Investing in insulation

2014-03-02T00:00:00Z 2014-03-04T08:56:04Z Investing in insulationBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Scott Atwood of Atwood Architecture tries to talk his clients into building to higher energy efficiency standards, so they can save money in the long term.

With stronger U.S. building standards likely coming to Montana later this year, Atwood said it should be easier to convince clients to choose better insulation or radiant-floor heating.

The 2012 standards approved by the International Code Council require more efficient building practices, including insulating steel studs, Atwood said.

“We’ve been told that’s what will shock people. We’re told the energy efficiency codes will be much harder to meet,” he said.

In December, 2013, when Canyon Creek Brewery opened a 6,400-square-feet building at 3060 Gabel Road, the owners sprung for a radiant-floor heating system.

As silent partners, the couple didn’t want their names used but own the land and the building.

They didn’t even have Atwood calculate the higher cost of radiant floors and better insulation because it was the right thing to do.

“They are one of my last clients who bit the bullet, made that decision and went for the added expense,” Atwood said. “They’ll be rewarded.”

Radiant floors give their brew pub a cozier, less drafty, feel, said Ron Kalvig, who owns the brewery business.

Through the recent record cold snaps, the brewery’s natural gas bills are running about $400 to $500 a month, Ron Kalvig said.

“We don’t know yet what it takes to run the building, the boil kettle for the brew house and our gas-fired pit outside,” he said. “The building is too new.”

But radiant heat systems can’t cool a building. So until current technology improves, an owner still has to install ductwork for air conditioning, Atwood said.

Meanwhile, the Billings architect always recommends that his clients pay for the most-insulated walls, if that’s the only upgrade they can afford.

“Even with a 10-year payback, it’s valuable,” he said. “Once the insulation is in, you never have to replace it.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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