One of the most common uses for Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is in building and construction. The material’s insulation capabilities are unrivaled for its weight. One of the best innovations in the last 25 years for using EPS in housing construction is structural insulated panels, known as SIPS. This new way of insulating and constructing residential buildings not only passes significant energy cost savings onto the homeowner or renter but also positively impacts global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)
Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPS as they are generally referred to, are factory-built panels constructed like an EPS sandwich. Two “bread” layers of either oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood encompass an inner “meat” layer of foam, most typically EPS. They come in various premade sizes that building companies can use for most home layouts and can be custom sized for less-typical designs. They are both more airtight and a studier way of building than traditional construction methods. This video offers an excellent overview of how SIPS panels are constructed and used in homes and their benefits.
Energy Efficiency with SIPS
Traditionally, contractors build modern homes using what is known as a stick frame: a construction that uses 2×6 lumber filled in with fiberglass insulation. SIPS arrived on the market in the early 2000s amid much skepticism that they could outperform the current best practices. However, they have since proven to be a significantly more energy-efficient way of building homes.
To start with, Structural Insulated Panels are unrivaled in how airtight they are. They also provide superior insulating abilities, with the interior foam providing R-values of r-19 to r-57 depending on selected EPS thickness.
A life cycle analysis performed in the 2010s compared two equally sized single-family homes, one built with SIPS and one with a stick frame. The study found that “the average energy savings over 50 years were 9.9 times the energy invested when using SIPs compared to traditional stick framing for a home in the U.S. and would provide a reduction in global warming potential 13.2 times the CO2 equivalent of the emissions produced. This represents an energy payback period of 5.1 years and a recapture of greenhouse gas emissions in 3.8 years for using SIPs for America’s homes.” Moreover, the payback period gets even shorter in cold weather climates making it the superior choice for homes constructed in northern U.S. states and Canada.
Structural Insulated Panels are an excellent choice for any home or residential building seeking to meet net-zero-ready building standards and outperform LEED expectations. The ability to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from homes is a benefit that cannot be overstated.
If you’re ready to use EPS foam insulation in your next building project, contact Plymouth Foam, an Altor Solutions company.