The Lowdown on Structural Insulated Panels

January/February 2002
A version of this article appears in the January/February 2002 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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January 01, 2002
More builders are recognizing the benefits of building with structural insulated panels, yet unless the panels are properly installed, moisture buildup can create major problems.
        Last summer’s sharp spike in energy costs has caused an increased interest in the potential energy savings for homeowners and labor savings for homebuilders offered by structural insulated panel (SIP) technology (see “SIPs Face the Skeptics,”HE Mar/Apr ’98, p. 13).Now new test results from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) confirm that SIPs can provide a higher whole-wall R-value than a comparable stick-built house.         Whole-wall measurements take into consideration heat loss due to seams and thermal bridging through wall studs, and are therefore more accurate than testing only the insulation material when measuring the R-values of buildings (see “Calculating Whole-Wall R-Values on the Net,”HE Nov/Dec ’99, p. 22).The 4-inch SIP scored R-14 on the wholewall tests, compared to R-9.8 for a 2 x 4 wood frame wall.The results of wholewall tests of 6-inch SIPs compared to 2 x 6 wood stud walls were similar.The SIP wall scored R-21.6, while the wood stud wall scored a whole-wall R-value of 13.7 (see Figure 1).         These results are not that surprising, since SIP-built houses have fewer seams and therefore tend ...

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