One of the most rewarding parts of constructing a custom home is the ability to choose each architectural and design element, personalizing the structure to not only satisfy your tastes and preferences but also to maximize the overall performance and value of your house.
If you are determined to achieve that second goal, one aspect to prioritize when designing your new custom home is energy efficiency. Eco-friendly homes are the way of the future. Aside from reducing your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency also increases your comfort, reduces your monthly energy bills, improves indoor air quality and increases the value of your property.
Building an Energy Efficient Home in Houston
Making your home energy efficient requires careful consideration when it comes to how the building is designed and engineered, what materials are used and the integration of eco-friendly features. All of these elements contribute at varying degrees to how your home will perform over the next several years and how much you’ll pay for energy. Here is a closer look at what to think about as you’re designing your luxury custom home in Houston:
1. Sustainable Engineering
There are four principal control layers in energy-efficient walls and ceilings that influence how a building enclosure performs: water control; air control; vapor control; and thermal control. First, bulk water (rain) must be kept out and directed away from the building. The proper installation of a Water Resistive Barrier (WRB) is critical to control bulk water and the building from leaking. Second, the building needs to control the air from leaking in and out. Air leakage has a negative energy impact through wasted dollars spent on "paid air" and allowing the paid air to escape. Just think of your Dad yelling at you to close the door because you are letting all the air conditioning escape. It is the same concept just in less obvious areas of air leakage. Next, vapor control needs to be in place to allow the passage of water vapor away from a building when moisture is present. It is common to confuse the difference between air barriers and vapor barriers especially in humid climates where the is a lot of moisture in the air. Air barriers are also vapor barriers when they control the movement of heavy, moist air. Additionally, condensation in the walls and roof structures can cause serious damage. Finally, your thermal control layer, or insulation, contributes to efficiency, however, it won’t be as effective unless the other three controls are implemented correctly. Your thermal layer should be continuous around the edges of the structure and beneath the floor where applicable.
As you’re designing your custom home, it’s important to ensure these control layers are kept continuous at each and every junction to create durability and energy efficiency. If the home is not designed correctly in the first place, then your builder cannot implement the necessary steps during construction to meet those goals. Smart design is critical, and detailed communication between your builder and designer early in the project helps ensure that no details fall through the cracks.
2. Energy Efficient Doors and Windows
Once you’ve addressed the design and careful construction of the building envelope, think about the potential problem areas, such as windows and doors, which are basically large holes in an otherwise airtight, well-insulated building. When constructing your new home, you should install highly insulated window and door products to help address heat loss and gain. Also take into consideration the size and orientation of these openings and where they’re located. For windows, combine an energy efficient frame with glazing materials suitable for the Houston climate to customize these products and reduce your energy bills. There are also various window treatments and attachments that allow you to use natural light while reducing the heat gained. Additionally, skylights, when properly selected and installed, can help minimize your heating, cooling and lighting costs.
3. Energy Efficient Systems
You need a continuous source of fresh, filtered air and moisture control to optimize your home’s performance, as well as efficient, cost-effective heating and cooling systems. Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) or energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems are superior, as they expel stale air from your house while recovering the heat and returning it to the interior along with fresh air. As for heating and cooling, one popular solution in energy efficient design is installing a mini-split heat pump, also known as an air-source, ductless heat pump.
Finally, think about how you are heating your water, as that’s often one of the biggest energy expenses for homeowners in Houston after heating and cooling the indoor air. You need to plan for integrating efficient water-heating technology, as well as other solutions to minimize hot water use in the first place.
4. Energy Efficient Household Amenities
The next step in constructing an energy efficient home is addressing lighting, appliances and electronics. Focus on using natural light as effectively as possible and locating your interior lights strategically to reduce your energy use altogether. You can also install LED lights for both general and task lighting, as they contain no mercury and are long-lasting. They also come in a variety of types and colors and they’re compatible with dimmer switches.
Almost all household appliances and electronics—from washing machines and dryers to refrigerators and dishwashers—are available in energy efficient models. Try to integrate as many of these options into your home as you can.
Selecting an Energy Efficient Home Builder in Houston
If building an energy efficient home is important to you, you must find the right professional for the job. Additionally, the sooner you introduce your home builder into the design phase for your custom home, the better. They provide valuable insight to ensure every detail is properly considered, from the interior and exterior wall construction layers to the type of HVAC system and lighting used for your new custom home in Houston. At Southern Green Builders, we work hand in hand with you and your architect as blueprints are drawn and specifications are decided upon to optimize your energy efficient design and prevent the typical snags that occur during the construction phase. You can rest assured that what you see on paper is what you’ll get at the end of a smooth, seamless home building experience.