached -or been approached by - a few of those builders - like in Asheville NC - and we quickly found out that they simply working for their investors to make a certain return on investment.  "If you can't see it" then odds are they have taken the less expensive way out.  We approached a very popular "green builder" in Asheville several times and finally got an opportunity to provide pricing for our product instead of them building it out of wooden studs and spray foam.  After review he said our cost was about $3,500 premium and he would just as soon put that money in his pocket.  Now forget about the fact that the home would have been about twice as energy efficient, MUCH stronger in structure, more comfortable and safer to live in (from fire and cleaner interior air).  They were selling the home for more than $300,000 - so we were only about a 1% premium for supplying a significantly superior home.  But as he had said - that was money in his pocket - he wasn't building spec homes for a future consumer - he was building them to make money for himself and his investors.  We get that.  So we advise clients to help them build their own home - where THEY are in charge.  Fortunately there are also still many great builders out there that are happy to assist you in building a home the way you want it - and that's the way it should be.

Speaking of Asheville - I recently drove around Asheville at night with a thermal imaging camera and took photos of homes built by some popular green builders - and I also took thermal photos of homes made from our panels on the very same nights - so you have a good comparison if it was the same temperature outside.  Take a look - the difference is quite remarkable.  This is evidence plain and simple that these homes are leaking energy at an amazing rate - energy that will cost you money for the entire life of the home - and money you would not have to be paying if you had paid a little more upfront for our panels.

Some Recent Videos from Eco-Panels

It has been a while since we have posted new articles to our blog and I am sorry for that - it's a busy time of year for us!  But in the meantime I thought you may find some of these videos interesting - and a few of them are new:

Korea Humanitarian Mission via U.S. State Department Humanitarian Export License:

Habitat for Humanity Housing - Mitchell County, NC:     

Partnership video between Eco-Panels and the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy - ACEEE:

Two Burn Test Videos:

Eco-Panels in the Caribbean After Irma - UPDATE

Eco-Panels has long been active in the Caribbean, with multiple projects on the Island of St. John.  Our panels were recognized as superior and desired by the developer due to their strength, extreme energy efficiency and resistance to both high wind and seismic forces.  The standard method of construction in the Caribbean is concrete - yet as Haiti showed us, concrete does not fare well in a highly active seismic environment like the Caribbean (don't forget that most of the islands in the Caribbean are of volcanic origin).  And recently in new development discussions we were learning that the cost of concrete on the Island of St. John - before Hurricane Irma - was in the range of $900-$1,000 per cubic yard - it is presently about $125 per cubic yard near our factory in North Carolina.

Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Irma in all of the Caribbean.  And we hope that we can assist in the reconstruction that will occur on many islands like Barbuda, Antigua, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Martin/St. Maarten as well as the British Virgin Islands like Tortola and Virgin Gorda.  There will be massive labor shortages during this reconstruction effort, and the cost of concrete due to the high demand will skyrocket.  Yet we have shown that we can build multi-story structures in the Caribbean that can survive these storms and we require almost no concrete and at the same time need only minimally skilled labor.  In fact many of our clients around the world act as an owner/builder and they build their own homes using our panels since traditionally the "stick-framing" of a home was just about the most complicated part of the process (stud frame construction is actually the weakest and least energy efficient method of construction allowed by US law (building code)).

The below top-most photo was found on-line in surveys of the damage on the Island of St. John immediately after Hurricane Irma.  We believe that that the buildings still standing in this photo that are not made from Eco-Panels are made from stone & morter or concrete block.  The photos below this image of devastation show more detail of the construction of these buildings years before Hurricane Irma struck (so gives you a good Before & After perspective).  UPDATE - we have been informed by the manager of the development on this side of the island that the buildings made from Eco-Panels were the ONLY buildings to survive without structural damage.  Every other building in the property - there were 30 or 40 of them - were either partially or entirely destroyed as a result of the winds from Hurricane Irma.

