Building a new home may be one of the most expensive things you do in your lifetime, but it's important not to cut corners where energy efficiency is concerned. You can build a home that's comfortable for you and your energy budget with these tips.
Windows are beautiful additions to your home, but they can waste energy by letting in drafts, drawing out heat in winter, and baking your home in summer. Choose windows with good insulation values, such as double and triple-paned windows. Some have an insulating gas (like argon) between the panes, which insulates better than air. There are also windows with special clear coatings, called "low-e" windows, which reflect heat. The frames and spacers between panes should also be considered. Wood, vinyl and fiberglass are better insulators than standard aluminum frames. New warm-edge spacers insulate better than normal wood, vinyl or fiberglass, which can conduct condensation around the edges of windows.
Lighting can make a major impact on energy efficiency. Whether indoor or outdoor, choose high efficiency lighting for as many applications as possible. Use compact fluorescent bulbs in fixtures. If you're planning to install recessed lighting, choose only those that are air-tight and Insulation Contact (IC)-rated. It's also a good idea to make sure your HVAC contractor is aware of your lighting plans as it can increase the requirements of your air conditioning system. Finally, consider using automatic lighting controls in your home for optimum energy efficiency.
Check Energy Guide labels to compare operating efficiency on various models.
Energy Efficient Mortgages, or EEMs, often allow new homeowners to qualify for a larger mortgage with a lower annual income due to the energy savings expected in homes built to high energy efficiency standards. Ask your real estate professional or mortgage lender about EEMs.
Landscaping is another important consideration when thinking about energy efficiency. Deciduous trees (leafy in summer, bare in winter) provide wonderful shade for your home in summer but allow the sun to help warm your home in winter. Plant these trees on the sides of your home that receive the most sun. Evergreens can also provide an effective break from chilling winds in winter.
The size of your home's heating and cooling system is directly related to its operating efficiency and, ultimately, to your overall comfort. A lot goes into correct sizing, so make sure your contractor takes the following into account when sizing your system:
All homes are not the same. The way your duct system is designed to carry heated and cooled air through your home directly impacts your comfort. Properly designed duct systems deliver the right amount of air to each room of your home. Multiple return vents are recommended on each level of your home and in rooms where there are several supply vents.
Sealing of the duct system is so important it deserves special attention. Leaks in the duct system, even tiny ones, waste energy much like a leaky faucet wastes water. The more air lost through duct leakage, the more you're paying to heat and cool your home. Duct system leakage can account for up to 30% or more of wasted energy. Furthermore, since air quality is another important consideration, proper duct sealing also keeps dust, mold and mildew in crawlspaces and attics from passing into your home and into your lungs. Your contractor should permanently seal your entire duct system with mastic or UL 181 tape.
In attics, natural ventilation is best. To keep attic heat out of your living spaces, follow these four steps:
Keep conditioned air inside your home where it belongs. Sealing against air leaks is one of the most important things your builder can do to ensure overall comfort and lower energy bills in your new home.
Most air leakage problems are found in the areas listed below. Make sure your builder has identified these potential trouble spots in your home building plan and that steps will be taken to properly seal:
A typical crawlspace releases twelve gallons of moisture per day. If your new home will have a crawlspace, here are four steps to prevent moisture problems: (1) Install gutters and slope the grade around the foundation to direct rain away from the house. (2) Cover the crawlspace floor with a vapor barrier, overlap seams by 1-2 feet, and seal them. Outside edges should also extend at least 6 inches above the outside grade and be sealed to the block. (3) Close vents and seal foundation vents to eliminate warm, moist outdoor air from entering the crawlspace. (4) Seal any ductwork in the crawlspace.
It's important to note that you should do all 4 steps to properly seal your crawl space. If you skip a step, like putting down a vapor barrier, then you should open your crawl space vents in spring and close them in winter.
Insulation creates a barrier between your home and the outdoor elements. It is very important to insulate walls, attics, crawlspaces and storage areas. The basic provisions are:
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