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Energy Efficiency All-Stars: Sustainable Upgrades for Your Owner-Built Home

By April 22, 2024Uncategorized
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The journey of building your own custom home in Texas has many decisions attached to it. As you navigate the design and construction processes, consider incorporating energy-efficient upgrades. Not only will these choices benefit the environment, but they’ll also translate to significant cost savings on your utility bills for years to come.

This blog post highlights some “Energy Efficiency All-Stars” – upgrades particularly impactful in the Texas climate. By implementing smart solutions, you can create a comfortable, sustainable house that you’ll be proud to call home.

Texas Climate and Energy Efficiency

The climate of Texas is as diverse as its landscape. Some of Texas has a long warm season with significant sunshine and high humidity. Other areas have scorching summers and mild winters, while still others experience more significant temperature fluctuations. These factors influence how your home uses energy for heating and cooling. This means your energy efficiency strategy should address both cooling and heating needs.

Energy Efficiency All-Stars for Your Texas Custom Home

  1. High-Performance Windows and Doors:

Windows and doors are a gateway for unwanted heat gain or loss. Investing in high-performance, double-paned, and low-emissivity (Low-E) windows helps reflect solar heat in summer and retain interior warmth in winter. The Low-E coating, in particular, allows sunlight to enter while reflecting summer heat. Additionally, Look for windows with a U-factor (measures heat transfer) below 0.30 and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) below 0.25 for optimal performance. Similarly, choose exterior doors with high insulation values to minimize heat transfer.

  1. Roofing Materials:

Texas rooftops experience intense sunshine. Opt for light-colored roofing materials that reflect sunlight and absorb less heat, thereby reducing cooling demands. Installing a cool roof is a way to reflect sunlight and reduce heat absorption with building materials. Look for Energy Star-rated cool roofs with high reflectivity and low emissivity. Likewise, metal roofs are a popular choice in Texas due to their durability and heat-reflective properties.

  1. Superinsulation and Air Sealing:

Adequate insulation is crucial for maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures year-round. It is important to use insulation to create a thermal envelope that minimizes heat transfer. We suggest upgrading your wall and ceiling insulation to exceed the minimum building code requirements. Consider spray foam insulation for superior air sealing and R-value (a measure of thermal resistance). Spraying the roof deck and exterior walls is critical. Advanced framing techniques allow you to get even more insulation in the walls.

Meticulous air sealing is also critical. Seal any gaps, cracks, or leaks around windows, doors, plumbing penetrations, and other potential air infiltration points. This can significantly improve your home’s energy efficiency. Some clients opt to install AeroBarrier to further seal the building envelope.

  1. Energy-Efficient HVAC System:

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is likely the most significant energy consumer in your home. Opting for a high-efficiency HVAC system with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating above 16 (the higher the SEER, the more efficient) will significantly reduce cooling costs. Consider a variable-speed air handler that adjusts cooling based on actual needs, further enhancing efficiency.

It is equally important to ensure your ductwork is properly sized, insulated, and sealed to prevent conditioned air from leaking. Leaky ducts can significantly reduce efficiency.

  1. Smart Thermostat and Programmable Lighting:

Modern technology offers a helping hand in energy management. Installing a smart thermostat allows for automated temperature control based on occupancy and preferences. With today’s technology, you can have up to four thermostats (zones) on one HVAC unit. This allows you to heat or cool only areas of the home that are in use, rather than the whole house.

Programmable lighting control systems are another way to lighten your energy load. These systems let you set lighting schedules, reducing unnecessary energy consumption.

  1. Energy-Star Appliances:

Look for the Energy Star label when choosing appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers. These appliances meet strict energy-efficiency standards, translating to lower operating costs throughout their lifespan.

Upgrade to a high-efficiency water heater, such as a tankless model or one with a higher Energy Factor (EF) rating.

  1. Water-Saving Fixtures:

Water heating also consumes energy. Installing low-flow showerheads and faucets can significantly reduce hot water usage. Again, consider a tankless water heater, which heats water on-demand, eliminating standby energy losses.

  1. Natural Ventilation Strategies:

Texas enjoys mild weather for much of the year. Take advantage of these periods by incorporating natural ventilation strategies. Well-placed windows and strategically positioned ceiling fans can promote air circulation, reducing reliance on air conditioning. Consider passive cooling techniques like cross-ventilation to bring in cooler night air.

  1. Solar Power:

Harness the power of the Texas sun! Texas is a solar powerhouse with its abundant sunshine. Explore the feasibility of installing a rooftop solar system. Solar panels convert our free sunlight into electricity, potentially offsetting a significant portion of your energy needs. Government incentives and net metering programs can make solar power a financially attractive option.

Additional Tips for Energy Efficiency

  • Air Sealing: Even small air leaks can significantly impact energy efficiency. Hire a professional to identify and seal air leaks around windows, doors, and other openings.
  • Energy Audit: Consider conducting a home energy audit. This professional service identifies areas of energy loss and recommends specific upgrades for your home.

Building a Sustainable Future with Built Green Custom Homes

Building an energy-efficient owner-built custom home in Texas requires careful planning and informed decision-making. At Built Green Custom Homes, we understand the importance of energy-efficient construction in Texas. We can guide you through the selection and implementation of energy-efficient features, ensuring your owner-built custom home is comfortable, eco-friendly, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) cost-effective. Contact Built Green Custom Homes today to discuss your owner-built custom home project and learn how we can help you build a home that’s kind to the environment and your wallet.

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Dennis Celsor