Construction professionals and DIY homeowners must reduce their buildings' heating and cooling loads for the sake of the environment and their budgets. The best thing you can do to cut costs is to invest in the energy-efficient cladding. This can reduce your heating and cooling loads and your electricity bills by a significant margin.
Here is a look at why you should consider this type of cladding and the available materials.
Why pick energy-efficient cladding?
You can often do only two things to minimize the heating and cooling loads in your commercial building or home — use electricity more efficiently or replace your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Smart HVACs are becoming popular in warehouses and residential spaces, but reducing how much energy you need to use is an even more sustainable way to keep your area cool or warm.
Why not just replace the HVAC system instead of upgrading the cladding? It has to do with the difference between load and capacity. The load is how much cooling or heating your building requires, while the capacity is how much temperature adjustment an HVAC system can give you. If you reduce your load, you can achieve better capacity.
As you likely know, temperature is essential in an area with packaging — like a warehouse or basement. Cardboard doesn’t fare well in humidity, and neither do people. However, some individuals look to reduce their spending quickly and turn to the thermostat as their first option. Instead of not using heating or AC, switching to energy-efficient cladding could assure better item safety, improve comfort and save money.
This cladding differs from traditional siding because it insulates better — this is how it can lessen heating and cooling loads while keeping your spending down. The space requires less electricity to change the temperature because the energy-efficient cladding keeps the hot or cold air in more effectively.
The types of energy-efficient cladding
Currently, there are two main kinds of energy-efficient cladding — insulated metal wall panels (IMPs) and exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS). Whatever you choose is entirely up to you, as both have benefits and considerations.
Insulated Metal Wall Panels (IMPs)
Insulated metal wall panels are often copper, aluminum, steel or zinc. The companies creating them follow energy codes and the Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, so you know they’ll help you make your home or commercial building more environmentally friendly. They’re also quite durable and strong — they are metal, after all.
IMPs have the added benefit of being fire-resistant. The insulation they use is made of polyurethane, so manufacturers must follow a specific code — called the NFPA 285 — to ensure their walls are safe and the flames can’t grow too high. Metal can melt under extreme temperatures, but various codes assure this cladding won’t.
You also have many different design options. IMPs have various colors, sizes, textures and finishes you can choose from to create the perfect exterior. You can adjust how you orient the panels to create exciting visuals if you’re interested in a unique look. The metal is also recyclable — a valuable trait if you’re interested in sustainability.
However, there are a few things to remember. About 2,000 square feet of aluminum or steel IMP can run you $19,000-$33,000, and those materials can eventually experience natural wear. If you go with copper or zinc — valuable for their non-corroding quality — the cost could escalate to $41,000-$70,000. However, your energy cost savings will recover this, and the average return on investment is 86%.
Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS)
Exterior insulation and finish systems have a few more components to them than insulated metal wall panels. These contain layers such as:
- Polystyrene insulation board
- Water- and air-resistant buried coating
- Thin lines of adhesive for drainage
- Glass-fiber mesh
- Co-polymer finish
Like IMPs, EIFS undergo rigorous testing to ensure their strength and sustainability. Because they consist of so many layers, they are also quite resistant to damage.
You can choose to install this system over your existing cladding, which makes it simple if you don’t want to take the time to replace everything. They also follow various fire codes, are durable and have incredible moisture resistance. Your building could benefit from EIFS if rain, flooding or wind is a problem where you are.
Exterior insulation and finish systems are also incredibly versatile. They can mimic stone, metal stucco or brick — pretty much any siding type you would like. You can also choose from many colors without worrying about painting them anytime soon since the material is highly resistant to fading.
The main concern for EIFS would be water. These need a careful eye while installing, as improper implementation can lead to poor performance. You should also regularly check the sealants on your structure to prevent moisture from getting in. Maintenance needs aside, exterior insulation and finish systems can help shrink energy use by 45% and air infiltration by 55%.
Comparing both to standard cladding
Traditional siding simply cannot beat the heating and cooling loads energy-efficient cladding can offer. Standard walls have stud framing within the cladding and insulation between the studs. Naturally, these puncturings will allow cold or hot air to escape from a building, reducing the effectiveness of the insulation by 60%-70%.
Insulated metal wall panels and exterior insulation and finish systems have no such problem. Manufacturers place the insulation within the cladding, eliminating the need for studs and improving efficiency.
You also have to consider the HVAC system. Standard siding may have had you using larger equipment, but energy-efficient cladding may reduce how much you need. Oversized machines can reduce the cost-effectiveness of the new siding, so get an assessment of your current situation and see where you can improve.
Like traditional siding, you’ll need to perform regular maintenance — inspections and replacements are as vital as ever. However, now you have a higher need to keep the envelope of your building in shape. Check for holes and consider upgrading your windows for maximum efficiency.
Lower your heating and cooling loads with energy-efficient cladding
Reducing your heating and cooling loads is necessary if you're interested in sustainable construction. Energy-efficient cladding can help you obtain this by improving the effectiveness of insulation and minimizing how much electricity you need to adjust the temperature of your commercial building or home.