Energy Efficient Design – What to Include in Your House Plans

March 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

There’s more to designing an energy-efficient house than just the floor plan. With good planning, homes can be not only comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, but also environmentally friendly at the same time. Beyond the blueprints, green home design involves opting or sustainable building materials, energy-saving heating and cooling systems, and energy efficient hot water systems and appliances.

Ideas for sustainable living that might show up on the floor plans include the incorporation of a “great room,” or open configuration that comprises the living and eating areas together. Nixing a seldom-used formal dining room is an option that many people are choosing to cut down on wasted energy. Without the extra room to heat and cool, energy is saved and utility bills lowered.

During construction , the best way to improve your energy efficiency is to carefully choose the materials that make up your home’s thermal envelope. This includes anything that protects the inside or your home from the outside, such as the foundation, roof, siding, framing, insulation, and windows. For example, choosing to insulate not just the walls and ceilings but also the foundation and floors can make your home much more energy efficient.

When choosing the type of insulation, look for the one with the highest R-value you can afford. R-value is the measurement of how well your insulation resists heat transfer. To save on energy costs, you want to use insulation with an R-value that far exceeds local building codes, which only require the bare minimum for the area’s climate.

Homes that are well insulated require much less energy to keep heated or cooled. They require smaller than average furnaces and air conditioners that use less energy. Some are even heated primarily by the sun. Less energy always translates into lower utility bills. Also, when a home’s foundation and floors are insulated, ‘waste’ heat from energy efficient appliances can contribute to a home’s heating requirements.

When choosing appliances or your home, there are many eco-friendly alternatives. When you purchase an energy-efficient dryer, stove, or refrigerator, you are not only helping the environment, but also making a wise investment that will pay off in reduced utility bills. To go even further and conserve water while saving on your water bill, consider purchasing an energy-efficient washer or dishwasher.

You can also make an investment to help the environment when it comes to the hot water heater. The typical hot water tank in the U.S. is not very efficient, as it holds, heats, and stores 20 – 50 gallons of water. This is much more water than is typically needed for the average family in a day. A better idea is to purchase a tankless water heater, which doesn’t need to hold excess because it only heats water when it’s needed. Tankless systems have been used for decades throughout Europe, and have proven over time to be remarkably energy efficient.

All of these ideas work in tandem to make a house more energy efficient. When designing a home, make sure there are specifications for each of them The result will be living space that is comfortable, eco-friendly, and thanks to reduced energy costs, economical.