It’s NEW! IMPROVED! LIFE-CHANGING! … really!?
Published August 31, 2023
We were going to do a piece on new technologies and materials for this newsletter, but we decided instead to say a little bit about how we view and evaluate such things. Good HERS® Raters, like good builders, are always on the lookout for new products. We come at this from different directions, but for the same reasons, getting the best homes built for the least cost.
Put It to the Test
Whenever we see a new product, material, or technology, we ask these questions:
- What problem is it solving? Is it a problem you have? If not, maybe you don’t need to spend any time at all on evaluation.
- Is it saving on cost? As soon as we see a cost saving claim, we want to see the data behind that and in particular, make sure that we are seeing apples to apples for whatever claim is being made.
- Is it improving performance? This, of course, is the most intriguing question for us. Again, we want to see data and we want to see how that data was generated and by what party or parties. Performance claims can get very slippery. Are the terms being used generally agreed upon terms for performance? For example, the term “ XXXX r-value” is not a real thing but is consistently used to inflate the thermal performance of certain products.
- Is it a novel technology? If that’s the case, is it ready for primetime? Has any actual real-world human attempted to install it on an actual real-world jobsite? If not, we think there are cases for trying it, but you have to know that it’s actually an experiment more than a purchasing decision.
- What is the carbon impact or is a claim about carbon impact being made? Two different things, but we always want to know if we’re moving the needle in the wrong direction on carbon with a change. Also, claims about carbon are, just like performance claims, difficult to evaluate but not impossible.
You Say You Want a Revolution
There may be lots of great reasons to consider a change in product. We love it when the builders we work with try new things. Every time that happens, we are advancing our level of understanding about what works and doesn’t work. Thanks to all of you who try new things and keep pushing the envelope. One final thought – if it claims to be revolutionary, it’s probably not!