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7 Ways to Design an Energy Efficient Home

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What we build is just as important as how we built it. There is a good reason that the real-estate market is flooded with the buzzword ‘Energy efficient’. While energy costs and environmental concerns continue to rise, modern advancements in technology enable homeowners to hold on to more of their hard-earned cash, increase the resale value of their home and achieve higher levels of comfort. New homeowners and builders will be surprised that even though most of the energy efficient aspects of a home should be considered in the planning phase of a house, there are a variety of techniques to design an energy efficient house for everyone.

Rainwater collection, upgrading your in-house lighting and proper insulation are just a few low-cost techniques that can save you a lot over the lifetime of your home. For those in the design and planning stage of a home, keep in mind that some of the following measures may likely increase the upfront cost, but governments are willing to offer incentives to bring you the highest ROI. Here are seven techniques and tips to design an energy efficient house.

1. Build Tight and Ventilate Right

You must stop the drafts. It’s easy to go about your daily life ignoring the annoying drafts of air gently blowing in from behind the sofa or bedroom window. Using temporary duct tape or pillows might reduce the draft effects, but they will never eradicate the source. The goal is to ensure that your home doesn’t leak conditioned air by installing proper sealing at each of the openings and penetrations in your house.

All of the holes and openings such as doors, windows, electrical conduits, and vents. Use basic window sealer kits on your windows and self-adhesive door strips for doors. More advanced methods like caulking and closed cell spray foam use materials which expand to seal up openings, cracks and small holes in the construction. The latter sealants are construction grade formulas made of silyl modified polymer, polyurethane and silicone that feature different elasticities for certain areas in your home. We recommend conducting an audit blower door test to determine if and where your house is leaking air for the best results.

2. Intelligent Planting

You have to plant the right trees and plants in the right locations around your home. Intelligent planting is a technique that can be employed at any stage and engineering the landscape around your house contributes a great amount to the overall energy efficiency. Try planting deciduous trees (which shed their leaves each year), on the south and west sides of your house. The location is dependent on your exact location, and this helps to provide shade during the summer months. The same trees become bare in autumn which make room for the winter sun to heat your home throughout the day.

Remember to only plant species that are native to your location so that they thrive in their climate, without the need for constant watering and maintenance. Extend the benefits of intelligent planning by planting a vegetable garden to grow your own organic food. This sustainable and fun hobby is made more efficient through the use of recycled rain collected from your roof.

3. Invest in a Flue Gas Heat Recovery System (FGHRS)

When used alongside other technology and ventilation systems, a FGHRS can bring you additional cost savings. These systems recover heat that is a by-product of the combustion of gas in your boiler. The concept is simple. In the process of your boiler working hard, it gives off heat that you can take advantage of. The recovered heat is then used to preheat cold water, which reduces the required energy to warm up the water.

Chances are that your current boiler is only 90% efficient, thus installing a FGHRS even on a brand new boiler is a great idea to incorporate into the design of an energy efficient house. Added advantages are that they require minimal maintenance, are fairly affordable and work on most boilers whether yours is a heat condensing system or not.

4. Upgrade to LED Lighting

The days of hanging incandescent bulbs for the holiday season are fading away to new LED light technologies. Festive homeowners switch to LED lights for their cost savings benefits, and now you can and should bring them into your house throughout the entire year. LED lights are known as one of the most popular features of energy efficient designed houses. Their initial costs are higher compared to traditional lights, but they use less energy and last much longer so you don’t have to change your bulbs as often.

The abbreviation stands for Light Emitting Diode, and they can be purchased in all of the popular models such as flood, bulbs, tubes, and candle. The easiest place to start is by swapping out your light bulbs on ceiling fans and lamps. There are a variety of beautiful lighting fixtures that can be incorporated into kitchen backsplashes or displays, plus you can get creative with the full color spectrum of light!

5. Use Efficient Windows and Doors

Properly sealed windows and doors are imperative to designing an energy efficient house. They should close as tight as possible and keep out all of the outside elements. Windows and doors are the most common areas in your home that contribute to wasted energy, so we recommend placing an emphasis on evaluating and allocating your budget to make sure you have these entryways properly air sealed to the max.

Look for double pane windows. They are more affordable than triple pane windows, however, the latter are preferred for the optimal long term cost savings (remember that designing an energy efficient house is a long term investment.) The benefits of triple pane windows extend beyond energy savings, too. Homeowners in noisy areas often opt for them to reduce noise levels in their home, but double pane windows are often the best deal up front. An even cheaper and quite effective option is using noise reducing curtains to reduce noise levels.

6. Focus on Efficient HVAC Design

Your heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) system is one of the largest components of an energy efficient house. Not only does it make up a huge portion of your energy bill, but HVAC systems require the oversight of a professional for installation and maintenance. Install a programmable thermostat so that your air only (and automatically) turns on when a specific temperature threshold is passed. A programmable thermostat is a quality investment we recommend for greater energy savings and long-lasting comfort in your home.

Incorporate the concept of ‘zoning’ into your overall programmable thermostat layout by breaking your home up into zones. This way you can independently set the temperature in each room and prevent running the HVAC in rooms which are often unused such as the laundry room and basement. Another great idea to add to your HVAC system is a mini-split unit, a miniature heating and air conditioning system that controls the temperature in separate zones.

7. Rainwater Collection

Simple to do, but often overlooked is the process of collecting and recycling rainwater. A one-time installation of a rainwater collection system allows you to benefit from water, straight from the sky every time it rains. Recycled rainwater can be used to flush your toilets and water the garden – two activities which generally use most of the homes water supply.

While it’s common to use recycled rainwater collection for gardening and irrigation, special filters and purifiers can transform it into potable H2O. The most value you can derive by recycling rainwater is through a concrete installation of a detention tank to store it. However, if you plan to use your recycled water, it starts with the installation of special roof gutters and downspouts that guide the water to a tank. Whether you create your own DIY rainwater collection tanks or hire a professional service, harvesting rainwater will reduce your water bill and is overflowing with energy efficient benefits.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

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