Choosing energy-smart products
As the walls go up and roof takes shape, don’t overlook the important of choosing energy-efficient products to go in your new home.
Many builders, especially those constructing dozens of homes in developments or subdivisions, will include standard types of furnaces, appliances and lighting fixtures in the base price of the home.
Upgrading to more energy-efficient models may cost extra in the initial phases of construction, but they’ll pay back the difference in energy savings in just a few years.
Heating and air conditioning
The standard furnace your builder might include is likely an 80 percent AFUE [annual fuel utilization efficiency]. You can increase your long-term energy savings by investing a small amount more into a high-efficiency 92 percent AFUE furnace — for every dollar you spend on heating energy, 92 cents is put back into your home as warmed air.
A central air conditioner’s efficiency is rated as the SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio. A standard unit might be a 10.0 SEER; upgrading to a 12.0 SEER can reduce your cooling costs by 15 percent.
Building a new home is a great chance to learn about the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling. This technology uses the earth’s natural heat-storing ability to make your home more comfortable. It’s environmentally friendly, easy to maintain, quiet and combines heating and cooling in one system.
Other energy-saving options for heating and cooling include:
- Programmable or smart thermostats (now standard in most new homes).
- Zoned systems, which allow for different temperatures in different areas of the home.
- High-velocity air conditioners, which use variable-speed motors to improve efficiency.
- Energy recovery ventilators, which not only provide automatic whole-house ventilation, but also serve as a supplemental heat source.
After heating and cooling, water heating is your home’s next biggest energy user. A natural gas unit will be the most efficient choice, and builders will usually install a standard lower-efficiency model.
You can save a significant amount on your water heating costs by upgrading to a high-efficiency model and choosing the right size for your family’s needs.
Windows and doors
Any opening in the exterior of your home can increase your heating and cooling costs by as much as 15 percent, so it's important to choose windows and doors wisely.
As a general rule, the bigger the pane of glass, the less energy efficient. And the more windows you have, the greater the heat loss and gain.
The direction your windows face will play a big part in your comfort as the seasons change. South-facing windows help keep your home warm during the winter, but if not properly shaded, they could turn the room into a sauna during the summer.
If you’ll be purchasing new appliances, remember that the purchase price doesn’t equal the whole cost of ownership. Choosing energy efficient models will go a long way in lowering the operating costs of your new home. Energy use can vary greatly, so be sure to check labels carefully.
Choosing lighting can be overwhelming, but your lighting dealer can help you choose the best models to make your new home more attractive and comfortable. Take along a floor plan and photos if possible.
Building a new home is also a great time to invest in energy-efficient lighting. Instead of using energy-wasting standard incandescent bulbs in your new fixtures, install LED bulbs — they use less energy and last longer.
Even the trees in your backyard can help cut your energy bills. One well-placed shade tree can reduce summer air conditioning costs up to 25 percent!
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