Printed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Jan. 15, 2014

By Lori Johnston – for the AJC

Builders who work with energy-efficient and eco-friendly products have tested the array of home products available to homeowners interested in using less water and energy and improving indoor air quality.

Three winners of the 2013 EarthCraft Awards, part of the green building certification program established in 1999 by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and Southface, shared some of their favorite products for homes.

Home Slicker Rainscreen

The ventilated rainscreen, by roof and wall products company Benjamin Obdyke, helps prevent moisture damage, increases thermal performance, and makes the wall assembly, including the siding and its paint, more durable. The rainscreen is installed just behind the exterior cladding (i.e., siding). It can have long-term benefits, such as creating an air gap that extends the life of exterior paint by 10-20 years, said Chris Laumer-Giddens, an architect, HVAC designer and home performance professional. His Atlanta-based company, LG Squared, designed the Proud Green Home — named EarthCraft House Project of the Year — in the Serenbe community in Chattahoochee Hills. Most wall assemblies fail because trapped moisture gets into the materials and causes them to deteriorate, support mold growth and essentially fall apart, he said.

Spray foam insulation

Cooled or heated air can escape through gaps and cracks in the house, but spray foam insulation can help homeowners save on energy costs. “It provides the best insulation for your house. It costs a little more upfront than fiberglass, but the cost savings in the long run are well worth it,” said Ted Baltrusaitis, owner of Decatur-based Century Craft Homes, winner of the EarthCraft Renovation Project of the Year award. If there are budget constraints, one key spot where he recommends adding spray foam insulation, such as Icynene’s products, is underneath the roofline.

ZIP System R-Sheathing

In building a home, the exterior sheathing refers to the boards that are nailed outside of the framing. Sheathing typically is plywood or OSB, which stands for oriented strand board. Luis Imery, builder of the Proud Green Home, uses Huber Engineered Woods’ ZIP System, an all-in-one panel that the company says provides structure, moisture protection and tight air seal. It has an air barrier attached to the sheathing, and although it is more costly than OSB, homeowners won’t have to pay for the materials and labor to install a housewrap over the sheathing, Baltrusaitis said. The panel is made of engineered wood and also has a built-in water-resistive barrier. If you have a well-insulated house, a smaller HVAC system could be purchased, Baltrusaitis said. “It doesn’t have to fight as hard to keep up with the cold air or warm air that keeps coming in,” he said. “It’s a more efficient house.”

Zehnder Comfoair 350 Ventilation System

The whole house recovery ventilation system works continuously and quietly to extract moist, stale air from the house and supply fresh, filtered air throughout the house, Laumer-Giddens said. Like other ERVs (which stands for enthalpy/energy recovery ventilator), he said, the Comfoair 350 uses the outgoing air to help pre-condition the incoming air.