Building a new home is a great opportunity to use the best construction practices and the best energy-improvement techniques.
You can save thousands of dollars every year by building a low-energy home.
Just take into account the main traits of low-energy buildings and Zero Energy Buildings, and consider them in your own home.
In cold and moderate climates, consider:
1) relatively small homes, without complex design details;
2) good orientation to the winter sun and proper landscaping;
3) very high levels of insulation and air sealing;
4) high-performance windows and doors;
5) high-performance lighting and appliances.
6) energy-efficient water heating systems
In hot climates, consider sun protection, shading strategies and good orientation to breezes.See: Home cooling in hot climates
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See a list here: List of Energy & Infographics
It’s very important to have talented and experienced designers and builders working with you in your new home. But much of the final results will depend on your own choices. Many people are driven by fashion and other social influences, and that may compromise the chance of getting a really low-energy home. The home’s envelope, in cold and moderate climates, should be simple, compact and modest in size. That’s very important.
Energy-efficient homes can be affordable. You just have to do it right.
And you can also save many thousands of dollars in energy during the lifetime of your home, by building it with the right features.
Costs of Low-Energy Homes
Design, Architecture & Home Construction
Working and finding a knowledgeable architect
Working and finding construction professionals
Mortgages and Brokers
First Priorities When Building a New Home or Making a Big Renovation
Popular Architecture and Design Magazines are Full of Nonsense
Our Video on New Low-Energy Homes
Energy Star certified homes (EUA, Canada), 6-10 Star homes (Australia) and European homes with a A or B energy performance certification are a good choice for energy savings. But certified homes may fall short of the best.
It will always be expensive to heat a large home, or to cool it. It's very difficult to build a very energy efficient home..
The size of the house is one of the most relevant features for energy-efficiency. Modest sized homes (say, with 2000 square foot (165 m2) or less) can be cheaper, more comfortable, more eco-friendly and more energy-efficient…
In hot and moderate climate, consider a more rectangular shape, and pay attention to its main axis orientation. Avoid complex construction details and options that increase energy use.
Consider very high levels of insulation and air-sealing for your new home.
The German Passive House concept can reduce energy bills by up to 80%, in cold climates, using very high levels of insulation and proper orientation to the winter sun.
In cold and moderate climates, let the winter sun in through windows, to warm the house, and protect it from cold winds, with windbreaks and hedges, and by orienting it properly.
Consider carefully factors like your home's site, the size and shape of your future house, or its orientation to the sun and protection from cold winds. They are crucial for energy-efficiency standards..
Also consider features like the size of your windows and their positioning, or the landscaping of your yard – to get shade in the summer, or to shelter your home from cold winter winds, or to channel cooling breezes.
Low-energy homes size and siting
New Homes Orientation and Shape
Energy-efficient homes require high-performance windows, high-levels of insulation all over the attic, walls, and floors, or energy efficient appliances and electronics. But many "immaterial" features are equally important: the size of the house, its shape, its orientation to the breezes and the sun, its landscape.
Breezes and natural ventilation are the backbone of natural cooling, and the best way of cooling homes naturally and cheaply.
But you can also use trees and hedges, strategically located, for wind protection.
Landscaping is an important element of low-energy homes.
The shade of trees and shrubs, or the shade provided by overhangs, pergolas, awnings and other devices is critical for a successful cooling strategy and lower energy bills. Consider it in your new home, especially in hot climates.
Water heating accounts for 14% of the average American home's energy use; the average household consumes more than $300 per year in water heating. But you can reduce it significantly in your new home.
Very energy-efficient homes with very high levels of airtightness and insulation may not need central furnaces and boilers, even in very cold climates.
They may use mini-split heat pumps or one or two small wall gas furnaces, or other sort of ductless space heating. It will cost you a lot less than a central heating and cooling system, and can save you many hundreds of dollars in energy every year.
Energy-efficient homes, properly designed, may not need central air conditioners, even in hot climates.
Well-shaded homes with deep overhangs and reflective roofs, using ceiling fans and natural cooling strategies, may not need air conditioning or reduce they use to very low levels. See: Air conditioning in hot climates.
Mini-split ductless air-conditioners and window air conditioners are also alternatives to central air conditioners, in many climates.
Windows make up about 10 to 20% of the surface area of the outer walls in most buildings, and are the weakest thermal point in the building envelope.
15-40% of the home’s heat is lost through windows, in cold climates, in average homes. And they are also responsible for up to 70% of the unwanted heat gains, which shouldn't happen in new homes. That's the main goal of home energy efficient construction.
Home building is full of pitfalls, and they can compromise the energy efficiency of your home. Your knowledge and commitment are crucial, and you should stay informed. But you need also a home designer and a builder experienced with energy-efficient homes. And you should try hard to find them.
They should know which are the new technologies and materials (ICFs and SIPs for walls, for instance), the new concepts of green construction, or be informed on the importance of factors like landscaping and home design for energy efficiency.
To look for certified home energy professionals you may use the Resnet search tool; it's a good starting point, in the USA. Proper planning, your commitment and an experienced builder are indispensable to get a low-energy home.
Passive Solar Houses and Zero Energy Homes are two concepts of energy-efficient homes, involving strategies that you may want to consider in your new home.
Lighting represents about 9-12% of residential electricity consumption (more than $250/year on average, in the US), while refrigerators, dishwashers and other appliances and electronics represent about 17%.
Installing a high-performance lighting and appliances is key to reduce energy consumption to smaller levels, in your new home.
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