A Complete Thermal Enclosure System
High-performance EarthCraft and ENERGY STAR certified green custom homes we build in the Roanoke Valley and Smith Mountain Lake have a complete thermal enclosure system.  You want your home to be comfortable no matter what room you’re in or what the weather is outside.  Comprehensive air sealing, properly installed insulation, and high-performance windows work together in our homes to deliver better comfort, better durability, reduced maintenance costs, and lower monthly utility bills.  During construction, we must meet all of the requirements of EPA’s comprehensive thermal enclosure system inspection to ensure that:

• Your new home is tightly sealed to reduce leaks and drafts; and thermal bridging across walls is minimized
• Correct levels of insulation are selected to provide whole-house comfort
• Insulation is installed properly to deliver the best performance

As we meet these rigorous requirements, you get a home with a complete thermal enclosure system - a better approach to building a better home.

Air Sealing 
A typical home contains a half-mile of cracks and gaps behind walls and around windows and doors, along with dozens of holes for pipes, vents, ducts, lighting, and wiring.  Sealing these openings with a comprehensive air sealing package helps to significantly reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, pests, and noise.  The best time to seal these is during the construction process because access to critical areas can be limited once the house is completed.  

Jeff Sowder Incorporated seals the holes using caulks, foams, and other techniques - paying particular attention to those areas between the conditioned (heated or cooled) and unconditioned space of your home.  One great example of this is found at the attic access panel, where our EarthCraft and ENERGY STAR certified homes feature a gasket to create a tight seal around the panel.  This is a detail that is commonly missing in many other homes and can have a real impact on your comfort and utility bills. 

The energy savings from comprehensive air sealing can quickly add up when you consider all the places hot or cool air can enter or escape from your home.  Having a well sealed home also means better air quality because dirt, pollen, pests, and moisture can’t get in as easily.  In addition, good sealing practices help protect your home against mold and moisture damage that can be caused by condensation.

Reduced Thermal Bridging
Walls in homes are typically built with wood studs, which support the weight of the floors and roof above, help the home stand up to wind, and generally act as the structural “bones” of the home.  While these components are critical to making a durable home, they often have a very low R-value (resistance to heat flow) and create thermal “bridges”- uninsulated pathways that compromise the comfort and efficiency of the home.  EarthCraft and ENERGY STAR builder partners select one of five strategies, such as adding a continuous layer of rigid foam or minimizing excess wood studs, to minimize thermal bridging in walls.  

Properly Installed InsulationBlown-in cellulose in a custom home in Roanoke, VA. This is considered a Grade I installation per RESNET standards.
While it’s important to have the right amount of insulation in your home, it’s the quality of the installation that makes all the difference in getting the best performance.  EarthCraft and ENERGY STAR builder partners can choose from many different types of insulation - including fiberglass batts, densepacked cellulose, sprayed foam, and rigid foam sheets - to ensure that you get a blanket of comfort around your new home.  Insulation levels are commonly rated by R-value, or resistance to heat flow; the higher the R-value, the more resistance.  Insulation levels in our certified homes are independently verified by Home Energy Raters (HERS  raters) to ensure that they match the levels selected during the design of the home.

For insulation to deliver its rated R-value, it has to be installed properly.  We prefer to install blown-in insulation such as cellulose or fiberglass blown-in blankets (bib's), aligned with air barriers.  This will meet the required RESNET Grade I installation objective for peak performance.  Imagine wearing a down jacket that’s two sizes too big on a winter day - the cold air comes right up under the coat and chills your skin.  Blown-in insulation also more easily fits around wires, plumbing, and piping inside the walls to not leave empty, uninsulated spaces that could lead to hot or cold spots.  

These practices help maintain consistent temperatures throughout your home, reduce energy use, and improve comfort, especially on the hottest and coldest of days.

High-Performance Windows
EarthCraft and ENERGY STAR certified homes feature windows that meet or exceed national standards.  To satisfy this requirement, we choose to install ENERGY STAR qualified windows from Pella, Andersen, or Marvin in our homes.  These qualified windows use advanced technologies, such as protective coatings and improved frames, to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer - translating into real savings for you.  They also often block dmaging ultraviolet sunlight that discolor photographs, carpets, and furnishings.  Qualified windows can also help reduce the potential for condensation, which can damage window sills, cause paint to crack, and encourage mold growth.