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How to Build An Energy Efficient Home

Mar 24, 2014

Outside of a mortgage loan, the highest cost of homeownership today is energy. Rising utility costs and uncomfortable homes are driving consumers to look for solutions such as an energy efficient home. Energy efficient homes are equipped with optimal energy-saving features that result in:

  • Reduced utility and maintenance costs
  • Better home comfort
  • Increased home value

Building an Energy Efficient Home

Energy efficient homes are built as integrated systems, with each part working in tandem with the otHERS® to achieve maximum efficiency. A number of factors go into building these homes to optimize energy performance, thereby reducing costs and providing more comfort. These include:

Building Envelope (Home Exterior)

A combination of air sealing; properly installed insulation; and high performance, energy efficient windows work in combination to increase home comfort, improve durability, cut maintenance costs, and reduce monthly energy bills.

  • The home is comprehensively air-sealed against cracks and gaps, including areas:
    • Behind walls
    • Around windows and doors
    • Around pipes, vents, ducts, lighting and wiring
  • Thermal bridging (non-insulated pathways compromising home comfort and efficiency) is minimized via a continuous layer of rigid foam added to walls.
  • Insulation is installed with minimal gaps and aligned with air barriers to improve performance.
  • Insulated wires, plumbing and piping inside walls prevent spaces causing hot or cold spots.
  • Energy efficient windows help keep heat in during winter and out during summer.

Heating, Cooling and Mechanical Ventilation

High efficiency heating, cooling and ventilation systems deliver premium performance, while providing more comfort, better moisture control, improved indoor air quality, and quieter operation.

  • A high efficiency HVAC system is installed to reduce energy use and maximize performance.
  • Insulated ducts in crawl spaces and attics minimize energy loss.
  • Properly sized ducts ensure the right amount of air gets to each room and has a path to get back to the central unit.
  • Equipment and ductwork are properly sized and installed to optimize performance and avoid:
    • Frequent on/off cycling leading to large temperature swings and poor humidity control.
    • Stress on system components that could shorten equipment life.
    • Blocked ducts, allowing air to flow freely.
    • Leakage from duct joints, seams and connections to air inlets and registers.
  • A mechanical ventilation system filters outside air and reduces indoor air pollutants.
  • Outside air inlets are located away from contamination sources such as garages and exhaust fans.
  • Quieter exhaust fans vent moisture and fumes directly outside.
  • Combustion appliances like furnaces, boilers and water heaters vent directly outdoors.

Water Management System

  • Water management strategies help improve foundation durability, reduce potential for water damage, and improve comfort and the indoor air quality in the home:
    • Moisture-resistant barriers protect the foundation from groundwater.
    • Area around the home is graded so water flows away from the foundation.
    • Design features safely drain water off roofs, down walls, and away from the home.
    • Walls are wrapped in a continuous layer of overlapping moisture-resistant material to create a “drainage plane”.
    • A second layer of protection called flashing is applied to areas especially susceptible to water problems, such as roof-wall intersections and openings around windows and doors. This directs water away to the drainage plane.
  • Moisture resistant materials are used in walls behind tubs and showers.
  • No carpeting is used in areas close to wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Energy Efficient Lighting and Appliances

  • Energy efficient LEDs and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last longer and use less energy than traditional incandescent ones.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified appliances offer premium features while reducing utility costs by using less energy:
    • ENERGY STAR refrigerators are 20% more efficient than the federal minimum energy efficiency standard.
    • ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher models are about 10% more energy efficient than conventional units.
    • ENERGY STAR qualified washing machines use over 50% less water and 30% less energy than standard washing machines —saving a typical household about $50 per year in energy costs.
    • ENERGY STAR qualified ventilation fans used in bathrooms, utility rooms, and above cooking areas use 70% less energy than standard models.
    • ENERGY STAR ceiling fans move air 50% more efficiently than conventional fans.

How to Find an Energy Efficient Home

To meet growing consumer demand, Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) EnergySmart Builders are constructing more energy efficient homes and marketing them to homebuyers via the Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) Index Score. A lower HERS® Index Score signifies a more energy efficient home. The HERS® Index was created by RESNET and is the industry standard for measuring a home’s energy efficiency. If you’re interested in learning more about the HERS® Index or finding a RESNET EnergySmart Builder in your area, visit the HERS® Index Website.