THE STRUCTURAL INSULATED PANEL ASSOCIATION (SIPA) cites recent Oak Ridge National Laboratory results as evidence that SIPs can help homeowners cut energy costs. The lab's results from a research house in Tennessee show that the house's total heating and cooling costs averaged about $166 per year, or 45 cents a day. The national average is about $1,500.

“We're trying to prove that there is a direct correlation between a tight house and energy efficiency,” says Bill Wachtler, executive director of SIPA.

Built in partnership with the lab, Loudon County Habitat for Humanity in Lenoir City, Tenn., SIPA, and other sponsors, the house is one of four being monitored by Oak Ridge in an effort to promote net–zero energy houses of all types by 2010.

The home was built with SIPs, solar cells, efficient mechanical systems, and energy-efficient windows, all adding to its overall performance.

Completed in 2002, the house represents a 51 percent energy savings over the 2000 Model Energy Code. Though it's widely believed that building with SIPs yields a tight building envelope and, therefore, energy savings, Wachtler says panels also offer time savings for the builder, and that directly affects the bottom line. The results of the remaining houses will be released next year.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.