If you’re building a new home–or creating an addition–structural insulated panels (SIPs) can reduce your energy bills for decades to come, says Carl Seville, an Atlanta, Georgia, energy-efficiency and sustainability consultant. These ultra-insulating panels–made of oriented strand board (OSB) with either expanded polystyrene (EPS) or polyurethane foam sandwiched between them–usually range from four-by-eight to eight-by-twelve feet and can be used for walls and roofs. Seville gives an overview of SIPs.
• Strong (thickness ranges from 4.5 to 12.25 inches)
• Extremely good insulation. With traditional walls, wood studs reduce insulation value. SIPs are large, solid panels that maintain a constant R-value.
• Create a better air seal than a wood-frame house. SIPs have fewer seams so there are fewer opportunities for air transfer between inside and outside.
• Quick to erect on site.
• Foam-filled SIPs are low in toxicity and are blown in using ozone- safe hydrocarbons.
• As they become more popular, they’re more readily available.
• It may be hard to find contractors familiar with SIPs. (Issues such as installation and wiring require some previous experience.)
• SIPs are made to order, so you need very accurate measurements and careful design.
• Good for building a new home where you have control over the site, but more complicated for renovations.
• Take a minimum of two people to install.