Building a home involves much more than just putting together some bricks and mortar and moulding them into something that looks good and functions for the family who will be living there. While design is certainly important and is what most buyers consider first when crafting plans for their dream home, there are so many other aspects of building a “good” home to consider, including energy efficiency steps that will save money and lessen your impact on the environment.
Making the decision
The first step towards designing an energy smart home involves making the decision that efficiency is a big part of your plan…and sticking to it. In some cases, this decision might cost you a little more money upfront, but in the long-run, you’ll save money on energy costs. So, if you can reconcile yourself to spending a little more now for a savings later, it’s time to chat with your builder and architect about what you can do to achieve an energy smart home or even a zero net energy home; that is, a grid-tied home that is so air-tight, well insulated, and energy-efficient that it produces as much renewable energy as it consumes over the course of a year, leaving you with a net zero energy bill, and a carbon-free home.1
Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it truly is!
Steps to energy efficiency: A whole house approach
When you open a conversation with your builder and/or architect about energy efficiency, it’s best to think about the entire home in general rather than just one room or one form of energy at a time. For example, don’t just think “We’ll use solar panels” but also consider other options that make use of the sun, such as placing lots of south-facing windows in your new home.
There are many variables that interact with each other inside your home, so when considering energy smart home options, it’s a good idea to look at all of these systems, including:
- Heating and cooling – These account for about half of all the energy use in any home, so addressing HVAC is ultra-important.
- Water heating – Water heating systems consume large amounts of electricity. Consider insulating your water heater or using a solar unit.
- Insulation and air sealing – Using the right insulation and “building envelope” means you have a good shield between the inside and outside environments.
- Lighting and daylighting – About 15% of an average home’s electrical budget goes towards lighting, so choose bulbs that are energy efficient. In addition, carefully consider the position of doors, windows, and skylights to reduce the need for artificial lighting during daytime hours.
- Appliances -Look for refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washers, dryers, and other appliances that are dubbed energy efficient. You might be amazed at the savings on your monthly bill!
- Home electronics – Consider using smart controllers, smart thermostats, and other electronic devices that are designed to help you control energy use. Many are able to gauge your usage habits and can then regulate your usage according to these habits without you having to lift a finger.
If you’re aiming for an ultra-efficient home, your builder will also take into account things such as local climate conditions, the location/elevation, etc. of your lot, landscaping strategies, and anything else that can make your home energy use as cost-effective as possible.
Make a list
Perhaps you’ve heard phrases like “optimum value engineering”, which reduces lumber use and waste, or maybe “cool roofs”, which keep homes cooler during hot weather, or maybe even “passive solar design”, which takes advantage of climatic conditions for heating and cooling. Maybe you’re wondering which might work for you.
Because there are so many options, it’s a good idea to do your homework before you meet with your builder for the first time. More than ever, energy efficiency is important in the protection of our environment, so you should be prepared to make decisions on what you can do to lessen your carbon footprint.
Research what others in your area have done to make their energy usage more efficient. Take a drive around the neighborhood where you’ll be building. Look for obvious energy efficient items such as solar panels. Ask your builder to show you some of his/her recent builds and to explain to you what others have done to make their homes energy smart. Your builder likely has the most knowledge of what works best in the area in which you’re building and can suggest options that will move you in the right direction.
At FM Construction, we’re well-versed in energy smart building and are eager to help our clients choose options that stress energy efficiency. For more details, schedule a no-obligation consultation with our building experts by calling 604-880-4081.