How To Build An Energy Efficient Home
No matter the temperature zone, anyone building a house in today’s climate is interested in conserving energy. We all realize it means money saved and longevity of the build ensured. With that in mind, we offer these guidelines in designing and building energy efficient homes.
How to Achieve Energy Efficiency When Building
1. Smart Design: Designers, architects, builders and homeowners should be familiar with the steps involved in building an energy efficient home. Detailed communication between the designer and builder is key.
2. Use the Sun for Solar Tempering: Using the sun for heating through south facing windows during the winter lowers heating costs. Shading those same windows in summer lowers cooling costs. Solar tempering aims to optimize this passive use of the sun’s heat, without incurring the added cost of thermal mass needed to achieve maximum passive solar heating. Solar tempering should be addressed in the design phase.
3. Energy Modeling: The home’s energy use should be estimated during the design phase to ensure maximum energy can be achieved while keeping costs down. The designer can do a ResCheck to determine the energy efficiency of the home. Based on the estimate, design choices can be made or modified to balance building performance and construction cost. NOTE: Yankee Barn Homes uses ResCheck when designing a new home.
4. Seal the Building Envelope: Sealing the building envelope is the single most cost-effective measure builders can take to improve the energy efficiency of a home. Several proven sealing approaches are available. Choose an approach that matches your climate, skills and budget. When the house is up and finished, request a blower door test to find out where there may be air leaks.
Build Envelope, Windows and Doors, and Air Supply and HRV/ERV Systems
5. Super-Insulate the Building Envelope: After sealing the build envelope, super insulating the house may be the second most cost-effective strategy for creating an energy efficient home. Energy modeling, as mentioned above, can help you optimize the insulation levels for the ceiling, walls and floors. Select framing strategies that make it easier to insulate the building envelope and minimize thermal bridging.
6. Use Highly Insulated Windows and Doors: Windows and doors are like big energy holes in a well-insulated, airtight building envelope and are the third most cost-effective opportunity for making a home energy efficient. Control window and door heat loss and gain by selecting appropriate window and door products, carefully locating them, and optimizing their size and orientation.
7. Create an Energy Efficient, Fresh Air Supply: Since energy efficient homes are well sealed, a continuous source of fresh filtered air and moisture control are critical to its success. This need for ventilation has an unseen benefit: these homes are healthier and more comfortable than standard homes. Highly energy efficient ventilation systems, known as heat recovery ventilation (HRV) systems or energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems expel stale air while recovering its heat and returning that same heat to the home with the fresh air.
8. Select an Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling System: Highly efficient, cost-effective, heating and cooling systems are essential to meeting a high energy efficiency goal. One good choice is an air source ductless heat pump, also called a mini-split heat pump. These systems are highly energy efficient and don’t have the shortcomings of central, forced-air systems or the high costs of thermal heat pumps.
Energy Efficient Home Final Steps
9. Heat Water Wisely: Water heating is often the largest energy expense in a home after heating and cooling. So it is important for home owners and builders to select and locate efficient water heating technology, along with other measures, to minimize hot water use.
10. Install Energy Efficient Lighting: Minimizing energy use for lighting, while optimizing light for residents, is an important feature of efficient homes. LED lights are the perfect match for these tasks. They are more energy efficient than CFLs, last many years longer, and contain no mercury. In addition, they can meet a variety of lighting needs from very bright white light to soft, warm light. Selecting the right LED lights for the task, locating lights strategically, and utilizing natural light as effectively as possible can drastically reduce a home’s energy use.
11. Select Energy Efficient Appliances and Electronics: Since efficient homes have highly energy efficient building shells and use high efficiency HVAC and water heating equipment, a new category, appliances and electronics, becomes the most significant source of energy expenditure in the home. As a result, selecting high efficiency appliances and electronics becomes the final step needed to minimize home energy use.
12. Use the Sun for Renewable Energy: Grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) panels currently provide the most cost-effective form of renewable energy for a zero energy home. They can power all the energy needs of a home including lighting, heating and cooling systems, appliances and hot water. However, they are the most expensive component of an energy efficient home and strategies for reducing or mitigating those costs are important to consider.