Building an energy-efficient home saves homeowners money on their monthly utility bills and increases the resale value of that home.
Thanks to brand-new energy-efficient building materials, building an energy-efficient home is not just easy, but it’s also highly affordable.
After working with countless builders to help construct energy-efficient homes, we’ve come up with twelve essential tips that any builder should follow if they want to complete an energy-efficient or net-zero home.
1. Air Seal and Insulate
The most effective tip to reduce energy usage is to reduce the amount of energy being wasted. According to the EPA, anywhere between 20-50% of industrial heat output is lost through waste.
Residential homes can reduce heat waste by installing proper insulation and air-sealing the home envelope.
New insulating materials, such as spray foam that fills in cracks and crevices and aerogel insulation, are more effective at insulating air than fiberglass batt and are not prone to moisture or mold issues.
In addition, insulating around the envelope will allow you to retain the maximum amount of heat and cool air possible, which allows your HVAC system to work less.
Weatherstripping and caulking any leaks or seals should also be considered when constructing a new home.
Once installed, perform a blower door test to gauge the R-value of your home (i.e., how insulated it is).
2. Install South-Facing Windows
Another way to reduce usage is to take advantage of natural energy in the environment to heat and cool your home. For example, south-facing windows are scientifically proven to absorb the most sunlight in a home, trapping red light and heating it naturally.
In addition, you can take advantage of natural landscaping, such as shady trees and coverings that help cool your home during the summer, alleviating stress on your A/C unit.
That’s why it’s important for builders to work with environmental consultants early in the construction process to take advantage of these natural resources.
3. Invest in Smart Lighting
Lighting takes up more energy than people realize, as most people tend to run their lights all day. While incandescent lights are largely extinct, LED lights offer greater energy efficiency and last up to 10x longer.
Furthermore, smart lighting with motion-controlled switches or programmable timers will help you turn out the lights, even when you forget.
4. Use an Energy-Efficient Heating System
Your heating system makes up the bulk of your energy usage. Therefore, maximizing its efficiency with aerosol ducts and insulation will allow your heat system to work less to achieve more.
There is generally a large selection when it comes to efficient appliances, including air-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, and natural gas-powered furnaces. However, due to rising prices, the latter tends to be a little more volatile. There are also lots of energy credits available for heat pumps.
5. Use EnergyStar, Smart-Home Appliances
As a rule of thumb, anything with an EnergyStar certification will be energy-efficient. That’s why we recommend installing EnergyStar appliances, including washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.
Couple these purchases with smart energy devices, such as programmable thermostats, energy monitors, and smart modules that allow you to program and adjust settings on your devices for the most energy-efficient usage.
6. Build a Natural Ventilation System
Air quality has become an increasing concern for homeowners in recent years as VOCs, mold, pollen, and other air contaminants have been shown to cause numerous respiratory issues. And thanks to innovative systems, such as heat recovery ventilators (HRV), you can purify outside air while heating it as it comes into your home.
Unfortunately, most vents tend to rob your home of cool and cold air while allowing outside contaminants to leak in. An HRV purifies and heats up that ventilated air to provide clean and recycled air throughout your home while also saving you money on your heating bills.
7. Don’t Skimp On Windows
Another major source of heat and air loss that many people don’t realize is their windows. As window replacements are expensive, it’s recommended to invest in thick double-paned windows during projects to increase the home’s value.
Low-E or low-emissivity windows can also be installed in areas where double panes cannot be to reduce the amount of heat lost during the day.
8. Choose the Right Water Heating System
Electric heat pump water heaters offer the cleanest and most affordable way to heat your water, which is a massive source of your monthly utility bills. Or, if you install a solar panel system, you can use your panels to heat your water as well.
9. Consider Upgrading to Solar
Solar panels can be an expensive but worthwhile addition to any home. According to Architectural Digest, solar panels can increase home values by 4.1%, worth around $12,000 on a $300,000 home, essentially paying for itself.
Plus, not only do solar panels save you money on utility bills, they can create an energy-independent system with the addition of solar home batteries.
10. Don’t Forget About Rainwater Collection
Another source of resource conservation many people overlook is their water usage. Investing in rainwater collection systems allows you to restore groundwater or to recycle water to drink and bathe with using a water filtration system.
A rainwater collection system could be a great way to save money and the environment.
11. Use Energy-Efficient Roofing Materials
Metal, tile, and asphalt shingle roofs are great roofing materials that absorb heat and help offset costs during the winter. Consider either one for your next project, though metal roofs tend to last the longest and perform the best when it comes to heating your attic.
12. Take Advantage of the 45L Tax Credit
Finally, you can help finance these purchases by taking advantage of the $5,000 45L tax credit for any qualifying upgrades. There are also plenty of energy-efficiency mortgages available and tax credits for upgrades, such as heat pumps, builders can take advantage of.
Building an energy-efficient home is easier than ever, thanks to new technological innovations and financial resources available to builders.
For a full range of programs and ideas available to build an energy-efficient home, reach out to the experts at Path Light Pro. We offer construction consulting services from stormwater management to energy upgrades that make your builds more efficient and increase their final value.