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Energy Efficient Homes – Building Design Trends Happening Now

Whether you’re building a new home or renovating an older one, you want to make it as energy-efficient as possible. An energy-efficient home will save you money on energy costs, increase its productivity, and help protect the environment. 

Homebuyers these days are more cognizant of their energy use than in the past. One major incentive for this trend is the amount of money you can save by making the house’s energy usage more effective and efficient. Your home can increase its energy efficiency and cut down on electricity, heating, and cooling costs. 

We’ll explore the most popular home energy trends and how they can benefit you.

picture of a woman with her hands out holding a model of an energy efficient home

It Starts with Your Home’s Blueprint 

If you’re building a new home or doing extensive renovations, it’s crucial to design your home for streamlined energy efficiency from the beginning. Taking a whole-house systems approach from the design stage will maximize your house’s energy efficiency and your cost savings.

Use a professional with experience in designing blueprints for energy-efficient homes. They will be able to design your energy-efficient home based on the local climate, the seasons and weather changes in your area, and local conditions. 

They should take into account all of the structural and design factors of your home to ensure they implement them with maximum efficiency, including:

  • Windows and skylights
  • Heating systems
  • Cooling systems
  • Electronic systems
  • Interior and exterior insulation
  • Water heating 
  • Lighting

If you’re looking into buying a home, ask for a home energy score, which will show you how energy-efficient it is. Based on the evaluation, you can decide on which home improvements you will make to make it more energy-efficient. 

Home Sizes Are Shrinking

Due to economic factors, environmental awareness, and a trending minimalistic lifestyle, smaller houses are becoming increasingly popular. Homeowners recognize the inflated cost of maintaining, heating, and cooling a larger house and are looking for smaller homes that will save them money in the short and long term.

It is very costly to heat and cool a large home, in addition to maintaining the building and upkeeping the grounds. Smaller homes cost less to build, maintain and use less energy to heat and cool. 

Consider Pre-Manufactured Modular Homes

Pre-manufactured modular buildings are built in a factory and transported in sections to your property lot, where contractors will then install them onto your foundation. These buildings are a growing trend since they have many advantages over homes built from scratch on-site.

  • Pre-manufactured modular homes are typically more affordable than homes built on-site. 
  • Pre-manufactured homes are built to code in a controlled factory setting and follow all necessary safety guidelines. You don’t need to worry that your contractor installed a part of your home incorrectly or illegally. 
  • You can build modular homes much quicker than on-site homes. 
  • Avoid building delays due to weather and other conditions that affect on-site building since the manufacturers construct modular homes in a factory and not outdoors. Your builder will need to set up your house’s foundation on-site, and they will then put the modular home on it. 
  • The pre-manufactured homes have high-quality and energy-efficient heating, cooling systems, and electrical systems, saving you money on your bills. 
  • Manufactured modular homes adhere to HUD’s strict building codes.
  • They are built tightly, which usually translates into firmly sealed draft-free windows.

Green Construction Materials

There’s a growing trend to using green construction building materials. These are environmentally conscious supplies and from renewable resources. Green materials may be from recycled sources, locally available and plentiful, or renewable energy sources. These materials are better for the environment, healthier, and may save you money. 

Some popular green construction materials are:

  • Reclaimed Wood: Recycle wood and save trees. You can reuse timber from an old building, house, or other structure. Reclaimed lumber is trending for flooring, home furnishings, and even countertops.

    Reclaimed wood goes through a cleaning process before being used again. The wood is cleared from all nails and dirt and then thoroughly cleaned. It undergoes a kiln-drying which kills any bugs living in the wood, and they then cut the wood to the desired size.
  • Bamboo: This material is an excellent alternative for wood throughout the house. Bamboo grows quickly and is more environmentally friendly than using lumber from trees. It’s one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. You can harvest bamboo just a few years after planting it! Some varieties of bamboo can grow up to an incredible three feet in just one day! 

Bamboo is also great for the environment as it absorbs greenhouse gasses. You can use for bamboo for flooring or as a substitute for wood for nearly everything in the house.

  • Cork:  Cork is in high demand. Although the material comes from a tree’s bark, it is still a very renewable resource. You can remove the cork without harming the tree and can harvest the cork many times over a tree’s lifespan.

    Cork is an ideal alternative to wood for flooring as it is a little softer and gentler on the feet due to its natural pockets of air. You can also use cork for insulation, as well as bathroom and kitchen countertops. Another perk to cork is its naturally unique antibacterial properties.
  • Recycled Steel: Steel is fully recyclable and can be used instead of wood for beams and other construction uses. Steel is strong, durable, and using recycled steel lowers the cost of the building while simultaneously helping the environment.

