Building an Energy Efficient Custom Home

April 13th, 2010 - Posted by RESNET under Energy Efficiency

By building your home from scratch, you are able to choose each and every feature, from siding to insulation to the type of heating system. As such, you can strive to make your home a model of energy efficiency. Your home will be more comfortable to live in with less drafts and even temperatures throughout the home. You will save money each month on your energy bills, and you will be minimizing your impact on the environment.

Incentives Help You Build Green

There are various incentive programs at the national, state and local levels, including grants, tax credits and loans to help with your energy efficient, green building project. Find out more at the EPA’s Green Building Funding Opportunities webpage.

Energy Star Homes Are 20-30% More Efficient

Energy Star provides guidelines and incentives for energy efficient building, where homes that meet the strict requirements set out by the EPA earn the Energy Star designation. These homes are typically 20% to 30% more energy efficient than standard new homes. Find out more about Energy Star New Homes.

When choosing a builder, ask if they build their homes to Energy Star standards. Your builder should have many great ideas to make your home more efficient. Here are some items you may want to consider, and discuss with your builder:

  1. Location and orientation – Take the sun into account when orienting your building. Decide if you want to avoid the sun or collect the sun’s warm rays. For example, south-facing glass (in northern climates) will collect the sun’s heat even in the winter.
  2. Size – Plan to build as small a house as your household can be comfortable in. The smaller the house, the less space there is to heat, cool, light and maintain.
  3. Limit “exposed” walls as much as possible – Less outside exposure will result in more protection against air leaks.
  4. Ample and consistent insulation – Consider slightly increasing the thickness of your exterior walls. There are a lot of innovative building systems for insulation and your custom home builder will be able to suggest suitable options.
  5. Intentional ventilation – Keeping the house airtight and providing circulation through a controlled system.
  6. Quality windows – Fewer and smaller windows will create less opportunity to counteract the positive effects of your insulation. Quality windows have low emissivity coated (low-E), double or triple glazed or with argon fill gas.
  7. Energy efficient equipment – Water heater, furnace and air conditioner should be “”Energy Star”" qualified. Look into installing a tankless or on-demand water heater, 90% condensing furnace and high efficiency air conditioner.
  8. Energy efficient appliances – To reduce the electricity consumption of your new home. Pay special attention to your refrigerator since it is on all the time.
  9. Lighting – Carefully placed windows can reduce your need for electric lighting during daylight hours. In any case, be sure to install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) which use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
  10. Green energy – It is often more practical and more economical to install solar, wind, geothermal and other green energy systems when a home is being built, rather than retrofitting these technologies later.

Here are a few tips for hiring a builder:

  • Compile a list of builders and arrange to meet with the ones you are interested in finding details about. Ask each one lots of questions and consider that the way each builder answers will be indicative of your future relationship.
  • Make sure the builder is licensed and insured – verify the certification he provides you with.
  • Ask the builder you are considering for a list of his project sites. Check out sites that are in progress, paying attention to cleanliness of the site as well as the builder’s attention to safety.
  • Make sure the builder will guarantee their work – if they don’t, keep looking!

Remember that you will be working very closely with the builder, so be sure to select one you can establish a comfortable relationship with and who will listen to your ideas. RESNET Qualified ENERGYSMART Home Builders have specific training in energy efficiency, and understand how the house functions as a set of interconnected systems. They are committed to energy efficient building. Find a RESNET Qualified Builder.

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