Energy Efficient Home Building

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.

Choose Energy Efficient Options


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.

High Efficiency Water Heating

Check Energy Guide labels to compare operating efficiency on various models.

  • Choose the right size for the number of people in your home.
  • Insulate the water heater if it will be located in an unheated space. Be careful to check insulating recommendations for gas water heaters.
  • Provide a thermal break (insulating barrier) between the water heater and any uninsulated floor.
  • Set temperature only as high as needed and not over 120o F.
  • Consider an instantaneous water heater for low demand and remote locations.
  • Consider a timer if hot water will not be needed for long periods each day.
Energy Efficient Mortgages

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.

Systems and Equipment

Properly Size Heating & Cooling Equipment

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:

  • heat loss/heat gain analysis
  • proper air leakage rate for your home (based on home size and projected or actual efficiency performance)
  • solar orientation of your home
  • standard internal heat generation allowances (appliances and people) and non-standard allowances for items like home offices, special lighting or indoor hot tubs
  • typical average extreme winter and summer outdoor temperatures and the normal indoor thermostat settings for these seasons
Properly Design & Seal The Duct 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.

Consider Natural Attic Ventilation

In attics, natural ventilation is best. To keep attic heat out of your living spaces, follow these four steps:

  1. Install soffit and ridge vents and/or gable vents in the attic.
  2. Repair any leaky ductwork.
  3. Seal gaps in areas where attic spaces meet living spaces, making sure they are airtight.
  4. Insulate the ceiling to a minimum of R-49.

Sealing and Insulation

Seal Against Air Leaks

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:

  • floors
  • utility and other vented areas
  • staircases on outside or garage walls
  • holes for wiring & plumbing
  • walls where they meet floors and rooflines
  • chimneys/fireplaces
  • windows
  • attics and attic access
  • knee-walls and dormers
  • duct systems
  • bathtubs or showers on outside walls
Seal Crawlspaces

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:

  • Walls (cavity + sheathing): R-19 Ceilings: R-49
  • Floors: R-25
View's insulation tips for more details.

Environment  We’ve got a “green thumb” too! This icon indicates a message that promotes awareness about our environmental programs or provides you with information that helps you save energy, save money and live life a little greener.
NYSE : (April 17, 2014) D 70.67 -0.86