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Maximizing Energy Efficiency in Your New Home

Incorporating energy efficiency into the design of your home can shave hundreds or thousands from your utility bills. The process starts at selection of your lot and continues all the way through landscaping.

Here are some detailed ways to maximize energy efficiency:

  • » When choosing your houseplan, take maximum advantage of natural sunlight, cool breezes and temperature changes. Building your home against sheltering hills, existing vegetation and surrounding shade trees may create a natural buffer zone and reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • » Select a floor plan with bedrooms located on the first level. This will keep the bedrooms cooler and provide more light, better views, and varied ceiling heights for the living space upstairs.
  • » Use thermal mass materials like concrete, brick, or packed earth to insulate your home's foundation to prevent energy loss.
  • » Select windows that are double-glazed or have double-paned units that offer twice the insulation of single-paned models. Reduce heat loss further by choosing windows with a transparent low-emissive coating on the glass.
  • » Tailor the furnace or air-conditioning unit you select to the square footage of your home to maximum energy efficiency. Look for furnaces with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of 80 percent or more and central air-conditioning units with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of at least 12. Install a programmable thermostat to regulate your indoor climate.
  • » Talk to your contractor about locating the hot-water tank near the kitchen or laundry room, rather than in an unheated basement. This will reduce the energy needed to heat the water and minimize the distance water must travel from the tank. Chose low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets to save water and cut costs further.
  • » Choose energy efficient appliances that suit your family’s needs. Don’t be seduced by an extra large refrigerator for a family of two. Be practical and cut costs at the time of purchase and for years to come.
  • » Install dimmer switches and motion-detector sensors on select lights. Replace traditional incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs that cost more but last about ten times longer.

All of the above prerequisites are not mandatory; however, choosing the right company for the job can make a lengthy home building process much more tolerable and maybe even enjoyable for some people. Remember, home building is a journey, so do it wisely and do it well.

Talk with your builder to ensure your home's "thermal envelope" is sealed as tightly as possible to reduce heat loss. Pay particular attention to:

1. Air leakage that occurs through gaps between framing materials, plumbing and wiring holes, or around improperly installed doors and windows.

2. Air ducts that may not be sealed or insulated well enough to keep hot and cooled air from escaping from poorly fitting ducts and joints.

3. The type and amount of thermal insulation required for your particular area. Ask the local utility company or professional home building association to suggest the "R-value" insulation should have to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Remember, energy efficiency is something you can build into your home now and reap the benefits of for years to come.