An energy efficient home can save a typical household 25 percent on utility bills, which amounts to over $2,000 annually. Those building a new home or extensively renovating an old one may find that energy efficiency requires a significant investment, but savings over the lifetime of their home fully offset initial costs and yield an excellent return on investment. As reported by Energy.gov, taking a whole systems approach is key if you are to truly optimize energy efficiency. Just a few factors to take into account before commencing work include insulation and air sealing, space heating and cooling, water heating, and windows and doors.
Insulation and air sealing
Air leaks in walls, windows, doors, and other home components can result in significant energy wastage, and the EPA estimates that homeowners can save around 15 percent on heating and cooling bills by air sealing their homes, as well as adding insulation in floors over crawl spaces, basements, and attics. Insulation has many added benefits – including reducing outdoor noise, improved humidity control, and less pollen, pests, dust and other potential allergens. Energy Star reports that the effect of the many leaks and holes a typical home can have are equivalent to leaving a window open 365 days in a year.
Energy efficient heating and cooling
There are many ways to reduce energy consumption at home. These include setting air conditioners and thermostats to specific temperatures, turning thermostats down when nobody is at home, and installing energy-efficient air conditioners and heaters. Designers can also take advantage of local climates by incorporating passive solar heating and cooling and energy-efficient landscaping. For passive solar home design, homes should have property oriented windows, thermal mass materials like masonry, roof overhangs and insulating shutters, and other ways to invite the sun in or keep it out.
Designing homes for water efficiency
Homeowners can make many choices that can make a home more water efficient. Just a few options to consider include fitting showers that use less than 10 liters per minute and provides a powerful shower while actually using smaller water volumes. Installing designer baths, opting for spray taps, and harvesting water via water butt systems can also help to conserve water. Relying on permaculture concepts in a large yard can also help reduce water wastage and reduce the need for the watering of plants and trees.
Doors that insulate
If necessary, homeowners should consider replacing existing doors with new ones, which can have a better fit and offer better insulation than old ones. They can opt for doors that contain a polyurethane foam insulation core, since the latter removes the need for further weatherstripping. They can also consider replacing glass doors with models made with several layers of glass. These help reduce air leakages, as do doors with fixed panels and those that swing instead of sliding open.
Designing an energy efficient home involves tackling problems like possible air leakage from all angles, and considering aspects such as passive heating and cooling. It also involves conserving water – something that can be achieved with efficient shower and tap design, and landscaping inspired by permaculture practices. Doors and windows that are well insulated can also help reduce the loss of hot and cool air, thus improving the comfort and wellness of dwellers.