Plastic Building Materials Help Provide Energy-Efficient Solutions

Modern two story home

From residential homes to commercial buildings, hospitals and schools, architects and designers rely on plastic building materials to help maximize durability and improve energy efficiency and performance. Properly installed plastic building products can help reduce energy and maintenance costs and potentially reduce a homeowner’s carbon footprint. In fact, a one-year study found that the use of plastic building materials saved 467.2 trillion Btu of energy over alternative construction materials. That’s enough energy saved over the course of a year to meet the average energy needs of 4.6 million U.S. households!

Here are just a few of the ways that plastic building materials help save energy at home. From rigid polystyrene foam insulation panels (expanded or extruded) that can help homeowners save hundreds of dollars each year on heating and cooling bills, to plastic wrap that can reduce infiltration of outside air by 10—50 percent, plastic can help drastically reduce the energy required to heat or cool homes.

Plastic Building Material: Windows

If replacement windows are needed, use vinyl window frames, which decrease condensation and help homes maintain an even temperature, cutting down on extra heating and air conditioning usage. This helps reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy generation. For older homes, applying plastic based caulks and sealants is a quick, easy fix for drafty windows.

Plastic Building Material: Roofs

Roofing systems made with plastics such as vinyl—or TPO single-ply membranes for the outer surface in combination with rigid polyiso board or spray polyurethane foam underneath—offer energy savings, durability and moisture control. These kinds of roofing systems typically have a light colored, reflective coating in warm climates, which reduces the amount of heat transported inside the building through thermal bridges (created when materials that are poor insulators come into contact, allowing heat to flow through the path created.) The cooler the building, the less air conditioning is required and therefore, less energy is consumed.

Plastic Building Material: Composite Lumber

Lumber made from recycled plastics and plastic-wood composites can outlast traditional materials and requires less maintenance. Composite lumber made from plastic is resistant to weathering, requiring less material to be used over time, which saves energy. It is also eco-friendly as much of the lumber is made from recycled materials and/or can be recycled.

Plastic Building Material: Piping

Using cross-linked polyethylene piping (called PEX), which is lighter and more flexible than other materials, allows for multiple feed lines throughout a house, which allows hot water to arrive faster to a sink or shower which can significantly save water.

Whether you’re doing a complete eco-renovation or looking for smaller ways to save energy at home, plastic building materials help make it possible. For each of the above examples, energy and cost savings vary. Please check with your local retailer on pricing and availability of products.