A wall is one of the most deceptively complex elements of a home. A smart wall system utilizing efficiently designed and produced components will not only reduce energy consumption, it will make living in a home more pleasant. And it will be durable enough to help avoid the hassle of frequent or costly repairs. Read on to learn about some of the most innovative products available to put together a truly MetaEfficient wall.
Dietrich UltraSteel Metal Framing Studs
Wood framing is a good option for some structures, and many builders still prefer to work with traditional wood studs for wall framing. But metal framing like UltraSteel studs from Dietrich can offer a number of substantial advantages for homeowners.
Why It Was Chosen:
Steel offers a great strength-to-weight ratio, and installation is simple for an experienced contractor. Steel won’t rot, won’t burn, and it is entirely termite-proof – without the use of chemical treatments that can affect air quality in wood-framed structures. Steel studs also won’t warp, and thermal expansion/contraction are minimal.
Besides these advantages, Dietrich’s UltraSteel uses a unique dimpled cross-section that increases strength, improves screw holding, and provides better acoustic insulation and fire-resistance.
Any steel framing studs are entirely recyclable, and Dietrich utilizes a high percentage of recycled material in their manufacturing. Steel studs obviously don’t require logging of forests, and many builders appreciate the relatively stable cost of steel material (as opposed to wood prices that can fluctuate greatly). UltraSteel studs can help earn LEED points in several categories, including use of recycled materials, use of regional materials, and minimizing construction waste.
Perhaps the single biggest disadvantage of steel for framing is thermal bridging – metal’s tendency to transmit heat or cold through the wall structure. Which brings us to the importance of proper insulation…
GreenFiber Cocoon Cellulose Insulation
One of the most important parts of a wall (especially an exterior wall) is one that few homeowners ever see: insulation. Of the countless products available, one of the best options is GreenFiber Cocoon cellulose insulation.
Why It Was Chosen:
GreenFiber Cocoon is a blown insulation, making installation quicker and easier than rolled mats. Its density means that an 8” layer provides an R-value comparable to 12” of loose fill insulation, and Cocoon adheres to any wood, gypsum, metal, or concrete material.
Even more important than convenience is the fact that the blown application eliminates air gaps, boosting performance up to 26% over other products with the “same” R-value. GreenFiber Cocoon can also help improve soundproofing and fire-resistance in a structure.
Its production is efficient too: the cellulose is derived from 85% recycled paper products, and manufacturing plants nationwide cut transportation requirements, and therefore the overall embodied energy of the product.
Homeowners will obviously save cash over time by cutting energy costs, but they’ll get some immediate payback too: the product qualifies for a 30% federal tax credit, up to $1,500.
Learn more or find a supplier at the GreenFiber website.
Temple-Inland GreenGlass Interior Wallboard
Sheetrock, wallboard… it’s all the same, right? Wrong. It’s not just a surface to paint on, it’s actually a crucial element of home construction. Choosing the right one can save serious hassles down the road, especially in areas where moisture and mold can ruin air quality and produce costly damage. One of the best products to help prevent a health and maintenance nightmare in these applications is GreenGlass from Temple-Inland.
Why It Was Chosen:
GreenGlass is a fiberglass-faced gypsum board that provides maximum resistance to moisture and mold, unlike traditional paper-faced wallboards. It received a maximum-possible score of 10 on the ASTM standard mold-resistance test.
GreenGlass is also produced with an SCS-certified minimum of 90% recycled material. It can earn LEED credits for recycled content, as well as for the use of local/regional materials in much of the US. It’s available in 1/2” and 5/8” thicknesses, and comes in a variety of dimensions to streamline the installation process.
Learn more at the Temple-Inland website.
Lamson Resi-Gard Flexible Conduit
In addition to electrical wiring, many homeowners are starting to run home electronics cabling inside walls. This has both aesthetic and functional advantages – it looks tidier than wires running across ceilings or under rugs, and it protects connections from wear and tear. But since technology evolves so quickly, a “raceway” or conduit may be a much better option than permanently running your wiring through wall framing. To avoid tearing apart your walls next time you upgrade your system, consider a product like Lamson’s Resi-Gard flexible conduit tubing.
Why It Was Chosen:
Its flexible design makes installation much simpler than rigid conduit, which must be cut and joined to fit the angles of a particular space. The flexible material also helps reduce the sharp edges that can damage wiring in rigid conduit designs.
The orange color is intended to clearly mark the tubing as containing low-voltage wiring. The generous 2” diameter fits bulky connections like component video cables in a home theater setup. Plus, it gives you more flexibility down the road for tomorrow’s technology than narrower-gauge conduit products.
Lamson also manufactures a variety of couplers, quick-connect joints, and brackets to customize the raceway. Resi-Gard Flexible Raceway Conduit is available at Amazon (50-foot roll, $84.99).
AFM Safecoat Low VOC Primer & Zero VOC Paint
Choosing the right primer and paint for a pristine new wall is the icing on the cake. Instead of creating a smelly and potentially hazardous chemical potpourri of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), consider low- or zero-VOC primer and paint like Safecoat from AFM.
Why It Was Chosen:
AFM’s primers and paints are SCS Gold-certified for indoor air quality. They are produced without the use of toxic ingredients like formaldehyde, and they are also designed to effectively seal surfaces like wood or concrete to prevent “off-gassing” of materials into the air.
AFM’s Primecoat HPV is a fast-curing primer designed specifically for new wallboard. It equalizes the absorption of paint over varied surfaces (like wallboard, plaster, and edge tape) to provide even color coverage.
AFM also offers a wide range of zero-VOC paints in flat, satin, pearl, semi-gloss, and eggshell finishes. The company even offers zero-VOC tints for customizing color choices.
Visit the AFM Safecoat website to learn more or find a local supplier.
Honorable Mention: Monkey Hook Picture Hangars
Once you’ve completed your beautiful new wall, you don’t want to tear it up to hang that portrait of Aunt Millie do you? Monkey Hook hangars are convenient, and they minimize damage to the wall: just poke the point through the wallboard, and the curved shape securely braces the hook. You can pick up a 30-pack of Monkey Hooks picture hangars for $9.99 at Amazon.
1 thought on “Efficient Wall Design: Building In Energy Savings”
You say nothing in the article about ways to reduce the effect of thermal bridging. You’d need to put rigid foam board on the outside of those steel studs to make the wall perform as well as a wood frame. Steel moves heat, wood does resist it (1R per inch). Without exterior foam board, the wall described above would perform very poorly.