In addition to a desirable design and location, homeowners buying new construction are looking for ways to save money on their power bills while helping the environment. Energy-efficient homes are gaining popularity among builders and buyers alike, especially as skyrocketing energy prices over the past year have impacted families across Texas and the entire country.
What are some tried-and-true energy savers and what features are the future of energy-efficient homes? From sustainable building materials to solar panels, we’ll explore construction trends and how they help homeowners save.
Solar Power and Windows
While the technology developed in the late 1800s (yes, you read that right!), solar energy options continued to advance and became popular for supplemental home power in the 1980s. With SMA inverters, solar batteries and Wi-Fi access, solar power systems are improving to help homeowners lessen their reliance on the energy grid, at least partially. Plus, solar shingles are relatively new to the scene and may work their way to replacing larger solar panels in new builds.
Secondly, windows can result in a 25% to 35% heat gain or loss in homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Thus, investing in energy-efficient windows from the start equates to year-after-year savings. Double panes, good seals around the frames and coatings that act as a “sunscreen” help keep summer heat out or freezing winter temperatures outside where it belongs.
In the development stage, smart windows, with both heating and cooling coating that reacts to light and adjusts accordingly, are showing promise. The future of windows could include sensors, innovative insulation and microprocessors. Initial studies show these smart windows save up to 9.5%.
Smart Technology and Automation
Smart thermostats, automatic light switches or timers, and energy-saving lightbulbs are standard in many of today’s new homes. Smart thermostats allow you to program your home to maintain a comfortable temperature on a schedule, plus adjust the temperature higher or lower (depending on the season) when you’re away. Some are also accessible through your smartphone. You can set a daily schedule and not worry about your A/C constantly running to maintain a cool 72 degrees when you’re away.
The future of energy-efficient homes takes it even a step further with whole-house energy-management systems. For example, the Honda Smart Home prototype features a high-tech system that controls, monitors and manages the home’s energy production and consumption. According to the site, the Home Energy-Management System “stores solar energy generated during the day for use at night, when household demand typically peaks and electric vehicles are usually charged. It is also capable of ‘listening’ to the grid to ensure we only draw power at the most carbon-efficient times.”
Insulation and Water Savings
Maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home is its biggest expense, and quality insulation for your climate is vital. The good news is insulation is becoming more effective and eco-friendly, such as fiberglass insulation made from recycled materials, a wool/polyester blend, cork or many other options.
Water-saving features also lessen the impact on the environment and the pocketbook. Tankless or heat pump water heaters can save money, as will turning down the heat from 130 degrees to 120 degrees on your water heater (saving 6% to 10% each year). As you build, water conservation features like low-flow shower heads and faucets and ENERGY STAR appliances, like your washer and dishwasher, can help you save.
Energy-Efficient Neighborhoods of the Future
As you build a new home, consider implementing these energy-savings initiatives to save you money from day one. However, even with smart neighborhood pilot programs and advances in eco-conscious homebuilding, most of today’s energy-savvy homes still require electricity and power grid connection.
If you live in Texas and want to save money on electricity, enter your zip code to discover a no-deposit, prepaid electricity plan from Payless Power.
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