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HVAC Sizing for Eco-Panels Homes

If you really look at the philosophy behind building a super-energy efficient home, it's that the interior spaces are very much protected from outside conditions, and it only takes a small amount of energy to affect change to the interior environment.  "Heat it with a match-stick, cool it with an ice-cube" would be our mantra if we had one.  And what's better is that when you have a super insulated structure that can be affected by small amounts of energy, then you can realize savings that a stick framed home could only dream of.  We have homes set on concrete slabs and they are able to realize and leverage the passive cooling energy of that slab.  And we have tiny homes that use incandescent lightbulbs to provide 100% of the heat for a small home when it is below zero celsius outside.  We provided the roof and walls of a 15,000 square foot retail space that is cooled in the summer largely by its concrete slab (HVAC is still needed for dehumidifying) and in the winter the heat is provided by its retail lighting.

REMEMBER- the energy associated with the heating and cooling of your home represents the single largest expense of living in that home (outside of your mortgage), typically accounting for 40-60% of your total energy bill (water heating is usually about 20%, the rest is known as "plug load").  In fact, the heating and cooling of buildings is about the largest singe use of energy in the United States according to the USEIA.  By significantly reducing your energy consumption associated with the heating and cooling of your home, we can help you save real money over the life of your home - and this saved money goes straight to your pocket - not the energy company!

Most homes will have a more convential HVAC system for heating and cooling the home, and here is where you need to be careful.  DO NOT LET YOUR HVAC GUY USE A TRADITIONAL "RULE OF THUMB" that might mean he is going to size the HVAC based on 1 ton for every 600 or 700 square feet of home.  Now local building codes very often require a "Manual J" calculation which takes a more in-depth look at the construction, fenestration and orientation of your home for HVAC sizing, and even this more advanced method almost always gets it wrong with our panels.  Through experience, we have found that generally speaking a home of approx 4,500 sqft in size may need a 2.5 ton HVAC system.  Buy a variable speed HVAC system if you can - these used to not exist but with the increased presence of mini-splits we are seeing it more and more.  A 3,500 to 4,000 sqft home might need a 2 ton system.  A home 1,500 to 2,500 sqft can typically get by with a 1.5 ton system.  So if we had to say we had a rule of thumb, it would be approximately 1 ton of HVAC for every 1,500 to 2,000 sqft of house.  Always use at least Energy Star rated windows (and the rating needs to be appropriate for your climate zone), and Cardinal Glass is also a great choice (odds are your window mfgr offers it).  We do like mini-split systems as these can be great for smaller homes (they have been long used in Europe and Asia where smaller homes are more the norm).

ASHRAE tells us that an HVAC system needs to run for at least 15 minutes or so before it starts to achieve optimal operating efficiency, and in a super-insulated home we have heard past clients of ours brag that "we know our home is super-energy efficient because the air conditioning only runs for 5 or 6 minutes at a time before it turns back off".  We slap our foreheads in frustration because we know that the HVAC company sold them an oversized unit - sometimes more interested in a bigger sale than a "right-sized" sale.  Their unit may indeed be cooling the house, but it is not "conditioning" the house, which is eliminating the high humidity levels that any summer months may realize.  And all of the short-term cycling of the equipment will certainly shorten its useful life, again increasing your long term operating costs.  In reality you want a system that will run "low and slow" in the background, cooling and dehumidifying but at the same time using a lower amount of energy - this is why a variable speed system like a mini-split or one of the new TRANE variable speed units is attractive to us - they are made to run longer on lower power.  You don't want it to run all the time, for sure, but I think 30-40 minutes or so is just fine.

HERE is a nice article on "right-sizing" an HVAC system for a super-insulated home from a blog that we appreciate (and we think they give great advice most of the time).  If your HVAC contractor is not familiar with this sizing concept and always thinks that "bigger is better" then RUN AWAY - they are not the company for you.

Nice Testimonial from South Texas - with Pictures

But south of San Antonio Texas the attempt at extreme energy efficiency at little to no extra cost is alive and well!  We received some recent feedback from a DIY client and I am re-posting below.  This guy is a CPA so he did the math, and knew it made sense.  With a concrete slab floor and our panels wrapping the envelope he'll have constant natural cooling from the earth.  We were very happy to see he did not go with one of those too expensive geo-thermal or "water furnace" systems or radiant slab - when using our system you simply don't need expensive forms of heating or cooling.  "Cool it with an ice-cube, heat it with a match-stick."

See below testimonial & attached nice photos (exterior is Huber ZIP System siding).


From: Daryl H.
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2017 8:31 AM
To: Charles Leahy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Subject: RE: How is it going?

