Energy efficient new home?
I'm trying to build a new home that's as energy efficient as possible. What can I do to improve it's energy efficiency? Here are a few things that I've come up with. Please help me add to this list.
1. Better SEER HVAC system
2. Programmable thermostats
4. Ceiling fans
5. More attic insulation
6. Gas appliances
7. Gas furnace
8. Gas dryer?
9. Gas fireplace?
10. Energy loss analysis (provided by local utility company)
What part of the country will the house be built? (hot area or colder area)
How thick are the walls going to be 4" or 6"?
Basement or slab?
If it has not been built yet then I would see how much more it would cost for 6" thick walls. You will get better insulation value from a thicker wall.
I'd also look at high efficiency water heaters or even tankless water heaters. This was the one high efficiency oversight I had when we built our home.
2- programmable thermostats - From a pure energy efficiency YES. You may want to calculate the return on investment though. You may not save money here depending on the cost of the upgrade.
3 - Dimmers - From a pure energy efficiency YES. You may want to calculate the return on investment though. You may not save money here depending on the cost of the upgrade or from using them at full bright most of the time.
4. Ceiling fans - Maybe - If they will be used in place of air conditioning then most definitely a savings. If you run them with AC then they will add to your bill. In winter I find them to not be of value, others may disagree.
5 more attic insulation - YES, again, check the cost versus the return. If it will cost you $1000 for more insulation and save you $10 a year on heating cooling then it would take you 100 years to get a payback (Exaggerated number to make point)
6 - 8 - Gas appliances - Generally yes, gas, in many places costs less. Some areas do have cheap electric though. compare your costs of gas vs electric and do some math.
9 - Gas fireplaces - Maybe, maybe not. If used for supplemental heat in one room to allow you to not use your furnace maybe but they have a relatively high up front cost versus the savings. If you want to know efficiency of gas vs wood. Gas will be more efficient in pure terms. Unvented is more efficient than vented gas fireplaces but has many disadvantages. (Read-up on this if you are considering unvented gas fireplace)
10 - Energy loss calc - Only useful if you are going to address the issues found. better yet is to do these things along the way.
Not discussed yet
a - Insulation gaps. Improper insulation techniques is a major energy efficiency killer. There are lots of places that get missed. The energy analysis may show these (If they do a thermal scan) but that's usually too late w/o ripping apart walls.
b - ventilation - Is key to good attic insulation performance, esp in summer.
c - walls - As already mentioned 2x6 walls are a must
d - windows - these have r values, more R is better
e - doors - these have r values, more R is better
f - Water heater - i do like the on demand style if properly sized and installed. Again, look at payback to see if it makes sense for you. They can be a big up-front cost.
g - lots more I'm sure.
Anyway - The thing is there are a lot of things you can do to make a home completely energy efficient. You can even build a home that has NEGATIVE energy consumption and will let you sell back unused consumption to the utility company. These use things like solar and wind to make electricity, you use what you need and your meter runs backwards giving you a credit each month! Unfortunately these types of homes will not have a ROI and cost more to build than they will same in anyone's lifetime.
Point is, unless you are a greenie and want to save energy at any cost then do all these things regardless. If you are looking to make decisions on the impact to your monthly expenses then you will need to do some figuring. Also factors on your consideration will be expected time in the house and impact on re-sale. Unfortunately high efficiency has little impact on resale versus amenities.
Get a variable speed fan on your furnace.
Not a big item, but it makes a different on the comfort and economy of you heating/cooling system. The D.C. power makes it cheap to operate. If you run it constantly (slow) while air conditioning it will wring the moisture out of the air instead of add moisture that happens you you pass air over the coils to fast.
Instead of dimmers you could go with CFL bulbs or even CFL specific fixtures. They use about 25% of the power of regular bulbs. Just don't cheap out on the bulbs or you get a nasty light, huming, and they take progresivly longer to warm up.
More zones on the heat too. Or even valves at the radiators. If you're not useing a room for a long period of time (ex: guest bedrooms), close the doors and turn the heat down/off.
what other things can you tell us about the house??? I think the things in your list are ok :P!!!
Only buy windows with LowE2 coatings between the lites of a dual pane unit.
Softcoat LowE2 coating - specific studies in the south, both humid and not humid regions, have indicated savings of upwards of 35% between using LowE glazings and not using LowE glazings in otherwise identical windows in identical homes.
This can get even better because installation of such energy efficient windows may allow you to downsize your heating and (especially) air conditioning equipment to less than you would have had to use otherwise.
Install windows with non-heat-conductive frame/sash components and spacer systems.
The addition of argon in the space between the lites increases window efficiency by 16% at 100% fill - 8% at 50% fill.
In a new, tight, energy efficient home, the windows can be the biggest factor in heat loss/gain. Buy the best windows (for your environment) that you can afford - and keep in mind that the best may not necessarily be the most expensive.
Here are the windows they're putting in my house:
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