Insulated Concrete Form Walls Integrated With Mechanical Systems in a Cold Climate Test House

Stacey Rothgeb, D. Mallay, J. Wiehagen, Stacey Rothgeb (NREL Technical Monitor)

Research output: NRELSubcontract Report


Transitioning from standard light frame to a thermal mass wall system in a high performance home will require a higher level of design integration with the mechanical systems. The much higher mass in the ICF wall influences heat transfer through the wall and affects how the heating and cooling system responds to changing outdoor conditions. This is even more important for efficient, low-load homes with efficient heat pump systems in colder climates where the heating and cooling peak loads are significantly different from standard construction. This report analyzes a range of design features and component performance estimates in an effort to select practical, cost-effective solutions for high performance homes in a cold climate. Of primary interest is the influence of the ICF walls on developing an effective air sealing strategy and selecting an appropriate heating and cooling equipment type and capacity. The domestic water heating system is analyzed for costs and savings to investigate options for higher efficiency electric water heating. A method to ensure mechanical ventilation air flows is examined. The final solution package includes high-R mass walls, very low infiltration rates, multi-stage heat pump heating, solar thermal domestic hot water system, and energy recovery ventilation. This solution package can be used for homes to exceed 2012 International Energy Conservation Code requirements throughout all climate zones and achieves the DOE Challenge Home certification.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages63
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Work performed by Home Innovation Research Labs, Upper Marlboro, Maryland

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/SR-5500-62539

Other Report Number

  • DOE/GO-102014-4485


  • Building America
  • challenge home
  • hot water heating
  • HVAC sizing
  • ICF
  • Partnership for Home Innovation (PHI)
  • residential
  • residential buildings
  • thermal mass
  • ventilation design


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