Plastics and Energy Efficiency: There’s Even More Than Foam Building Insulation

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Published August 5, 2015

Previously published in Plastics Engineering and posted with permission from the Society of Plastics Engineers.

Nearly 40 percent of our nation’s energy is consumed in our homes and commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So significantly reducing fossil fuel energy use in our homes and buildings could improve our nation’s energy portfolio, help the environment, and save money.

A recent article in this publication from Plastics Make it Possible® highlighted the role plastic foam insulation plays in energy savings in our homes and buildings. The article noted that foam insulation products dramatically improve energy efficiency and that they are essential to creating net zero energy homes – that is, homes that generate as much energy as they use, which many see as the wave of the future.

Beyond insulation, a vast array of other plastic products also contributes significantly to energy savings in homes and buildings, from solar panels to windowpanes. Here is a sample of some innovative (and often new) energy saving products branded by some of the leading innovators in plastics.*

Solar Shingles

The DOW POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle, which performs like a conventional roofing shingle to protect a home, also generates electricity using renewable energy from the sun. Once installed, the roofing system converts the direct current into alternating current to power the home and connects with the utilities to capture energy credit. It also delivers real-time readouts on how much energy is created, how much energy the home is using, and how much money has been saved since installation.

House Wrap

DuPont’s™ Tyvek® Weatherization Systems can contribute to more sustainable, comfortable, and durable structures by preventing air movement through the walls of buildings. Tyvek wraps contain millions of extremely small pores that resist bulk water and air penetration, while allowing moisture vapor to pass through to help promote drying in wall systems. This helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew, allows inside air to be more comfortable, and keeps indoor and outdoor air where they belong.

Building-integrated Photovoltaic Panels

SABIC’s LEXAN™ building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) panels are the first polycarbonate BIPV panels for roofing and skylights, facades and cladding, entrances, and verandas. These monolithic and multiwall products combine a durable, lightweight, and transparent polycarbonate sheet with flexible photovoltaic-laminated crystalline cells and are manufactured in a wide range of structures, configurations, and colors. The panels offer engineers and architects a single integrated solution that can provide thermal insulation, design flexibility, light management, and energy production.

The multiwall LEXAN BIPV panels can reduce energy consumption by up to 17 percent when compared with traditional double-pane glass glazing**. They also help to reduce cooling load and glare associated with large expanses of architectural glazing.

Skylight Glazing

Evonik Cyro’s ACRYLITE® Heatstop is an acrylic glazing material that helps lower energy bills by allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the interior of a building without causing overheating.

It reflects considerably more solar radiation than conventional skylight lenses, which limits the amount of heat entering the building.

Average annual air conditioning costs can be lowered by as much as 33 percent by using ACRYLITE® Heatstop in place of traditional glazing materials. It also allows natural light to illuminate building interiors to reduce dependence on electrical lighting.

Roof Glazing

SABIC’s LEXAN™ THERMOCLEAR™ Solar Control Infrared sheets allow natural daylight to enter a building while providing thermal insulation and absorbing a large part of the near-infrared spectrum of sunlight, which can save electricity and lower the carbon footprint of artificial lighting. The sheets help save 15 to 25 percent more energy on average than double-pane glass sheets.

By optimizing energy efficiency, these sheets and the other products above may help buildings meet green building certification standards, such the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program or Green Globes.


These examples represent a small percentage of the innovative building materials made possible by plastics, such as plastic piping for radiant heat and efficient water delivery, insulated window frames clad in plastics, highly energy efficient refrigerators, and more.

* Information provided about each of the products was obtained from the respective member companies of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). For more information on these and other energy-saving products, visit the ACC site:

** The term “glazing” refers to the transparent material used for windows and similar systems.