5 Tips for Building an Energy Efficient House

Green, energy efficient homes are becoming more and more popular, not to mention more necessary. In order to cut down on expensive energy bills, and reduce harmful emissions. There is a lot of hype surrounding “green technology,” especially around wind and solar power. However, there are a few simple things you need to do to reduce your energy consumption before worrying about how to generate more power. These tips are especially useful for those building new houses, but can be applied to renovations in older houses as well.

1. Insulation

One of the main things to focus on when building an energy efficient house is proper insulation. Insulation’s main purpose is to stop the transfer of heat into/ out of the house. Many houses, especially those built before 1980, are not fully insulated and are losing a lot of heat through their walls. The insulation you choose should be holistically integrated into the design, with walls that allow enough room for the insulation to fit inside. This will vary depending on building practices in your region, as well as weather and building material.

2. Airtightness

While insulation is the thing that most people think of first when it comes to home energy loss, air leakage is often the real culprit. As a percentage, more heat is lost due to leaking air than from any other part of your house. Sealing up these leakages can put you leaps ahead in achieving an energy efficient house. The main places to check for airtightness are windows, doors, electrical boxes, seams, plumbing fixtures, cracks, electrical outlets, attic hatches, and ceiling fixtures. Basically anywhere that provides a path to the outdoors is a possible location for air leakage. Expanding foam insulation stops air movement, so it will help with the problem of airtightness as well as heat transfer.  Other things you can do are use caulk, weatherstrips, and rubber gaskets to seal all possible openings. Especially if you have a chimney, be sure to keep the flue closed, otherwise you have an open passage for air to freely travel in and out of your house!

3. Heating and Cooling Systems

While air leakage may be the main source of wasted energy in a home, where does that energy come from in the first place? Of course, it is the energy spent to heat or cool the air inside your house. HVAC systems are traditionally the largest and most expensive systems in your entire house. Make sure that your heating/cooling system is up to date and properly maintained. Pay special attention to ducts and filters. Reduce your usage as much as possible, and get a thermostat that can be put on a timer if possible. Worth being mentioned again here is: be careful how you utilize your fireplace. It can be extremely useful in heating a house, but extremely wasteful if the flue is left open when not in use.

4. Ventilation

Now that you have made sure that you have as little air and heat leakage as possible, you need to keep the air inside your house fresh. Each house is different, but there are many mechanical ventilation systems available that have added heat retention possibilities. In conjunction with planning your heating and cooling systems, talk to your contractor about ventilation.
modern energy efficient homes

5. Windows

If you don’t have the correct kind of windows you could be losing significant heat. Windows lose heat in four ways: conduction, radiation, air leakage, and convection. If you don’t already have energy-saving double-pane windows, you can switch them out for new ones. All modern energy efficient homes have high-performance windows. They may cost a bit more but are worth the investment for the savings.

Another way to utilize your windows is for their passive solar energy capabilities. This tip is more for older single pane windows that allow more heat to transfer, though it is useful in all situations. In a cold climate, close your curtains and shades at night, and open them during the day; make sure that all of your south-facing windows are clean to let in as much solar heat as possible. In warm climates, make sure that your curtains and shades are closed during the day on south and west-facing windows; if possible, get awnings over these windows as well.

There are many more things you can do to when building an energy efficient house, but if you do only these 5, it will take care of a huge portion of the job. The rest is just details when it comes to saving energy in your home.

Image credits: Beanstalk: darkpatator, House: wonderlane. Both under Creative CommonsLicense.