An energy efficient home is one that saves money by reducing energy use as well as providing a higher level of comfort to those who live inside. Energy efficiency is also something that increases the resale value of the property. Anyone wanting to build an energy efficient home is in a good position. Technological advancements in building materials and construction techniques make it much less of a challenge than it would have been just a few years ago.
If you aim to build a home with net-zero energy use with high indoor environmental quality, here are some things you need to consider.
Location and Orientation of the Building
If you want to use the power of the sun to your advantage, your home has to be facing in the right direction. Buildings in the Northern Hemisphere should be orientated north-south. For homes in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the other way around. Choosing the right orientation means direct sunlight will be minimal during the summer and maximised during the winter. The layout of your rooms is also an important design element if you want maximum energy efficiency. Main living spaces should be the rooms that have a good amount of sun most of the day. Kitchens and bedrooms are better suited to the side of the house that has good sun in the morning and cooler in the late afternoon.
As well as the building, you should also be looking at ways in which the landscape can assist in energy efficiency. Planting trees can help provide shade for the building during the summer months. In the fall, those trees that were providing shade will lose their leaves and allow the winter sun to heat your home passively.
Windows and Doors
The doors and windows you choose for your home can have a big impact on its energy efficiency. Aim for frames with a low U-value. For the glazing, you need to use Low-E glass. Energy efficient windows, skylights and doors should be appropriate to your home’s climate zone. Double glazing is something else you should consider. If you’re wondering what that is, you’ll find the answer to the question “what is double glazing?” here.
If your home is poorly sealed and has leaking doors, vents, joints, sills and ducts, it will be very inefficient. Making sure the home you’re building is airtight and free of leaks will significantly reduce heating costs. There are certain areas of your home, however, that will require mechanical ventilation, such as a wet room and kitchen. This shouldn’t be a problem as ventilation systems are now very sophisticated and sometimes include heat recovery technology.
The cost of heating your home can be as much as 50% of a home’s energy bills, which makes it vital that you choose the most efficient heating system possible. As well as the type of heating you use, the way that it’s controlled is also important. Consider using high-efficiency heating and cooling systems that use less energy. There are, for example, HVAC systems that are 95% efficient with only 5% of the energy produced lost. Such systems should be installed by a professional because improper installation will lessen its efficiency considerably.
Lighting can contribute up to 15% of a home’s annual electricity costs, and its design is a crucial element when building an energy efficient home. There are many ways to save money when it comes to lighting in a home. Dimmers, timers and motion sensor lights can save money and energy. LEDs (light-emitting diodes), CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), and halogen incandescent light bulbs are all examples of energy efficient lighting.
Being able to generate your own energy or supplement heating and hot water generation systems using solar thermal or PV is a good design. The cost of energy is constantly rising, and prices don’t look to be dropping anytime soon. It’s also possible to sell your excess electricity to the grid, depending on your location. Storing self-generated power is still very much in the early stages of development, although companies such as Tesla are working at making their battery storage systems more affordable for the average homeowner.
An energy efficient home is one that is well insulated and sealed against air leaks. Any hidden cracks, such as those in the attic or crawlspace, can allow as much airflow as an open window. They can also make your heating and cooling systems work much harder, thereby increasing your energy bills. There are many ways you can insulate your home efficiently. Rigid-foam, batt and spray-foam, insulated concrete forms, thicker wall constructions, and roof insulation are just a few examples. Even double glazing is a form of insulation that’s going to help reduce your energy bills and make your home more energy efficiency.
Energy-Efficient Appliances and Home Electronics
Energy Star appliances are the most energy-efficient appliances you can buy. Whether it’s a washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, freezer, or dehumidifier, an Energy Star appliance will emit less air pollution, use energy more efficiently and increase the resale value of your home. As well as household appliances, the Energy Star labelling also applies to home electronics. The electronic products you have in your home can account for as much as 12% of your home’s energy usage. If you work from home, this amount is even higher.
Whether you’re planning to design and build your own energy efficient home or remodel the one you’ve already got, a whole-house system approach ensures all the variables, details and interactions that affect energy usage in your home have been considered. The behaviour of the occupants, the conditions of the site and climate are all contributing factors. Appliances, insulation, air sealing, lighting, heating and cooling, windows and doors all have to be looked at and changes or improvements made as a whole. It’s also advisable to consult with an energy advisor. They will be able to assess your new home’s design, or your home’s current efficiency as well as make a list of any improvements and potential savings.