Energy Efficient Construction Using a Custom Home Builder
When evaluating your carbon footprint, the dollars you spend at the pump are probably top of mind—but your home could be an even bigger culprit. Accounting for just 5% of the global population, the U.S. consumes an estimated 25% of the world’s fossil fuels,with 30% going toward heating oil. What’s worse is that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that global natural gas consumption will increase by 13.4% between 2013 and 2040. Add national water shortages to the mix and you’ll see how inefficient homes are a huge contributor to unnecessary resource consumption.
To help homeowners do their part, governments are providing incentives for homeowners to improve energy efficiency and support green energy production. Renewable sources of electricity production in the United States grew by three-percent last year (nowup to around 13% of total electricity) and doubled between 2000 and 2015. From driving less to eating local and updating your home’s efficiency, everyone plays a role in the global effort to reduce consumption and shrink our carbon footprints.
ENERGY STAR Certified Homes
Prioritizing energy efficiency isn’t a trend, but a necessity in new home construction. The 67,038 ENERGY STAR certified homes built last year accounted for 9.7% of total new home construction, with nearly half the homes built in Arizona qualifying. Together, these homes saved $20,915,856 in annual utility bills, 115,372,398 kWh, 6,234,534 therms of natural gas, and reduced CO2 emissions by 113,428 metric tons. So how did they do that, exactly?
ENERGY STAR is a program of the U.S. government that provides energy efficiency standards as well as rebates for both personal home and commercial building construction. ENERGY STAR standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are used to evaluate the energy efficiency of a home. Homes that pass the test and earn their blue ENERGY STAR label have:
- Complete thermal enclosure systems, meaning insulation and energy efficient windows are properly installed, attic insulation is reinforced, and every leak is sealed.
- High performance heating, ventilation, and cooling systems that may include geothermal and heat pump systems.
- Water management systems that offer advanced protection from moisture damage that dampers insulation and creates mildew issues.
- Efficient lighting and appliances that use less electricity and help you use less water.
When energy efficient choices are compounded, certified homes use 15-30% less energy than a typical home. ENERGY STAR certification has saved the U.S. $362 billion in utility bills since 1992 and stopped 2.5 billion tons of greenhouse gasses from entering the atmosphere.
Working with Contractors
In homes that have earned their ENERGY STAR rating, contractors have paid a great deal of attention to the details. Working with custom builders that are certified ENERGY STARmake it easy for homebuyers interested in new construction to make sure they’re making the most of energy efficient options. Custom home builders work with ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy Rater to decide on the best combination of energy efficient features to ensure their designs meet the ENERGY STAR standard once constructed.
For true efficiency, the features used in an architectural design are chosen based on the climate and location of construction. The home undergoes rigorous testing during and after construction to ensure the intended efficiency features meet ENERGY STAR standards. When a home passes the test, a blue ENERGY STAR label is secured to the home’s circuit breaker box.
Best Ways to Make Your New Home Energy Efficient
What makes a window energy efficient varies by climate and location. All ENERGY STAR qualified windows, doors, and skylights have been tested and certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) based on five efficiency factors that can be found on product labels:
- U-Factor measures how well a window insulates by measuring heat transfer. The lower the U-factor number, the less heat the window lets through and the better the window insulates.
- Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) measures how well a product keeps out heat generated by sunlight. On a scale of 0-1, look for a label with a small number, indicating less solar heat was transmitted by the window.
- Air Leakage (AL) measures how many cubic feet of air pass through one square foot of window in one minute—a lower number indicates less air leakage through window panes and joints.
- Visible Transmittance (VT) measures the amount of light that passes through a window. On a scale of 0-1, higher numbers let more light in.
- Condensation Resistance measures condensation resistance on a scale of 0-100. A higher number means the window has a higher condensation resistance factor, allowing less water build-up and greater efficiency.
Thermal bridging is caused when an area of a building (like wall joints and studs) have a higher ability to transfer heat than the surrounding materials. In short, these areas are conductive of outside and inside temperatures and reduce the overall thermal insulation of a home.
Attics are many homes’ biggest culprit when it comes to heat loss. New homes take all insulating factors into account, including doors, windows, walls, and attics, using a combination of products to ensure energy loss through poor insulation is at a bare minimum. Wall insulation isn’t just the rolls of pink stuff anymore. Loose-fill fiberglassinsulation is blown through a machine that aerates it, creating even more insulating air pockets. Insulated materials are rated based on its ability to resist heat flow and are measured with an R-value. Materials with higher R-values are better insulators.
Water Smart Appliances & Greenscaping
Lush lawns may be suitable for the Pacific Northwest, but homes in arid and desert environments are better off matching their landscape to its natural surroundings.Greenscaping includes using mulch to slow evaporation of water and plants that don’t require much water in the first place. Stone and succulents can replace green lawns in states like Nevada and Colorado where water is scarce.
WaterSmart showerheads and faucets reduce water flow rate—or the amount of water that is dispensed—by 30%. Efficient toilets waste less water with each flush and a leaky toilet could be wasting 200 gallons every day! Efficient dishwashers and laundry machines get the job done with less water waste. Efforts both inside and out all add up to a more water-efficient home.
Any custom home builders worth their salt uses 100% LED lighting. LED lighting generates 75% less heat, uses 75% less energy, and lasts 10-50 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Lighting is one of the easiest way to improve a home’s energy efficiency.