When designing and building a new home, you may be surprised at the number of great options available for lowering your energy consumption through energy efficiency. Let’s face it, your utility bills aren’t likely to go down over time. When it comes to energy efficiency, some ideas are better than others. A good rule of thumb is to evaluate the product and choose those with a 5-7 year payback. One of the benefits of building a new home – as opposed to purchasing an existing – is the flexibility you have in design. A good design can save more in energy costs than even a really high-end heating and cooling system. Here are some of our favorite ways to control energy costs:
- As mentioned, start with a great design. Your home’s orientation on the lot, as well as the location of windows and doors, can take into consideration cross-ventilation and the direction of the sun in both winter and summer months.
- Have a carefully planned “thermal envelope”. The thermal envelope is a technical term for the insulation in your home. Think of it like a thermos – the quality of the insulation is what determines how hot or cold your liquid inside remains. The same is true of your home. Putting your money into a high-density foam insulation and highly efficient windows will keep your home warmer or cooler, therefore reducing the number of times the A/C or heater has to cycle on and off.
- Require high-performance mechanical systems (heating and cooling systems, hot water heaters), as well as appliances.
- Employ technology when cost-effective (occupancy sensors for lights, A/C & heater, for instance).
- Carefully placed trees can shade your house from cold winds or the summer heat, and drought resistant landscaping will lower your water usage. A good landscape architect can design your green space with eye toward lowering your energy costs.
Going Further with Energy Efficiency
At this point, you may want to consider going even further with solar, wind, or other energy sourcing. While it may not be enough to entirely run the home, it could contribute to lower bills which might pay off over time. While these options have positive and negative qualities to each of them, every individual has different goals for their home and lifestyle. That’s the beauty of a custom home – it can be customized for each person’s unique goals. Energy efficiency is just one more very important topic to be addressed when designing your new home.