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Posted January 9, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Heat turns green: Insulated panels help keep home warm, safe and energy-efficient

Richard Lloyd
Richard Lloyd, of Cardinal Building Systems Inc. in Winchester, shows granules of plastic used to build Structural Insulated Panels. The panels can be used in place of traditional framing and fiberglass insulation. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Richard Lloyd
Lloyd stands by a stack of panels, which are used as walls, floors, ceilings or a roof. Dennis Grundman/Daily

By J.R. Williams -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- Simple, environmentally friendly ways to save on home energy costs have been catching on.

Homeowners all across the country are switching to fluorescent light bulbs, buying efficient appliances and resisting the urge to nudge the thermostat. It's a win-win -- less energy consumption means less pollution and costs less money.

But for those a little more serious about keeping their hard-earned heat inside the home and willing to pay a little more up front to save in the long run, representatives of a Winchester-based company say they have the answer.

Cardinal Building Systems markets Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPs, which can be used as a wall, a floor, a ceiling or a roof in place of traditional framing and fiberglass insulation.

The R-Control brand panels, made of strong high-density foam squeezed between a wood facing, come complete and ready to frame a structure. They're made all across the country, including in Winchester. Team Industries Inc. operates an SIP plant at Stonewall Industrial Park.

This is not your grandmother's insulation, said Richard Lloyd, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Cardinal.

SIPs turn the traditional model of home building on its head. The product looks and installs differently, and contractors have been reluctant to make the switch from traditional methods, Lloyd said.

But the technology slowly is being embraced, he said. Cardinal claims the installation of SIPs translates to savings over traditional fiberglass.

"There are a lot of different products in the marketplace that will allow you to heat and cool efficiently. The changes we've seen [in the industry] have been unbelievable," said Lloyd, who started Cardinal seven years ago. "But builders don't buy this product. End-users buy this product."

Eric Fesperman, a construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity in Winchester, said Habitat homes that use SIPs are going up in Stephens City.

Fesperman said Habitat chose to build homes with SIP walls because of the ease of construction and the benefit to families moving in.

"For us, it's very volunteer friendly. It ups your [insulation] value, so it's going to save our future homeowners a good deal on their utility bills," he said.

One Habitat home has been completed on Crooked Lane, Fesperman said, with several more in the works. A family is set to move in to the first home next week.

Fesperman said choosing SIPs cut the construction time by six to eight weeks on a five-month project, even with unskilled labor.

"Normally we're driving nails and studs and top plates, but these panels come as one kit," he said. "You just glue it and screw it ... We plan to do three more come springtime with the same system."

Fesperman, who works as a home builder outside of Habitat, said SIPs are just as sturdy as traditional building methods.

"Sometimes you can feel a draft in conventional builds," he said. "These are very tight builds. ... I'd like to see more people start using them."

Copeland Casati is a Richmond-based business owner whose companies specialize in building energy efficient homes with a focus on solar design. Her company sells kit homes nationwide, all including SIPs.

"Traditional stick building is just not comparable," she said.

Casati said even though the economy is down, more people are contacting her to start building green.

"People want to be energy efficient. By the time somebody contacts me, they've already done the research," she said.

Cardinal, located at 1011 Berryville Ave., Suite 3, offers a line of supporting products designed to complement SIPs, including energy efficient doors and windows, and other products. Call 535-7282 for more information.

*Contact J.R. Williams at jrwilliams@nvdaily.com


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