    Using recycled steel saves a tremendous amount of energy over mining and manufacturing the metal. Recycled steel is very popular across many industries aside from housing materials. It is a component in cars, cans, tools, household appliances, bridges, and guard rails.

Your Land’s Lot Makes a Difference

Interestingly, the site of your home on your lot can impact its energy efficiency. The angle of your house can affect the way the wind hits it and how much sunlight it will get. Hill and other land features on your property can make a difference too.

Depending on your location’s climate, you may want to maximize or minimize the environmental factors. If your house is in a cooler climate, you will want to angle it to get the most out of the sunlight and warmth to reduce your heating costs. One way is to design your windows to face the sun when it’s at its peak to soak up its light and warmth.

You will want to minimize the sun factor in a hot climate to save on cooling costs. You can configure the windows so they aren’t facing the sun at its peak or build a roof overhang to block out the full impact of the sun through your windows. 

Similarly, if your house is near a shore, consider the coastal winds and how to minimize their effect on the house. If you’re building on a mountain, you’ll want to limit the wind exposure as well.

Consult with an expert to decide the best orientation for your house on your property to maximize its energy efficiency.

You Need a Cool Roof

A cool roof reflects the sunlight to keep the house cooler and minimize your home’s cooling costs. Many homeowners don’t consider the roof to play a factor in their home’s heating and cooling systems, but standard roofs absorb the sunlight which heats the house in the summer and when the sun is intense. Cool roofs do not absorb the sunlight, keeping your home cooler and more comfortable. 

Light-colored roofs will naturally reflect sunlight and keep the temperature down. Many standard roofing materials come in light colors. Choose softer hues of wood shingles, asphalt shingles, polymer shingles, terra cotta clay tiles, concrete tiles, and single-ply membranes to make them more reflective and cooler. Spray polyurethane foam is a good option for a cool roof as well. 

Go Solar

Use solar energy to save on electricity costs and maximize your home’s energy efficiency. Harnessing the sun’s energy to power your home uses the resource that is already available for free! There is enough sunlight hitting the earth each day to energize all the houses on this planet – we just have to harvest that solar power. 

Residential homeowners can install photovoltaics (PV) panels on their home’s roof to harness solar energy. When the sunlight hits these PV panels, the panels absorb the sunlight’s photons, creating an electrical field and electricity. A utility meter measures how much solar energy the house uses. If you don’t use all of the power gathered that day, the excess goes into the solar network, which can be used by neighboring houses using solar too.

Perhaps your home cannot have solar panels on its roof due to its instability, the current condition, an improper angle, or obstructions that prevent the sunlight from reaching the entire surface area. In that case, you can try community solar energy, which is harnessed off-site from your house. Although it may seem like a more expensive option, it is still cheaper than standard electricity.

Read More: Best Solar Panel Kits

The initial installation of solar panels can be costly, but the amount of money you save on electricity, in the long run, makes it worthwhile. You may also be eligible for refunds, monetary incentives, or tax credits for switching to solar energy.

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Interior Insulation Matters

A properly insulated home will conserve your heating and cooling and save on energy costs. 

Insufficient insulation will let cold air into the house and allow heat to escape from your home during cold weather, significantly increasing your heating costs. Conversely, if your house is not insulated correctly, cool air will escape the house during the hot seasons and increase your home’s cooling costs.

Insulate your house correctly to keep its temperature comfortable and save money on heating and cooling costs. There are a variety of insulation techniques that you can implement in your home. 

  • Injection Wall Foam: This foam insulation is injected into the walls of your home, filling the nooks and crannies within the walls and making sure the house is completely insulated. When the foam dries, it will harden to form solid and long-lasting insulation.
  • Spray Foam Insulation: Spray foam is similar to injection wall foam. It is an insulating foam that hardens when it dries. You can use this foam on every surface, including hard-to-reach corners and spaces. 
  • Attic Insulation: Many houses lose most of their energy through an unfinished or under-insulated attic. Many homeowners don’t realize the effect an under-insulated attic can have on the overall house’s heating and cooling costs. Blown-in insulation and attic sealing can increase your home’s energy efficiency and save you money. 
  • Basement Insulation: Even if you don’t use your basement as a living space in your home, air that leaks out of the basement can affect the temperature of your house. Insulate the interior walls of the basement to minimize the effect it can have on the rest of your home.

