Building an Energy-Efficient Florida Home

Project: Storm-Ready Design, Episode 8, Part 3

Bob reviews storm-ready features and visits with the homeowners and Tom Moorad of Moorad Painting as he applies a proprietary concrete staining product that will complement the Porcelanosa metallic-look tiles inside. This stain is dripped on, spread with a squeegee to avoid pooling, and topped with a clear coat sealer to give a long-lasting color finish. Joe Breese from Alcoa and Leslie-Chapman Henderson from FLASH join Bob for the vinyl soffit panel installation. Soffits are a major cause of roof failure and water intrusion during hurricanes, so this home has a reinforced soffit construction to tie it to the building walls and enhanced construction to make the panels grip tighter during high winds rather than pull apart. These panels channel air through grooves and provide 80 percent more ventilation than traditional vinyl panels. Bill Zoeller and Lance Keeling explain the energy efficiency measures that will save the home $100 per month in operating expenses like low-e glass that blocks up to 70 percent of solar heat gain, insulation in the concrete walls to prevent heat transfer, air conditioning ducts that are dropped in the attic floor and insulated with soy-based foam, and a 14 SEER heat-pump air conditioning unit.
Part 1: Color Staining a Concrete Floor
Part 2: Storm-Ready Vinyl Roof Soffits
Part 3: Building an Energy-Efficient Florida Home
This home will be about 50 percent more energy efficient than a typical Florida home. Bill Zoeller, a consulting architect with Mercedes, has changed specifications and products to make this home as efficient as possible. First, there are low-e insulated windows that will block about 70 percent of solar heat gain. The solid concrete walls are insulated with one inch of polyisocyanurate insulation board that is applied directly to the concrete walls. This insulation, which has the highest R-rating of any insulation on the market, will block the heat buildup during the day from reaching inside the home. In addition to Energy Star-rated appliances, the air conditioning ducts have been dropped to the attic floor and surrounded with insulation to reduce the efficiency challenge presented by running ducts through hot, Florida attic space. This technique was developed in California and is now part of their energy code. Dropping the ducts, wrapping them in insulating foam, and covering them in a polyurethane insulating foam improves efficiency and blocks condensation buildup in this humid climate. Lance Keeling, of BioBased Systems, explains that this foam insulation is soy-based but converted through chemical reaction to become completely inert to eliminate organic matter that could promote mold or mildew growth. This chemical is pressurized and sprayed with a hose to form a foam that sets up in moments. This foam provides a 4.8 R-value per inch but with a desired value of 6 from this part of the insulation, must be sprayed at a 1 1/2-inch thickness. This completely encloses the ducts to prevent any air loss and resulting moisture buildup. If a homeowner were to attempt covering ducts with commercial insulation, potential moisture buildup could be produced causing mold and moisture growth. The key with this technique is that it completely seals the ducts to prevent air loss and resulting moisture buildup. Zoeller and Keeling predict a savings of $100 per month in operating expenses due to the energy-efficient measures employed. Zoeller shows Bob the 14 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) heat pump air conditioning unit installed to cool the house. It is about 40 percent higher in efficiency than a traditional air conditioning unit. While initially more expensive, a smaller unit can be installed due to the high-efficiency of the overall home.