Adopting Energy Efficiency: 5 Resources for Building a Green Home

Icynene-Insulation-Installation-resized-600.jpgToday’s homebuilders commonly refer to themselves as “green builders.” Toward the end of the home building process, many home builders install energy star appliances and light fixtures, which are available in myriad retailers.

But that’s not enough to qualify them as a green home builder. A true green home involves a larger scope, from the foundation and everything in between.

Here are 5 key resource options to consider when building an energy-efficient home:

1. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)

According to the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA), the building sector accounts for 50% of America’s energy use, in the heating and cooling of a building. ICFs are made from Expanded Polystyrene(EPS), which was was developed for waste-stream product in the development of oil. Essentially, EPS were originally considered post-industrial recycled material.

The styrene resins are transported to the local molding plant, where they are expanded to 28 times their size with the use of air and moisture. EPS R-value does not diminish over time, which saves many barrels of oil and tons of coal due to greatly reduced heating and cooling requirement (Wikipedia 2012). For more on ICFs, read here The ICF Effect

2. GeoThermal, Modular or Solar Heating

GeoThermal – Ground source heat pumps rely on an energy exchange between air being heated in a building and the ground. Heat pumps extract heat from the ground and use it to heat the building. Since 2007, 28 GW of geothermal heating capacity has been installed around the world, satisfying 0.07% of global primary energy consumptionThermal efficiency is high since no energy conversion is needed, but capacity factors tend to be low (around 20%) since heat is mostly needed in the winter (Wikipedia 2012).

Modular – Heat storage tanks work by trapping hot water from collectors and by returning cold water to gather more heat. Hydrotherm revolutionized the heating industry by pioneering the modular boiler more than sixty years ago. Modular heating provides maximum efficiency and flexibility in residential and commercial heating applications (Hydrotherm 2012).

Active Solar Energy – There are two basic types of solar heating systems, which are based on the type of fluid that is heated with solar collectors. These can be either liquid or air.

Liquid heating systems heat water, or an antifreeze solution in a “hydronic” collector. Air heating systems then heat air that is stored in an “air collector”. According to the U.S. Department of Energy on Active Solar Energy,

A solar heating system will also reduce the amount of air pollution and greenhouse gases that result from your use of fossil fuels such as oil, propane, and natural gas for heating or that may be used to generate the electricity that you use.” 

Active Solar Energy can significantly reduce energy costs such as fuel for heating in the winter. Supplementary or “Back-Up” systems are still required to supply heat when solar systems are unable to meet the energy demand for heating. 

3. TJI Floor Joist Systems 

TJI Floor Joists are a key part of making a high performance floor. TJI Joistsare engineered to provide strength and consistency. According toWeyerhaeuser “the dimensional stability of TJI floor joists help them resist warping, twisting, and shrinking that can lead to squeaking floors.” TJI joists are much easier to install than traditional framing floor joists, saving both time and money.

4. Icynene Insulation

Icynene is a spray-on foam insulation used to insulate homes. Typically, icynene is used during new construction because, as shown in the video below, icynene needs to be sprayed on like paint before the sheetrock goes on.

The advantages of icynene include:

1) Higher R values, because icynene is uniform

2) Lower air infiltration from outside

3) Better sound insulating properties

4) Better moisture barrier

Used correctly, icynene can help reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 50% ( blog).

5. Metal Roof – Made from 25% recycled material; installing a Metal Roof over a conventional asphalt shingle offer several advantages with energy efficiency. The primary difference between metal roofs and asphalt shingles is that metal roofs reflect sunlight, whereas asphalt shingles absorb sunlight. Any solar radiation that is absorbed will heat the roofs’ surface. A cool metal roof can save 25% in energy cost compared to a dark Grey asphalt shingle (Metal Roofing Alliance – Metal Roofing Energy Efficiency).


Energy efficient products help savings in the long-term, though at a higher cost during the initial building phases. It is important to select green building options that will deliver the greatest ROI for homebuyers.
Photo Image Credit: Liquid Solar Heating David Darling Info