Highly Insulated Windows and Doors

Your home loses a lot of energy through under-insulated windows and doors. If you have ever felt a draft coming in from under your front door or through the windows, you understand how the warm or cool air from inside your home can escape as well. 

If you’re building a new home or renovating your current home, make sure to buy energy-efficient windows and doors. Energy-saving windows have double or triple-paned glass to prevent the outside air from creeping in and the temperature-controlled air inside from leaking out of the house. These windows have several layers of glass with air pockets between them for maximum efficiency.

In addition to the windows themselves, make sure that the window frames are energy-efficient. Wood, vinyl, and fiberglass window frames will help contain any air leaks. Aluminum window frames are not energy-efficient. 

Here are some small steps that you can take in your current home that will have a significant impact:

  • Caulk around the windows to seal up any cracks so the outside air can’t get in and the inside air won’t escape.
  • Use weatherstrips to seal around the windows and doors and keep drafts out.
  • If a draft is coming into your home from underneath your exterior door, block it off. You can even use a rolled-up towel to block the outside air from coming in.
  • You can get a storm door to provide an extra layer of protection outside of a drafty door.

LED Lighting Is the New Standard

All light bulbs are not created equal. Some types of light use more energy and cost more to operate than others. Switching your lighting can save you significant money on energy costs! 

Incandescent lights are not energy-efficient and cost more money to operate than other types of bulbs. Switch your incandescent lights to LED lights to maximize their functionality and minimize your costs. Energy-saving lights can be used inside and outside the house and come in a vast range of sizes, colors, and strengths. 

LED lights use less energy, cost less to operate, and last longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs; Energy Star products can use up to 75% less energy and surpass an incandescent bulb’s lifespan by up to 25%! LED lights also don’t get hot and don’t give off a lot of heat. While one bulb may not seem like much of a difference, if you have many lights in a room, the heat from the light bulbs can add up. LEDs don’t have a heat issue. 

LED lights are trending due to their functionality as well as their efficiency. An LED light can do so much more than a traditional light bulb:

  • LEDs have an extensive range of colored lighting.
  • They pinpoint the lighting in a specific direction. 
  • They last longer than other light bulbs.

The bulbs themselves are more expensive, but you will save money on their longevity and the electric bills. 

Geothermal Heat Pumps for the Win

Geothermal heat pumps, also known as ground-source or water-source heat pumps, use the temperature in the ground instead of the outside air. 

Geothermal pumps can cost more than air-source pumps, but the long-term savings make it worthwhile. Geothermal heat pumps last longer, cost less to operate, and conserve energy. They also have the added benefits of minimal noise compared to standard heat pumps, and they don’t produce environmental-damaging emissions.

Energy-Efficient Water Heaters

Water heaters use one of the highest energy levels among a home’s appliances. They are expensive to operate, are one of the most costly home utilities, and can take a toll on the environment. 

Energy-efficient water heaters use less energy to operate and heat your home’s water than standard water heaters. There are several water heaters to choose from, including tankless, solar-powered, heat pump water heaters, and conventional storage water heaters. Consider switching to a water heater that can accommodate your household’s needs while being energy efficient. 

We measure the efficiency of a water heater by using energy factors (EF). The higher a water heater’s EF is, the more energy-efficient the heater is. Heat pump water heaters have a higher EF than gas, oil, and electric water heaters.

Purchase Energy Star Appliances and Electronics

Energy Star appliances and electronics use less energy and cost less to operate than other models. The Energy Star label represents a stamp of approval from the government for energy efficiency.

You can find Energy Star washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, fans, computer monitors, and more. 

Replacing an old appliance with an Energy Star appliance can save you money on your electric bill.

Use Smart Technology

Smart (Self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology) appliances and home fixtures can assess and conserve their energy usage. Computerized chips in the machines let them detect when to cut back on their energy, saving you electricity and money.

Some newer kitchen appliances include Wi-Fi capabilities that enable you to control their usage remotely from your phone or device. You can turn the machine on and off or even set them on a schedule to conserve energy when they’re not needed.

Don’t Forget About Tax Credits and Incentives

Conserving energy is the way of the future. There are many ways you can make your home more energy-efficient that will benefit the environment and save you significant money. As an incentive to get people to conserve energy, the United States government offers tax credits and financial benefits for switching to more energy-efficient home solutions. 

Homeowners can receive a 30-percent tax credit on the cost of their energy-efficient home improvements. These include solar panels, new windows, efficient heating, attic and basement insulation, and Energy Star products. 

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