How to Build a New Home to Maximize Energy Savings

New Home to Maximize Energy Savings

If you are looking at building a new home then you likely understand one of the benefits is improved energy efficiency.  While there are ways to improve the energy efficiency of an older home, there are clear advantages of building energy efficiency from the ground up.  A whole-house approach allows all materials, appliances and systems to work together to achieve the most energy efficient home.

The National Association of Homebuilders, reports that millennial homebuyers prefer and make energy efficiency a priority when selecting a home.  In fact, they are willing to pay up to 3% more for an energy efficient home when they can see a reduction on monthly power bills.

Design

Building an energy efficient home is not just about the materials and the systems you put into it.  A smart design begins with energy efficiency in mind.  Situating the home to take advantage of a southern façade will allow passive solar energy to reduce consumption. Orienting the home to take advantage of existing trees can create a wind block and shade that can reduce energy consumption.

Insulation

Insulation products have improved since the age of newspapers and asbestos insulation.  Today’s spray foam insulation has advanced R-ratings for thermal resistance and are able to get into smaller spaces to effectively block drafts and provide a tighter envelope. 

Insulation is not just for interior spaces.  Taping joints on exterior sheathing and caulking and sealing exterior walls will reduce exterior wall leaks and result in a more comfortable space and reduced energy consumption.  Inside cavity insulation can range from an R-15 in a 2 inch x 4 inch wall and up to R-21 in a 2 inch x 6 inch wall. 

It is much more cost effective to add insulation during construction then to retro-fit a home after it is complete.

Windows

Energy efficient windows have evolved well past double pane glass.  Today’s windows have advanced low e-coatings to redirect light and prevent rooms from overheating and fading materials.  New windows also have heat blocking gases between the panes to improve the energy efficiency.  The fit into the frame and the tight seals within the window themselves prevents drafts common with older window technology.

Doors

Similar to windows, today’s doors are better constructed with thermal properties. 

Appliances

Energy Star rated appliances allow you to compare the energy efficiency across manufacturers and models.  These ratings allow you to consider the cost of operating the appliance as well as the initial cost. 

Your entire new home can be Energy Star certified which requires a third party to validate the materials and building practices that were used in the home. 

Individual systems can also be Energy Star certified and can still add up to significant savings.  An Energy Star HVAC unit will deliver up to 15% savings compared to other models.  A Energy Star Refrigerator and dishwasher each can be 10% more efficient, and Energy Star windows and doors can deliver a whopping 30% savings.  Energy Star washing machines can save in two ways.  They use 50% less water and consume 30% less energy than conventional machines.  Ventilation fans and room fans can also be Energy Star rated and can save up to 70% compared to their conventional cousins.

According to ENERGY STAR, since beginning in the early 1970’s energy-efficient homes command a higher resale price than average homes.

Lighting

Energy efficient bulbs are a given for anyone looking for an easy way to save money.  Just replacing incandescent bulbs with LED can create significant savings.  While these bulbs are more expensive up front, they last longer and with the energy savings cost less in the long run.

Consider skylights.  Constructing your new home with strategically placed skylights can save energy and provide a brighter and airier living space.  Skylights can allow daylight to penetrate deeper into living spaces or brighten otherwise dark spaces. 

I recently installed a tube skylight into a bathroom where the sink area is separated from the shower area and had no window.  A year later, I still stop to turn off the “light” in the bathroom because it seems like a child has left a light on.  The skylight has made a world of difference.  So much so, I plan to install two more.

Roofs

Roofs are integral to the construction of the house and do more than just keep rain out.  In the Outer Banks roofs should have additional hardware to bind the roof to the walls which is important for the high winds we can get here. 

Roofs can also include solar panels or reflective tiles to reflect heat rather than allowing it to be absorbed.  These “cool roofs” can experience a 50% reduction in temperature compared to roofs without energy efficient materials.  A cool roof can save between 7 to 15% in cooling costs compared to traditional roofs.

Solar / Wind

Harnessing the power of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind systems, will reduce the reliance of being on the “grid” and can allow you to sell excess energy back to the power company. 

Home Automation Systems

While still in their infancy, home automation systems contribute significantly to reduced energy costs.  Smart thermostats can be accessed from smart phones to control the thermostat from great distances. 

These systems are ideal for the second or vacation home owner to be able to monitor and be provided alerts should conditions change.  Home automation applications can include lighting, security and appliances and will only increase in capabilities and in scope in the years ahead.  According to My Home Security, these systems can save Homeowners up to $1,352 every year in energy savings or insurance discounts.

Exterior Colors

The colors you select for your new home can impact its energy footprint.  A light colored house in warmer climates tend to reflect the heat and keep the home cooler in summer.  Alternatively, in cooler climates, darker colors tend to hold the heat and make them easier to heat in the winter.

Smart design and quality construction can bring a small increase in the initial price of a home, but the reduced operation and maintenance costs re-coup these costs quickly while providing a higher level of comfort and satisfaction for the owner.  Let Eillu help you with our custom home design process or schedule an appointment to see new homes under construction.

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