Thoughts on Building a New House, Part Five: SIP's

As mentioned, we went with SIP panels for different reasons.  As advertised, the factory built panels (from approved shop drawings) would, in a sense, “snap” into place therefore greatly reducing labor costs.  Not so.  There was far less snap than anticipated.  Mostly it was a struggle to teach our local crew how to put them together and it became a painful and slow process of watching the shell take form.  Our guys knew stick-style framing but the panels were a different animal.  If the foundation is off by a quarter inch, the panels must be shaved just so in order to fit.  Running electrical thru the “pre-formed” conduit is not as easy as advertised, especially if there is anything unusual.  I suppose that, for a simpler tract house, the panels would make a lot of sense.  For us, I’m not sure we saved any money on the labor.

How have the panels performed? I was hoping they would end the hit that we take every month on energy bills.  They lessened the pain but they certainly didn’t end it.  Yet, I can’t say I’m disappointed because I don’t know what the bills might have been using other framing scenarios.  We have large expanses of glass opening to the view which can’t help the situation.  The bills are not nearly as high as our previous house (about $220 for electrical in August) but we don’t have the same square footage (now we have 2,400 sf vs. 3,200 sf previously).  Maybe my expectations were unrealistic. Maybe, if we hook up the solar panels we wired for, it will assuage my pain—the solar panels we couldn’t afford to begin with.

Since the panels were made in the factory and hauled here on a truck, there was very little waste—a good thing.

I will say that it is very nice to be comfortable in 15 degree weather outside.  The house is virtually airtight, it’s like living inside a Styrofoam beer cooler.  There are no radiant qualities here…but it only takes a second to condition the house and it stays that way for awhile unless you open a window or door.