Contributed by Tom Masters
As energy prices rise and climate change becomes more of an issue, homeowners are looking for ways to save on their energy costs. While many homeowners already recycle and own electric cars, there are also ways to help the environment when having a home built. If you’re having a home built, there are very real steps that you or your general contractor can take to lower your energy usage and to make the home more efficient. Here’s an overview of the most effective ways to improve the efficiency of your new home.
Make Use of Cool Roofing in Hot Climates
Cool roofing is an ultra-reflective metal material that’s designed to bounce off the infrared rays from sunlight, to keep your home from heating up during bright sunny days. By adding this roofing to your home, you’ll minimize your cooling needs passively.
Build Thicker Walls
Most traditional homes today are built with 2x4 walls because it’s more affordable and all that’s required. Go with 2x6 walls instead, everywhere that you can. When the specs are just right, these walls will offer more space for insulation, making it possible to dramatically improve the efficiency of your home.
Space out Studs
The studs or 2x6 boards that make up your exterior walls are conductors for energy. Engineer your home so that the studs are 24-on-center, or so the studs are 24 inches apart instead of the standard 16 inches. This lowers the number of conductors you have in your home, making it more efficient.
Invest Heavily in Insulation
Go with a mixture of blown in insulation and foam insulation for the best results. Have foam insulation applied to the exterior walls from inside the home, and then have insulation blown in once the interior walls are into place to help fill in any remaining gaps.
Get a Tankless Water Heater
A standard water heater is a huge waste of energy, and completely unnecessary. Invest in a high quality tankless water heater to enjoy on-demand hot water whenever it’s needed, and to avoid heating up water all throughout the day, when it’s only needed once and awhile. When choosing a new tankless water heater, you need to consider the size of the home as well as the distance of the heater from the shower and other faucets in the home.
Buy Multi-Pane Gas Insulated Windows
Single pane windows are cheap and readily available, but they are a poor investment. Instead of buying these relics, invest in high quality dual, or tri-paned windows that are filled with a gas such as argon. The argon gas helps insulate the glass, and makes the windows much more energy efficient.
Buy a High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Unit
Try to obtain a heating and cooling system that offers 95% efficiency during operation. These high-end systems will cost more money up front, but they will save on heating and cooling costs over time, and generally they will pay for themselves in savings over their lifespan.
Invest in Zoned Heating
It doesn’t make sense to heat and cool all areas of the home to the same extent. Most people use certain sections of their home much more often than other sections. Invest in a zoned heating system to make it possible to adjust less-popular areas of your home to consume less energy.
Use a Smart Thermostat
Most homeowners can benefit by adding a smart thermostat to their home. This allows the house temperature to be lowered while away from home in the winter, or raised while away in the summer. With a smart thermostat, you could program your thermostat to lower your home’s temperature when you are at work or sleeping at night. This would save you energy without causing you any discomfort in the process, and it’s something that will benefit you automatically after the initial programming.
By applying these methods you’ll lower your energy costs and your reliance on fossil fuels. Sure, you could take things a step further and install solar panels and a solar water heater, but that’s not the right approach for every homeowner. It’s best to consult with a local contractor to discuss things and learn what designs can be drafted to improve the efficiency of your home, because methods vary by location.
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