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How To Build an Energy Efficient Home

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Authored by Douglas Mefford in Energy
Published on 03-07-2009

Even if economic conditions were perfect and the creation of electrical energy was not a potential source of pollution, it would still make sense to construct one’s home as energy efficient as possible. Since these factors do exist, there have been a number of quite effective energy efficient methods produced to build a new home in an energy efficient manner.

While wood, as a renewable resource, is still used in the energy efficient home, it has been found that a more structurally sound building can be made using less wood. Structural Insulated Panels are basically plywood laminated to thick foam board. These panels are used not only as insulation but as part of the framing as well. Of similar energy efficient methods, Insulating Concrete Forms can be used to cover steel reinforced concrete wall construction that is higher than code standards even in areas of high earthquake and tornado incidence and provides greater insulation than the old standard wood frame buildings. Insulating the foundation walls and slabs will also increase the energy efficiency of a new home.

To contain the integrity of the structure components one should also utilize the most efficient vapor or moisture retardant system building codes allow in your specific area. An airtight drywall approach, with proper gasketing and caulking will retain more energy with less loss through transference between the wall layers.

With an average of 25% a buildings energy being lost through windows, the energy efficient home should be designed with its orientation taken into account. In warm climates, fewer windows should be installed on Southern facing walls. Window area should be kept to an 8% to 9% total relationship to floor space. This directional orientation design should also apply to roof overhangs as well. In warm climates a longer overhang should be used to shade south facing walls. Conversely, a cold climate home will absorb and retain more solar heat if left exposed to the greatest sunlight.

One should make sure to seal all air leaks in the home’s thermal envelope. This not only includes such obvious leaks as windows and doors but also the small, often overlooked leaks around electrical outlets and switches. All joist connections should be sealed and care should be taken to modify any wall intrusion to minimize lost air. This includes such breaks in the wall integrity as cable entry points and clothes dryer and air vent outlets.

The heating and air conditioning systems in the energy efficient home should be carefully considered. A combustion heating unit should take only outside air for the burning process and directly vent its combustion gasses back to the outside. Heat and energy recovery ventilators should also be incorporated into the overall air systems for further energy efficiency.

Increasingly, home lighting and appliances are being developed with energy efficiency in mind. Research into the best units for the specific design of your home will save further. While most are designed to put off less heat, taking this factor into account when designing the area they will be located at will help further balance the overall energy efficiency of the total unit. While some of these practices may cost a bit more initially, the long term savings in both utilities and conserved resources will more than make up for it over the lifetime of the dwelling.

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