Energy efficient homes are buildings designed to use lesser energy for heating, cooling, and lighting systems. The demand for these structures has increased through time, probably because of the “green” drive brought up by media and politically-driven propaganda.
So, how “green” is your house? Nowadays, you can already measure your house’s energy efficiency through a rating system.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set energy efficiency guidelines to assess your house’s ability to save energy. Here are some of the things that are included in the assessment process.
- Submission and assessment of the home plan for energy efficiency.
- Onsite inspection and testing – this includes HVAC, water management, and thermal enclosure inspections.
- Awarding of Energy Star label.
Since the home plan is needed in the energy efficiency assessment, having a contractor involved is definitely a must. Contractors have the experience of working with energy efficient projects, so getting them involved will give you more information on building your own “green” home.
One of the most popular ways of having an energy efficient house is getting proper insulation. If you live in Portland where it rains a lot during the winter season, proper insulation will keep you away from costly electric bills because of your heating system.
Using Effective Insulation
Properly insulation does a lot to your house, not only for comfort, but also for energy efficiency. Your Portland builder will tell you that it effectively slows the heat flow in your house during summer and winter season. With this, your heater or air conditioner can use lesser energy to cool or heat your house. Foam, cellulose, and fiberglass are commonly used by contractors as insulation materials.
Here are some useful home insulation tips:
- If you’re on a tight budget, use a loose-fill type of insulation for the attic. This type of insulation is usually cheaper than batt insulation. Before the installation of the insulation, the contractor will have to get air leaks on the roof fixed first.
- For renovation projects that start from scratch, insulated ducts must be placed in conditioned areas. This avoids unnecessary energy loss that’s usually common in duct systems.
- Sprayed foam and loose-fill insulation are used for exterior walls. For DIY remodel projects, the installation of blanket insulation is easy to perform. Of course, make sure you follow instructions to avoid leaks.
- Insulating foundations is great to prevent moisture and insect problems. For new constructions, the use of insulating concrete foams and blocks is a must.
Insulation materials are nothing without the techniques used in installing them. In building a more energy efficient house, see to it that the builder have the skilled workers to do the job properly. Hiring an EPA certified contractor will assure you that your house will have better insulation in the scorching hot summer and cold winter seasons.
Energy Efficient Roofing
Aside from insulating materials, energy efficient roofing also improves the energy consumption of the house. Residential houses usually use steep-sloped roofs, using painted metal and tile materials. These roofing materials reflect 10 to 70 percent of sunlight. The ability of roofing materials to reflect solar energy depends on the pigments used. For lesser repairs after the rainy winter days, use metal roofing instead of tile materials.
Nowadays, some people get the “green” literally in roofing systems. More and more people are installing mini-ecosystems on the roof, including special planters. The energy efficiency of this kind of roofing is definitely much better than the usual residential roofs, but it’s very difficult to install. New buildings in urban areas are starting to use this roofing system not only because of energy efficiency, but also for aesthetic reasons.
Energy Saving Windows and Lighting Fixtures
Old and leaky windows need to be replaced. For new constructions, it’s best to go for the low-emissivity window. This kind of window is capable of trapping heat inside the house in the winter and outside, during the summer season. It might be more expensive than the usual glass storm window, but its energy-saving quality reduces heating and cooling costs by about 20 percent. Since there are many kinds of windows in the market these days, go for Energy Star rated windows.
Window placement also plays a vital role in saving energy in the house. South-facing windows offer the best energy efficiency, while north facing ones offer the best light. Placing the windows also reduce the use of lighting fixtures during daylight. For construction projects from scratch, it’s very important to study the orientation of the house first.
Use CFL or LED lighting fixtures instead of incandescent bulbs. Although LED bulbs are more expensive than the usual CFLs, they save more energy – an LED bulb can have an energy consumption ranging from 3 to 5 watts. Allow more lighting on places where people do activities a lot, and refrain from placing lighting fixture just for decorative reasons.
Home Renovation and Energy Efficiency
Minor renovations can be done through DIY methods, but it’s very important to get advice from the professionals on the field. When you deal with energy efficiency methods, EPA certified contractors have the experience on installing materials that will reduce the power consumption of your house. One sign that there’s a problem with your house insulation is the high heating and cooling bills.
If you’re experiencing a significant change in your electric bills, it’s best to have your heating and cooling systems checked by an energy efficiency assessor. If the damage with your house’s insulation has been confirmed, you can contact a contractor that specializes on the repair of these systems. Here are other signs that there’s a problem with your home insulation.
- In the winter days, ice dams are forming on the roof. This is caused by poor attic insulation. Adding more insulation in the attic will solve this problem.
- There’s snow melt around your home’s foundation. This means that the basement of your house is not properly insulated.
- Compressed and wet insulation materials also cause poor insulation.
Once you notice these signs, take care of them immediately before you start racking up the bills.