Building an Energy Efficient Home

Posted by Jeffrey G. Funk P.A. on Sunday, September 9th, 2007 at 9:28pm.

Building an energy-efficient Orlando new home is a huge trend these days, with the prominence of global warming being just about everywhere we go. Energy efficiency is not only great for the environment it can lead to healthier living as well as cutting monthly bills drastically. When thinking about building an energy-efficient home, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The first thing to consider is the climate the house will be built in. How hot or cold the weather will be will as well as if the climate is dry or humid be a large factor in the materials that are needed. Solar paneling may be an option if there is enough sunlight provided during the day. Because soil is different in different climates, it’s also a good idea to have the soil tested to determine which type of foundation will be needed.

The “thermal envelope” means all of the materials that will be used when protecting the inside of the house from the outside and it encompasses everything from roofs, to walls, and doors. There are many materials today that can provide for a better envelope when it comes to staying energy efficient.

Structural insulated panels (SIPs), plywood or strand board are great alternatives to materials that are traditionally used. These panels offer insulation and framing together. The construction consists of an inner layer of foam board which is four to eight inches thick. Each panel has these foam boards. They are extremely durable and are being used more and more by homebuilders due to their easy construction.

Another material that is being used often for energy efficient homes is insulating concrete form (ICF.) They provide structure by using two layers of extruded foam boards that allows for continuous insulation and also helps reduce noise. The practice of Optimum Value Engineering (OVE) uses the maximum amount of wood during the building phase. This reduces costs and provides more room for insulation.

Doors and windows are the largest reasons for losing heat and making a home less energy efficient. Because the energy lost from doors and windows can contribute to ten to twenty-five percent of the owner’s heating bill, experts say that windows and doors should not make up more than eight to nine percent of a home’s total floor area.

Windows have a U-value and this is the amount of heat that is lost through the panes. For the most energy efficient windows, they should have a U-value of 0.4 or less. When they are installed, fiberglass or foam can be used to fill in any large cracks and smaller cracks can be caulked to allow for maximum insulation.

Doors also have a value to determine how much heat they allow to escape. This is called the R-value. To have the most energy-efficient doors, they should have an R-value of anywhere between five and ten. Solid wood doors are the worst energy-efficient doors, with value of R-2. This is because these doors warp easily and cause large leaks. The best energy efficient doors are steel, fiberglass, or composite doors.

Probably the most important systems that affect energy efficiency are heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Homes often have air handles that push cool and warm air through ductwork and vents. This is a huge contributor for energy loss. Energy recovery ventilators (ERV’s) are becoming more popular for heating and cooling. These manage moisture control as well as keeping energy in the house.

Choosing energy efficient cooling and heating systems can be easy and no more expensive than traditional systems. To find out about a system’s energy efficiency rating, there is a yellow and black sticker attached to these systems that can be checked. This sticker will provide a rating which will let the customer know what to expect in annual operating costs and how energy efficient it is.

Insulation is of course, another big factor in making a home energy efficient. Just as with doors, insulation has an R-value which will determine the insulation’s ability to be a thermal barrier. The higher the R-value, the more desirable the insulation. Insulation materials that have been most commonly used in the past are fiberglass, rock wool, and cellulose. Today, there are insulation systems which consist of spray insulator that can fill small spaces, keeping energy inside where it belongs.

There may be some costs associated with building an energy-efficient home. But this should not stop anyone from considering it when building a new home. For those who are interested in building energy-efficient homes but are worried about these costs, there are some things to keep in mind. Tax credits are often given for those that are building new energy-efficient homes or remodeling to make a home more energy-efficient. The initial costs are also outweighed by the savings that will be made on monthly utility bills once a home is energy-efficient.

Jeffrey G. Funk, P.A.
Realty Executives Central Florida
7932 West Sand Lake Road • Suite 302
Orlando, FL 32819
Office: 407-438-4028
Fax: 407-536-4328
Email: jeff@realtyinorlando.com

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