What is a super insulated home? A house with super-insulation generally far exceeds insulation levels required by building code. While there is no hard and fast rule that draws a line between a “normal” home and a super-insulated home, Wikipedia states that R40 walls, and an R60 roof are typical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superinsulation). Our house combines R40 polyurethane SIPs (structural insulated panels) with an outer layer of R5 rigid foam board. Add in the R-value of the other materials in the walls (wall board, house wrap, and siding), and most of our exterior walls reach R47.
Many people ask me… Why did you want a superinsulated home? Quite simply, they cost significantly less to heat and cool that a house built to code. In fact, that is what first appealed to me when I was doing initial research for this house. I then struggled to find a cost-effective way to build that superinsulated house. If you read my early posts on this website, you will see that it was quite a struggle. However, I can now safely say that it was well worth the effort. More importantly, my wife now feels that it was worth the effort and regrets arguing with questioning me in the beginning. :-)
Our super insulated house has very little temperature variation. The thermostats are set at 69F, and I have – never – seen the temperature drop below 69F or rise above 69F except when the sun is heating the house, or we are running the gas fireplace for ambiance. That is unless we want it to. I have no doubt that we could raise the thermostat to 80F, and it would get there and stay there. However, we are quite comfortable at 69F, and keep it set there year-round (we cool to 69F in the summer). From the hardwood floor on the first floor to the insulation just under the roof in the attic, the temperature variation is within 2 degrees. It is quite comfortable.
There are many ways to achieve super insulating values, including the ability to retrofit old houses. My personal experience was that this was most easily, and cost effectively, achieved with new construction by combining modular construction (built in a factory and assembled onsite) with SIP exterior walls. If you are a contractor, you should be building this way. If you are having a house built, I can think of no better way to ensure low heating and cooling costs and year-round comfort.
Mr. Green Dreams