Energy efficiency in the home is not just about saving resources, making less of an impact on the environment, and “greener” living – though all of those things a great in themselves. It’s also about saving money on heating and cooling your home to make it comfortable to live in. Here are a few tips to improve the energy efficiency of your home, especially if you’re planning on building from scratch – from a house plan – soon.
Focus on Windows
Most of today’s homeowners know that they should invest in energy-efficient windows – double- or triple-pane with low-e coating on the glass being preferable. But homebuilders concerned with energy efficiency should take it a step further and carefully consider window placement in the floor plan. The right windows in the right spot help homeowners cut energy costs in their home plan. In cooler climates, take advantage of the natural light and warmth of the sun by focusing windows on the south and west sides of the house. In warmer climates, focus windows on the north and east sides.
To keep cooling costs down in the warm summer months, use a sun blocking shade on south-facing windows to reduce the amount of heat let in. Choosing a partial shade or a light color shade with heat blocking properties will still let in natural light.
Another beautiful but energy efficient window option: clerestory windows—small windows that line the top of the wall, above head level. These windows let in an amazing amount of natural light—particular when placed on several walls—while preserving privacy. This beautiful design element works equally well for modern and contemporary homes or classically traditional houses.
Break Your Home into Zones
Creating energy independent zones in your home plan is one of the most effective ways to control energy costs. When planning a new home, select a design that groups bedrooms and living spaces into separate areas. This way, you can lower the heating or air conditioning in one region of the house when it’s not getting as much use (during the day or night). Investing in an automatic thermostat makes this an easy, worry-free way to sensibly control the temperature in each zone of your home.
Zones are also an easy way to add energy efficiency to an existing home. Think about how you use the space to see if any natural zones emerge. For instance, is the second floor mostly unoccupied during the day because it’s mainly bedrooms? Buy automatic thermostats, and set them on independent timers.
Go Back to Natural Heating
For smaller homes, or spaces you spend a lot of time in, consider investing in a wood- or pellet-burning stove for heat. These small units run on affordable natural fuel and produce an amazing amount of heat.
Even a woodburning fireplace can help keep down winter warming costs and are a beautiful focal point. However, fireplaces generally do not generate as much heat as stoves.