Cost-Effective Paths to an Energy Efficient Home Cost-Effective Paths to an Energy Efficient Home

Geographic location plays an important role in your home's energy efficiency. Microclimates--regions with unique landscapes, vegetation and weather patterns--exist throughout the country. Subtle differences in temperature and precipitation can significantly alter the materials and methods used in construction, which directly affect your costs. Your local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) can provide you with more complete information on these issues.

Let's be honest. Building an energy-efficient home can be a monumental task. It requires detailed planning, thorough preparation and plenty of patience. Most of all, it requires decisions--where to build and what types of materials to use, to name a few. These decisions will affect not only the bottom line, but also your home's durability and your overall satisfaction. Scared yet? Not to worry. Your choices can make a world of difference.

Your home's design can contribute to a more energy-efficient lifestyle, as well. Some designs introduce more natural light through skylights or banks of windows, lessening the need for artificial light. Others rely on architectural features, such as open layouts, to enhance the energy-saving capabilities of the building materials.

Inside the home, insulation and moisture protection are key to maximizing efficiency. Air can leak in or out of the home from door and window frames, electrical outlets and exhaust vents, to name just a few of the culprits. The space around these areas can be plugged with a spray foam insulation, which expands to fill minute cracks and open spaces. This, along with high-quality insulation, will help to minimize air infiltration.

Installation of top-quality windows and doors is integral to a highly efficient home. Foam-insulated doors can be prehung at the factory to ensure a tight seal upon installation. Double-or triple-glazed windows have numerous benefits for moisture and heat-loss protection, especially if used on the north side of the home. Your initial costs may be higher, but over the life of the home, these decisions will help to keep costs down.

Air leakage may also occur in the heating and cooling system of your home, regardless of the system's size and efficiency. Traditional taping in the ductwork can rot, creating escapes for air and releasing molds into your home. The use of mastic sealing during installation can prevent this leakage by forming a protective coating inside. Proper testing and regular maintenance of the system after installation are crucial to avoiding repair or replacement later on.

It's obvious that building an energy-efficient home is important for several reasons. It will help to conserve natural resources. It will make your home a healthier place to live. It will save you money in the long run. And that's simply good sense.

Photos by Velux-America Inc.
Sources: Builders Association of the Twin Cities--Membership Directory 1995-96; Edison Electric Institute, Washington, D.C.; Energy Smart Home, Atlanta, GA; George Anderson, Danze & Davis Architects, Inc., Austin, TX.

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