Why ICF Homes are Energy Efficient

Written by Posted On Sunday, 07 July 2019 12:28

Normally profitability in marketing is key in any corporate business. But sustainability is taking the driver’s seat in today’s home-buying market. One prominent example is Commonwealth Edison electricity company (one of several companies owned by inventor and researcher Thomas Edison). The company, which was founded in 1907 and provides electricity in the Chicagoland area, is one of multiple electricity companies educating its users on smart energy and ways to save. While there are many ways to be energy efficient, homeowners who invest in insulated concrete form (ICF) as the building material for their home are still a step above the rest.

ICF homes are attractive to both homeowners (both eco-friendly residents and those who may want to sell later) and real estate investors, primarily because energy efficiency increases the value of the house. These homes are made up of flat, rigid, plastic foam sheets that hold foundation and structure in place. The goal of an ICF home is to control ventilation, better control heating and cooling systems, and make energy-efficient appliances and electronics top priority—all while not compromising comfort.

How Global Warming is Affecting All Homes

Depending on the city, the average homeowner goes through highs and lows when it comes to utility bills, whether it’s from air conditioning to central heating. But in extremely humid and/or notably frigid locations, a concrete block home is even more of a necessity.

Global warming has made hurricanes even more dangerous (wetter, faster, and take on more energy); increased flooding in low-lying communities; intensified wildfires; and affected forests (higher spring and summer temperatures plus earlier snow melting makes forests more dry and drier). For water-loving residents, growing glacial melting has led to rising sea levels and frequent weather problems. 

ICF homes, because of the steel reinforced concrete, can reportedly stand up against winds as high as 200 miles per hour, including one of the few homes that stood its ground against Hurricane Katrina.

How ICF Homes Are Making Their Mark Against Weather and Insurance Claims

Although there are weather issues that will simply be out of a homeowner’s control, modern concrete homes are designed to try to make everyday living as safe as possible. Usually when a homeowner (or renter) moves into a new property, the rooms are already set up by the last owner. And sometimes people are stuck with moving furniture into rooms that are less than ideal weather wise.

ICF homes are designed to not just consider the space or shape of a home but also how temperatures will influence these sections. The insulated foam (estimated at about two inches thick) that surrounds layers of concrete is flexible enough to still be used for furnishings (cabinets, wood trim, etc.). But the solid sheets of foam also guard against air seeping into the home. This means there will be no “hot spots” or “cold spots” in certain rooms. It’s also evenly insulated, assuming the ICF home is padded all over instead of just in basements, safe rooms, attics or Earth-sheltered (i.e., “underground”) homes.

Additionally, for those trying to calculate how their home insurance may be affected:

●     Concrete is Not Flammable. While an electric fire on the inside of a home could risk some belongings being damaged, the walls are reasonably safe from damage. That’s on top of concrete helping to stop other sources of radiation, such as ionizing radiation from sunlight.

●     ICF home builders are outsmarting termites (for now). There are three main types of termites (dampwood, drywood and subterranean) found in North America. Dampwood termites, which focus on decaying wood, usually reside in the Pacific Northwest and coastal British Columbia. (ICF homes are resistant to wood rot.) Drywood termites usually hang out in southern parts of North America, such as Hawaii and Mexico. However, neither are as concerning as Subterranean termites, which cause the most damage to building structures. They have used shelter tubes to find ways to feed from cardboard, paper and fiberboard. However, ICF builders are on to Subterranean termites, which live in the soil to remain undetected. Waterproofing and barrier systems, such as Polyguard 650 XT, are used to guard against them. Slow-acting chemical toxicants are also used to get rid of them before they can do any permanent damage.

●     ICF homes fight against earthquakes. The structural integrity of ICF homes help guard against not only hurricanes but earthquakes too.

Energy-Efficient Appliances Used in ICF Homes

ICF homes are an energy efficient home design that should also include energy-efficient doors, windows, appliances and home electronics for the following reasons:

●     Energy-efficient doors and windows: The polyurethane foam core on these doors are ENERGY STAR qualified and National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) certified. They reduce air leakage around the outer parts. And the glass has a triple plane to lower heat flow.

●     Energy-efficient appliances: Dishwashers, washers and dryers, and even shower head appliances and add-ons are helping residents better control their water usage, including the water levels used for the rinse cycle all the way to the amount of water pressure being released in a bathroom.

●     Energy-saving lighting: Traditional incandescent light bulbs provide lighting, but 90 percent of their energy is useless heat. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen incandescent light bulbs and light emitting diodes (LEDs) used in ICF homes can all light the same rooms with far less heat. They also last eight to 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent light bulb.

How Passive Solar Design Matters in ICF Homes

While energy-efficient appliances and fixtures are a step in the right direction for any home, including those that are not already ICF homes, the rooms of any home are just as significant. A home-energy audit will help prioritize what areas could be the most cost effective for energy-saving home improvements. In an ICF home built from scratch, passive solar design is a priority.

Passive solar design—a technique used to examine a building’s site location, the temperature of the area and the housing materials used—narrows down which areas of a home should be where (the living room, dining room, home office, etc.)

For example, rooms in which the sun is facing should ideally be used for heavily used (and ideally light) spaces, such as a living room. Cool rooms are ideal for spaces that already use more heat (from stoves, for example) or need less lighting for sleep so kitchens and bedrooms are a given. Low-level sunlight areas are fine for rooms that don’t particularly need a lot of steady, bright lighting, such as laundry rooms, bathrooms and garages.

Saving Energy, Saving Money, Adding Value in ICF Homes

In closing, while any home (whether using brick veneers, stucco, wood siding, or the insulated foam) will require more than just the exterior to make the physical home attractive to the eye, efficiency, safety and the savings make ICF homes the smartest buy for a “smart” home.

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Matt Lee

Matt Lee is an SEO and content marketing specialist serving building material manufacturers. He’s the founder of digital marketing agency, Lead Generation Experts, and Local SEO Course, Rise Up Local, that teaches business owners how to rank higher and get more leads through search engines.

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