As explained earlier in the article (Make your Home Energy Efficient with these Smart Saving Tips) that energy efficient homes are not expensive to build and don’t just belong to luxurious estates and celebrity mansions. Moreover, you must now have understood that energy efficient homes greatly help to bring down the utility costs of energy consumption. But more than the power-saving equipment like Energy Star cooling and heating systems, solar power products, programmable and zone-based thermostats, etc. it’s the design elements such as ventilation, site orientation and balancing solar loads that are far more impactful in reducing the overall use of energy.
Besides reducing the energy consumption, what needs to be considered before building a home is the new substitutes of energy sources available in your area. So the most fine house plans are scrupulously customized as per the region and area you live in. These plans are usually combined with other key components, such as a comprehensive landscaping plan to build a home that is energy efficient. The energy efficient homes not only help homeowners save money, but also mitigate harm caused to the environment. How?
It’s very simple as such homes are quite environment friendly because the appliances and design elements used to cut down energy usage contribute to a more controlled level of humidity and temperature and improved air quality. Whereas it is more convenient to combine energy efficient components during the construction of a new home; it is not very difficult to make improvements in terms of energy efficiency in an already built home.
You can refer to LEED certification and Passive House Standards as guidelines while designing your new home in order to make it more energy efficient. These are basically the resources which may guide you on smart home designs derived from the location and climate, suggested building materials, including other suggestions that will aid in bettering the energy efficiency. On the other hand, if you are planning to make changes in your existing home, then an energy audit is one of the ways to measure the existing energy efficiency and analyze such design elements that lead to the wastage of energy.
Mentioned below are the five major elements that one should look for while assessing the energy efficiency of his/her home:
1. Construction Details
This is the most important element that contributes in bettering the energy efficiency of homes. For instance, during the winter months the exterior walls can be a little wider to make possible more insulation and during the summer months covered porches and overhangs can provide a covering to the windows while still helping the daylight to enter in and light up the interiors.
It is also important to carefully choose the products and building materials of your home. Now with the help of green building materials which involve the use of sustainable and reclaimed wood, linoleum or bamboo flooring, etc. the embodied energy inside your home is mitigated. Other essential component such as double paned window greatly impact direct energy loss as compared to the typical single-paned counterparts.
The second most important element that supports adequate ventilation is a floor plan. An energy efficient floor plan is the one that has suitably placed windows that can be opened easily and a room placement which facilitates constant air flow.
3. Solar Loads and Daylightning
In order to build an energy efficient home, it’s important that your floor plan balance the advantages of daylightning with the possible hazards of an augmented solar cooling load. The designs vary from region to region. While in cooler regions reducing fenestration may not be of utmost importance in comparison to other objectives; the warmer regions on the other hand should reduce the number of windows in the east and west directions at the cost of daylightning to ease down solar cooling load.
4. Site Orientation and Shape
Before you begin with the construction of your new home, first perform the site orientation and the shape of your floor plan which will have a bearing on the energy efficiency of your home. As mentioned above, the most efficient design will differ depending upon the region, so consult an architect as he/she can provide you with the best site orientation and general shapes to procure the greatest energy efficiency. It is mostly seen that in colder regions, the houses have a rectangular floor plan to absorb as much rays possible from the sun in east and west directions.
5. HVAC Systems
It is the HVAC system responsible for cooling, heating or maintenance of ventilation in our homes. So while choosing a system for your place, first consider whether the product is appropriately sized for the space or not and then determine its energy efficiency. Moreover, ductwork and other supporting systems should be designed and created in a manner to reduce the energy waste and choose such area for the installation of system where maximum efficiency can be derived.
Even though energy efficient HVAC systems are comparatively more expensive than the traditional systems, more often than not federal and state tax rebates are available to help reduce the initial cost. There are several manufacturers who provide estimated energy savings on their products; thus helping the consumers by providing them with a medium to assess the actual cost of every system over time.
6. Windows, Doors and Skylights
The moving elements in a home, such as windows and doors are more responsible in maintaining the energy efficiency of a home and its usage and hence are considered very important design elements. So inappropriate seals around windows and doors may stifle the environment and make it more difficult to keep homes warm in winter months and cool in summer months. Another popular method to brighten up the mood of your home is to add skylights which will reduce the consumption of artificial lightning and save energy costs. Else, Energy Star certified windows, skylights and doors can be installed either during the renovation or construction to curb the energy usage of your home.
While discussing the importance of windows, let’s not overlook the fact that better energy efficiency of any window is ensured only when it is properly maintained and don’t have fissures in the frame that can cause drafts. So there are many more factors that you should consider before fitting new windows:
Window frames are good conductors of heat and thus contribute in the overall energy efficiency of a window and specifically it’s U-factor. It is the rate at which your doors, windows and skylights carry non-solar flow of heat. Essentially, there are five types of window frames that provide good thermal resistance:
1. Vinyl Frames
2. Metal or Aluminum Frames
3. Fiberglass Frames
4. Composite Frames
5. Wood Frames
It is not wise to fix plain glasses in windows as they are not efficient and allow light to pass through it, thus producing heat. But coated glasses consist of better insulation properties and yet have great visual quality. There are generally two types of coatings, viz.
1. Reflective Coatings – This type of coating on window glasses minimizes the solar radiation transmission which blocks more light than heat. You will usually find thin, metallic layers in terms of reflective coatings which are available in variegated shades of colors to include gold, silver and bronze.
2. Spectrally Selective Coatings – This is a special type of low-e coating which is spectrally elective and filters out normally almost 40-70 percent of the heat through window glazing or glass while allowing complete transmission of light. The spectrally selective coating reflects the UV rays while allowing more visible light.
• Double Glazing or Multiple Panes
When glass has multiple panes, it is called double or triple glazing that traps air between the panes which further enhances the insulation qualities of the window. Multiple panes also provide excellent sound proofing which are best suited to urban environments. Interestingly, there are some windows that have a gas injected between the panes instead of air. It improves the insulation properties of windows and provides greater efficiency level of energy.
So these are the elements which you can integrate to make your home more energy efficient and experience a comfortable living indoors. But there is one more factor to consider which contributes heavily in the energy consumption bills and that is our water heaters.
To reduce your water energy needs, it is advisable to incorporate water saving showerheads and faucets into your home design. Hot water conserving appliances and fixtures can be used and water heater wraps can be installed. In addition to these, we also advise you to install sealed combustion devices to do way with the risk of backdrafting. Also, never forget to place equipment in conditioned places. Create an unremitting insulation system behind such wall areas as between unconditioned and conditioned spaces like garage walls, band joists, mechanical room walls, basement stairways, etc.
So building an energy efficient home will yield rewarding results not only for you, but for the environment as well.