Residential Construction: Energy
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Energy efficient design and construction can substantially reduce costs and
pollution because nonrenewable energy sources of energy are expensive, potentially
unstable, and create toxic wastes through their development and combustion.
The long-term costs of energy to the homeowner are large, in dollars as well
as in health and safety.
Reasons to Change
The generation and use of energy is the single largest contributor to
air pollution. It has also been linked to climate change.
Source: Green Facts Each year the average house releases more than twice
as much greenhouse
gas as the typical car (more than 22,000 pounds of carbon dioxide).
Energy Star Home Advisor
Air leakage from poorly sealed ductwork and building envelope can waste
over 50% of a homes heating and cooling energy. Duct leakage (estimated
at 30% of waste in some homes) can also create pressure imbalances in
a home, endangering health and safety by drawing in outside air and causing
backdrafting of combustion appliances. Air leakage also contributes to
problems with moisture, noise, dust and entry of pollutants, insects,
rodents and reduced fire safety. Source:
The typical US family spends more than $1300 per year on energy costs. Ten to fifty percent
of that energy is wasted and does not contribute to the comfort or convenience of the family.
U.S. Department of Energy
Building energy efficient and renewable energy homes offers contractors advantages
in the marketplace. The reputation of builders with satisfied customers passes
among homeowners and potential buyers. Greater customer satisfaction will
result from less noise, increased durability and comfort, reduced maintenance
and operating costs, and the reduced reliance on pollution causing energy
consumption. Energy-efficient homes and those with renewable energy systems
qualify homeowners for resource efficient mortgages, and incentives for renewable
energy technologies. The more skilled a builder is at conveying these advantages
to home buyers, the more profitable the builder will be.
Energy efficiency is one of the most direct ways a person can realize the
benefits of a green built home. By implementing energy efficient techniques,
energy bill savings can reach 65%.
Source: Green Buildings are Energy Efficient. Energy-efficiency can also
improve the comfort, health, and safety of home occupants through improved
indoor air quality, fire protection, noise levels, reduced maintenance, and
P2 in Action
design or a systems approach considers the interaction of all elements
of the building site, building envelope, mechanical systems, and occupants
to help achieve optimal energy performance. The key is to reduce the house
load (energy use) using the best combination of:
- Conservation (insulation, efficient lighting and appliances, house orientation),
- Insolation (solar gain), and
- Thermal Storage (mass in walls and floors which helps keep the house a
more constant temperature).
The emphasis on each should vary on a site-by-site basis.
Most energy-efficient homes have four basic elements in common:
- A well-constructed and tightly sealed thermal envelope with appropriate
- Proper design and installation of heating and cooling systems (properly
sized, high-efficiency, energy source, ventilation and ductwork).
- Energy-efficient doors, windows, and appliances.
- Home orientation and placement of building elements to maximize natural
heating and cooling efficiency.
Energy & Environmental Building Association
Specific ways to achieve energy efficiency through a systems approach include:
- Use of passive solar advantages on the building site (and appropriate
- Efficient lighting,
- Water conservation fixtures and appropriate placement of water heating
- Design for appropriate insulation levels and reduce labor costs with Optimum
Value Engineering (OVE) framing techniques,
- Incorporation of wind, hydrothermal and/or active solar technologies,
- Landscaping (trees, bushes, earthberms provide shading, block a prevailing
- Thermostat with automatic setback for night and work times,
- Increased insulation in exterior wall, ceiling, floors and foundation,
- Moisture control within the building envelope to control moisture buildup,
- Selection of energy efficient appliances,
- Dampers on all vents, fans and chimneys
- Use of appropriate colored materials and coatings on exterior or roof
(i.e. light colored where summer cooling climates dominate).
Assistance with Energy Efficiency
Guidelines, standards and incentive programs abound for energy efficiency
in residential construction. Here are some suggestions:
- Organizations working to promote alternative energy strive to provide
tax incentives and guidance to help builders and consumers more effectively
incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into their homes.
- Affordable housing and economic development advocates support legislative
mandates and establish requirements to include energy efficiency and renewable
energy into housing assisted by their programs.
- Utility companies provide audits and incentives for energy efficiency,
as well as renewable energy technology development.
- Certification and ratings programs create partnerships between builders
and federal, state, local and nonprofit organizations to enhance communities
and marketability one home at a time.
- Energy efficient construction may also qualify consumers for higher than
normal debt-to-income ratio when calculating loan potentials, enlarging
the market of potential home-buyers.
One rating program that deserves special mention is the Energy Star home
labeling program. Energy Star standards are nationally recognized and commonly
adopted as criteria for other incentive programs. This program of the Environmental
Protection Agency requires homes to achieve 30 percent reductions in energy
over the Model Energy Code and obtain a third party verification. Energy
Star for New Homes Improvements
to Existing Homes
Check with the following sites for tools and resources, news, product reviews and current events
in Renewable Energy and Efficiency: