6/25/2015

4 Tips to Energy Efficient Home Design

Energy efficient homes can save homeowners money and help mitigate risks to the environment. Energy efficient homes are often more comfortable by nature, as the design elements and appliances used to reduce energy usage contribute to better air quality and more controlled levels of humidity and temperature. It is easiest to integrate energy efficient elements into the home design when a building is being constructed, but it is also possible to make changes after a home is built to improve energy efficiency.

When designing a new home, Passive House Standards and LEED certification prerequisites can be used as guidelines to make the home more energy efficient. These resources may provide tips about smart home design based on the climate and location, recommended building materials, and other advice that will help to increase energy efficiency. When looking to improve energy efficiency in an existing home, an energy audit can be done to measure the current energy efficiency and spot energy-wasting design elements.

Building Envelope and Energy Efficiency

The building envelope is perhaps the most important element of energy efficiency. The term building envelope refers to a building’s resistance to air, water, heat, light, and noise transfer. Creating an effective separation between the outside elements and the inside environment of a building can help building occupants to better control the temperature, humidity, lighting, and noise, reducing the need for energy-using appliances to control these elements.

Ventilation and Energy Efficiency

When a building envelope is tight, mechanical ventilation is necessary to control the air quality and temperature. Unfortunately, most buildings’ energy usage comes from heating and cooling needs. An ERV or HRV may help to reduce energy usage by harnessing the heat or cold from the outgoing stale air and using it to condition the incoming fresh air. ERVs and HRVs can also reduce the need for mechanical heating or cooling, saving energy and money. These can be installed in new or existing buildings.

Doors, Windows, and Skylights

Any moving parts of a home, such as doors and windows, are very important design elements when it comes to energy usage and efficiency. Improper seals around doors and windows can make it more difficult to keep homes cool in the hotter months and warm in the cooler months. Adding skylights can help to provide natural lighting, reducing the need for artificial lighting and saving energy costs. Installing Energy Star certified windows, doors, and skylights during construction or renovation can help to minimize a home’s energy needs.

Water Heating Energy Usage

After heating and cooling, water heating is most building’s main energy user. However, new technologies are being used to improve the efficiency of water heaters without compromising performance.

Water heating energy needs can also be reduced by incorporating water-saving faucets and showerheads into home design. Federal efficiency standards effective in 1994 placed maximum water use requirements for faucets and showerheads at 2.5 gallons per minute, but many older homes and buildings still use more water. Upgrading to meet current standards can increase an existing home’s energy efficiency as well as water usage.