Step 1: Smart Design
Cost-effective energy efficient homes begin with smart design. Our years of experience in designing and building energy efficient homes has led to not only a cost-effective approach but one that has stood the test of time.
Step 2: Super-Seal the Envelope
Super-sealing the building envelope is the single most cost-effective measure we can take to improve the energy efficiency of a home. We have several proven, air-sealing approaches that are available. During the design phase we will help you in choosing an approach that matches your climate and budget.
Step 3: Super-Insulate the Building Envelope
After super-sealing the envelope, super insulating the house may be the second most cost-effective strategy for creating an energy efficient home. We use framing strategies that make it easier to insulate the building envelope and minimize thermal bridging. In conventional construction, framing touches both the inside surface and outside surface of the wall. This allows for the direct conduction of heat and cold from the outside wall through the studs to the inside wall, resulting in an important and unnecessary source of heat flow. We use methods we have developed over many years to help mitigate the issue of thermal bridging.
Step 4: Heat Water Wisely
Water heating is one of the larger energy expenses in an energy efficient home after heating and cooling. In order to increase efficiencies, we select and locate efficient hot water heating technology, along with other measures, to minimize hot water use.
Step 5: Energy Efficient Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are like big energy holes in a well-insulated, airtight building envelope and are the third most cost-effective strategy for making a home energy efficient. With our smart design we attempt to control window and door heat loss and gain by selecting appropriate window and door products, carefully locating them, and optimizing their size and orientation.
Step 6: Energy Efficient Fresh Air Supply
Since our homes can be designed so airtight, a continuous source of fresh filtered air and moisture control are critical to their success. This need for ventilation has a silver lining: our energy efficient homes tend to be healthier and more comfortable than standard homes. Highly energy efficient ventilation systems, known as energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems expel stale air while recovering its heat and returning that same heat to the home with the fresh air.
Step 7: Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling System
Highly efficient, cost-effective, heating and cooling systems are an essential part of our energy efficient home designs. One of our approaches is to use highly efficient models with a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) as high as the mid to high 20s. One way these units achieve their higher ratings are by using variable speed compressors and air handlers. There are several brands on the market that meet this target. Manual J calculations are run on our homes by our HVAC contractors to insure all our systems are sized correctly for the specific heating and cooling needs of the home and to maximize efficiencies.
Step 8: Energy Efficient Lighting
Minimizing energy use for lighting, while optimizing light for residents, is an important feature of energy efficient homes. LED lights are the perfect match for these tasks. They are more energy efficient than CFLs, last many years longer, and contain no mercury. In addition, they can meet a variety of lighting needs from very bright white light to soft, warm light. Selecting the right LED lights for the task, locating lights strategically, and utilizing natural light as effectively as possible can drastically reduce a home’s energy use.
Step 9: Renewable Energy
Grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) panels currently provide a cost-effective form of renewable energy for an energy efficient home. They can power all the energy needs of a home including lighting, heating and cooling systems, appliances and hot water. However, they are the most expensive component of an energy efficient home and strategies for reducing or mitigating those costs are important to consider. This is an option that we have provided customers and in combination with all the other options above we have seen homes that obtain a net zero performance level.
Step 10: Confirmation through Testing
Over the years we have backed up our designs thru testing and monitoring. One of the most critical tests we can do is blower door testing. This test measures how well the home has been air sealed. We have homes that have been tested by certified technicians that pulled numbers as low as .5 ACH. In Texas must municipalities require a 3 ACH or better (lower number is better). We also have collected HVAC energy usage on many of our designs in order to improve our designs and help in designing the most cost-effective solutions for our customers.