The only thing I did was do a lot of reading on the internet and in the forums. A lot of folks spoke of their performance from their sip homes. One factor was thermal bridging and on my last house from experience fiberglass just doesn't cover all the voids. Also corners were another void which was hard to insulate especially the way framers tend to build them. Your corners is what caught my attention. I did put the pencil to it to figure a studded house with polyurethane foam, zip panel and foam on the outside and there really wasn't any savings. Plus having to watch all the trades. I have a friend who has been watching what I'm doing and has been surprised at how sturdy the walls are. He wanted me to build with stick but I planned this way too long to deviate. My ex-wife cousins husband  had to rebuild their sausage plant freezer and it's just all foam with steel frame for the door. So it makes sense. I will say since this was my first sip project I did shop around especially since I was unfamiliar with all the technical details. Some made their products sound really good but then couldn't explain what they needed. Your company was very helpful throughout and as I've always said service is the key. Next time or if someone wants a recommendation I would have to refer them to ecopanels. Save yourself time and the headache and just go directly to y'all. Sorry got long winded. I'll keep you updated. My Corinthian columns came in and my framer is freaking out. They weigh a lot. He will get it. The picture is from the other day. I believe Tuesday.

On Feb 9, 2017 7:14 PM, "Charles Leahy" < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it > wrote:

Hello Daryl!

My apologies for the delayed response.  Generally we work on air sealing between the plates before the panels are set – we try to discuss this in the “Quick Start” guide in our Assembly Manual that you have.  But there is no reason you can’t start now – by all means not too late.  On one of the tightest homes we’ve ever seen the guy simply walked around with a caulk gun and sealed at the bottom of the panels and the base plate – and this was after he had already put some construction adhesive under the base plate.

You do not need to worry about protecting the underside of the panels.  As long as those skins are not touching the concrete – and instead resting on the treated plate – you’re good.

One thing you can easily do is take the Huber ZIP tape and seal the joint between the panel and the treated base plate.

I am not familiar with a “shroud” like product that would cover down from the panel to the cement – I’ve not seen that before.  Interesting as long as there is no trapped air.

THIS is a company that we respect very much -  Check out their products – they are out of Europe originally but have distributors here and one of our top builders uses them religiously, including their tapes that require priming with adhesive before applying – maybe talking about the same thing?  But I do not know why you would put a barrier over concrete – I’ve not heard of that before.

Question for you – as a CPA – did you do any sort of long range analysis for your home’s performance using our panels vs. if it was stick framed?  I’m just curious.



From: Daryl H.
Sent: Friday, February 3, 2017 8:31 AM
To: Charles Leahy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Subject: Re: How is it going?

The panels are up and the framers are on the ceiling joists. This weekend I hope to finish sealing the panels. The cutouts for the porch joists seam to be working out well. I couldn't find the 2x12 hoist hangers so we made some from 1 1/2" angle iron. The framers complained a little about how they thought this took more time but I figured it shaved off time and even more time for insulating. They may be fast but not that fast. I have been watching other houses go up and none have gone this fast. We had a load of lumber scheduled shortly after the the panels arrived so we convinced them to unload the panels. The framers were going to unload the panels but after seeing the load they had second thoughts. I've attached a few pictures for now I'll send more later. Just wanted to say out of the panel companies I talked to and considered, your group was the most helpful and responsive even when the panels got reversed. Still not sure why my son and the framers went ahead and did that even though they saw it was wrong. That's what I get for leaving 1 hour to get foam. In that 1 hour they probably installed 35 feet of panels. It worked out. Will send more later. Thanks

On Feb 3, 2017 6:15 AM, "Charles Leahy" < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it > wrote:

Good morning Daryl,

I have not heard how it went with your panels – I hope well and you are happy – that is certainly our intent.  Do you have any photos you can share?  I’d love to hear more about your experience – if it is good maybe we could construct a story and feature it on our facebook page.


Charles Leahy


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Quality Check in our factory prior to shipment - note beam pockets at exterior corners pre-formed in factory for quick mounting on jobsite.

Quality check of custom home in Eco-Panels factoryCustom Home Quality Check Prior to Shipment

Job-site photos from client.  It took him about one day to erect the wall panels - said it took place mostly on their Tuesday and partly on Wednesday.

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