HomeStar Recognizes the Contributions of Insulated Siding

Lucas Hamilton

Last week the United States House of Representatives passed the HomeStar bill which authorizes $5.7 billion over two years for energy efficient upgrades to homes.  The bill will now be reviewed by the Senate.  The bill has two parts:  The Silver Star program provides up-front rebates of up to $3,000 for specific energy-efficient improvements in home such as energy efficient appliances, duct sealing, insulation, or new windows or doors.  The Gold Star programs provides up to $8,000 to people who conduct an energy audit and implement steps to cut energy use in their homes by more than 20 percent.

But one of the biggest changes within the HomeStar program is the recognition of the contribution of insulated siding to the energy efficiency of buildings.  When we talk about the weatherization programs we are talking about adding insulation to existing buildings.  The most difficult place to add insulation is on the side walls. Insulation is, traditionally, between the framing cavity between the studs – between the sheathing and interior drywall.  Sometimes it isn’t even possible to add insulation to these cavities post construction. Also, it doesn’t account for framing. This is the big issue encountered even with new construction, getting the whole wall insulation value as high as possible to improve the all over performance of the system – the studs, the cavities, the framing, and the floor lines.  When insulation is added between two studs, on the best given day, it only insulates 75 percent of the wall because framing accounts for 25 percent of the wall.

When insulated siding is used on a building it not only increases the insulation value it covers up the framing on the outside which cuts down on the thermal bypasses and improves the overall whole wall R value which is very difficult to do.

Hats off to the Home Star program and the Federal government for recognizing the significant contribution that insulated sidings can make towards the overall performance of the building.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation

Homestar: Finally a Job Creation Program

On Tuesday, March 3, 2010 President Obama announced his Homestar Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program.  This new version addresses the very thing that was missing from the Energy Tax Rebate program – job creation. CertainTeed president and CEO, Peter Dachowski was present at the announcement, illustrating CertainTeed’s support of the Homestar initiative. 

The Energy Tax Credit program has been available for several years but was given a boost last year by President Obama.  The maximum $1,500 dollar rebate did not provide enough funding for the average homeowner to invest upfront in a professional audit to achieve the maximum improvement in whole house performance. Nor did it cover the cost of installation labor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The key aspect of this new initiative is the Gold Star Rebate provision.  This enables consumers to be eligible for a $3,000 rebate if they achieve a 20 percent energy savings in their homes. Doing this will require a whole home energy audit and performance confirmation.

The average homeowner does not have the knowledge of building science to make the best or safest choices in this arena.  The proper application of insulation to achieve maximum performance and life safety requires knowledge and thought. In the attic, for example, there are many issues to be aware of when adding insulation. Care must be given not to block roof ventilation, to not create cold vapor resistive surfaces, to not cause fire hazards by insulating against unrated recessed lights, flues, or knob & tube wiring, etc.

By doubling the money, the homeowner now has the funding to bring in a professional to evaluate what they need and provide the expertise to suggest next steps.  This aspect of the Gold Star program actually creates new green professionals.  It will require the training of construction professionals to become energy raters and professionals who can become skilled in efficiencies.  This now has meaning because it creates the very jobs discussed in a previous Blog on the need for energy auditors

The fact that consumers are gaining knowledge about the importance of energy efficiency and the need to upgrade older dwellings will continue beyond the life of any rebate program and the need for green professionals will only increase. The addition of the Gold Star aspect starts us on the way by creating an initial demand for this knowledge and service which goes beyond the previously existing programs.

Homestar jumpstarts the process and all I can say is, it’s about time.

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation.