3-22-13

 

Ten Energy Features you want in your New Home

With major storms, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters in the last year, everyone is wondering about the impact of energy use on the environment.  While we don’t take positions as scientists, we have some opinions on elements that might be wise to include in the design of your new home and will save you dollars on your utility bills.  This is not an all inclusive list, but it might spark a few ideas or questions:

 

  • Insulation

Adequate, well installed insulation makes homes air tight and significantly impacts utility usage.  The use of blower door testing near the completion of the project is a gauge of how well the insulation and construction methods have been implemented in your new home.  Your new home should easily pass the jurisdictional requirements and give you peace of mind.

 

  • HVAC

While there are many choices to be made, we would generally recommend using a heat pump to heat and cool your home.  You will find them very efficient and can be teamed with either an electric or gas fired back up unit.  Variable speed units will also add to overall system performance.  Change the filters regularly for comfort and energy consumption.

 

  • Hot Water Recirculation

A recirculation system will provide you with heated water throughout the home faster and longer than a traditional tank unit.  With controls, you can also set the hot water to be available during the times that you expect to use it.   While “on demand” units are popular today, you should consider the lag time between turning on the faucet and the water being hot.  A recirculation system can also be used with an on demand unit.  For residential purposes, your on demand system will need to be gas fired.

 

  • Appliances

Efficient appliances are readily available.  We recommend especially that refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers  be energy star compliant.  Consider as well the energy characteristics of televisions and computers throughout the home.  With homes being more efficient from a heating and cooling standpoint, these items can drive a major portion of the energy cost in your new home.

 

  • Smart controls

You can make this as simple or complex as you want.  Installing timers on exhaust fans and actually using the programmable thermostat with you HVAC system can have a significant impact.  Remote access to the energy features in your home is becoming a more popular feature as well.

 

  • Operable windows

Sometimes, the best air conditioning is fresh air.  Making sure you have operable windows and ideally cross ventilation in the rooms you will spend most of your time in is important.

 

  • Screens

Of course, you will generally want screens on windows and doors that you anticipate being open during warm days.  Consider the use of glass sliders in place of French doors where applicable as screens are generally less obtrusive on sliding glass doors.

 

  • Plumbing and Lighting Fixtures

Consider the use of restricted flow faucets, double flush toilets, and LED can lighting for long term benefits and cost reductions.

 

  • Conditioned space

Whenever possible, it is most efficient to locate heating equipment (furnace and hot water) within the heated envelope (conditioned space) of your home.  We generally aim to design two story homes with all the ductwork between the floors.  While ducts are generally not leaking, having the ducts within the heated space will add to the overall efficiency of your home.

 

  • Hot water heater

Electric heat pump hot water heaters can be purchased for a little more than a conventional unit now and can pay for themselves in energy savings in a relatively short time.  There are many alternatives on the market and the cost and savings will depend on the model chosen.