A Window into Building an Energy Efficient "Forever Home"

22 Aug 2018 9:41 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

By Chris Froelke, RetroEnergy President

Where did the summer go? Personally this has been the fastest summer of my life, as I mentioned back in June my family broke ground on a new home and was contemplating selling my home and living in a camper with a 7 month pregnant wife once we hit August. Currently, the house is well underway and cabinets are installed and looking to close on October 1st. We voted against selling our current home until our new home is completed. I grossly underestimated the amount of cleaning, organizing and detailing it takes to get a home that you have lived in for 14 years ready for market, meanwhile building a new one. We are very excited to see how this new home preforms, we opted for a very high performance building envelope doing 2” exterior polyiso insulation board on the walls and roof deck plus wall cavity and additional 5.5” of spray foam in the ceiling.

Some of the challenges with an unconventional building enclosure is communicating with the subcontractors on how to actually assemble an exterior insulation system and make it work with window openings and nailing backer for the siding. I chose a fluid applied weather barrier from Sto for all of the exterior 2” window and door bucks that needed to be furred out to correct wall thickness. This is something that is very rarely used in residential application and used every day in the commercial world. Since this will be my “Forever Home” I really wanted to take advantage of the new technology to make a dry, tight and energy efficient home. I also installed a free standing wood burning fireplace in the living room that my inspector said she hasn’t seen in years. I expect the cost to heat and cool this home will be extremely low and will also offer very constant comfort throughout the home.

Since I am an energy nerd and have extensive background in testing buildings for air leakage I was able to pick out additional opportunities to seal up energy and comfort robbing leaks before they get covered with sheetrock. I even did a preliminary blower door whole house air leakage test before sheet rock and tested at a .77 ACH (air changes per hour) which is almost 4 times below the code maximum. The German passive solar standard for building tightness is .6, not quite there but might be close after everything is done.

I have to admit, these details defiantly suck up a lot of time which is why I had to strap on my tool belt and do all of the weather barriers, flashings and insulation and air sealing details myself. However those few extra days of “Dealing” with the details I know will pay off. I have made a career out of fixing homes where many of the details where forgotten or done incorrectly, therefore I feel very fortunate to have this once in a life time opportunity to be very hands on with this process of designing a high performance building envelope for my family.

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