Building a New Home? Energy-Efficiency Priorities to Consider
If you want to include energy-efficient features when building a new home, your wallet will thank you later. Yes, it may be more of an investment upfront, but the results equal long-term savings in utility costs and energy conservation. When it comes to sustainability and affordability, consider these top recommendations for building an energy-efficient home.
Windows & Doors
Windows, doors, and skylights are either major energy savers or energy drainers, so don’t overlook this important investment when building a home. While you don’t need to know all of the highly technical window lingo (like U-factor), work with your builder to select well-insulated and well-constructed doors and windows.
Did you know more heat flows through window frames than the glass itself? So fewer, larger windows can be efficient than many windows and frames. To help reduce solar heat gain in the Texas climate, install outdoor awnings on south- and west-facing windows and sun-control or other reflective films on the glass.
Doors need to be tightly sealed around the frame and the door itself with gaskets and weather stripping. According to Zero Energy Project, insulated fiberglass doors are cost effective and the best value for energy saving. Consider these other energy-saving tips from Energy.gov when shopping for new windows and doors.
Roofing materials can help deflect sunlight and regulate the home’s inside temperature during long, hot summers. From shingles to slate to metal roofing, ask your builder about the ENERGY STAR rating and choose roofing color and type to help with energy conservation, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and sun reflection or absorption. And when building a new home, cool roof options exist for nearly the same cost as a traditional roof. Solar panels are also another popular way to harness the power of the Texas sun, with most cities having from 60% to 80% sunny days throughout the year.
Home builders can also conserve energy with passive solar design, which allows a home to collect and store heat during cooling seasons, plus save on lighting costs. Home design and orientation play a major role in how much sunlight filters into your main living areas, and reducing strain on your air conditioning is a big priority across the Lone Star state. North-south facing homes are generally thought to absorb sun when needed in the winter, plus avoid the longer sunlight hours absorbed by east- and west-facing windows. Overhangs, such as awnings and trellises, and landscaping can also provide shade from the hot sun during air conditioning seasons. Talk to your builder about ways to utilize this design concept without overheating your home in warm months.
Building Envelope﹘Sealing and Insulation
Wrapping your home in a tight seal is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy use for heating and cooling, while also improving indoor air quality and comfort. Air sealing can be achieved with many different materials or systems, from airtight drywall to ZIP, with varying upfront costs. As part of the building envelope, insulation in walls, the attic, and around outlets, pipes, and fixtures all help conserve energy. For a new home, explore the different methods to ensure a continuous barrier to keep outside air out and inside air consistent.
Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems
Heating and cooling accounts for 48% of a home’s energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which makes HVAC systems among the largest energy consumers. Installing an efficient HVAC system will save you energy and reduce your bills. Talk with your builder about energy efficiency ratios and look out for SEER ratings. For your AC and heating, smart thermometers and tech-driven functionalities can also help increase your savings.
Water conservation and savings
Low-flow water filters on showers and sinks help reduce water use. Take it a step further by collecting rainwater for indoor and outdoor plants and many other uses, or have a greywater recycling system installed for collecting runoff water from showers, laundry, and more. Water heaters account for the second largest energy expense in homes, so consider energy efficient models like tankless (8%-24% more efficient) or solar (50% more efficient).
Incentives and Savings
Finally, when building a home, ask about the energy HERS rating process on the construction plan and inspection. Consider the tips above and these further guidelines for warmer climates when building a home with energy-efficiency in mind. Once construction is complete and you’re ready to move into your new home, don’t forget about ENERGY STAR appliances, lighting, and everyday energy-saving tips.
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