Energy efficiency isn't just a buzz word; it should be a key consideration for building any home. It is possible to have a more comfortable and efficient living space with the touch of simple elements of design. Energy costs are rising and will increase in future decades. Well, with integrated plans, building owners can save a lot over the lifetime of finished constructions. Here are our 10 tips to build energy efficient homes (well 11, we've cheated with the numbering a bit).
There are many energy efficient measures on can consider during the design of a building. Most of them are likely to increase the upfront cost but most governments are willing to offer incentives to improve ROI. The savings made over the lifetime of a building far outweigh the initial capital investment in most cases.
0. Get in early
Energy consumption is, of course, significant to the initial design for every energy efficient house. It is important to acknowledge from the start that changing plans further down the line can be more costly than is necessary. Usually, planning departments for local authorities demand the plan or design for energy efficiency as a part of the submitted application.
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1. Orientate yourself
The first consideration for energy efficient homes should always be the location and orientation of the building. You should attempt to maximize the use of passive solar gain while reducing heat gain during summer months. Simple directional and design related tweaks can make a big difference to enjoy the summer sun without overheating the house. Good design control of passive solar gain helps reduce heating loads during winter and cooling loads during the summer.
2. Wood for the trees
Engineering the landscape around the building can also play a major role in energy efficiency. Planting deciduous trees on the west and south sides (depending on your geographical location of course) can help provide shade for the building during summer months. On the other hand, in autumn the trees lose their canopies and allow winter sun to heat your home passively.
Adopting low U-value frames and Low-E (low emissivity) glazing appropriately for the climate and direction is another critical design consideration. For example, higher altitude locations benefit from good UV rays all year round except cold winters. Proposed glazing for any site should take account of occupants' comfort level on completion.
4. Air tightness
Air tightness or leakage has an enormous impact on the energy efficiency of any building. Energy efficient homes should have proper sealing of joints, sills, ducts, doors and vents. This will significantly reduce heating costs for the final building. "Build tight, ventilate right" is a good adage to follow. Clearly, some areas need mechanical ventilation e.g. wet rooms, kitchens, etc. Ventilation systems have become very sophisticated and often include heat recovery technology.
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5. Heat recovery
Heat recovery should be another integral part of the building design for all energy efficient homes. As mentioned earlier, there are excessive amounts of technologies for ventilation systems. Although the fact that they can now further tweak your home's energy efficiency is a relatively new technology for the domestic market. Technologies such as Flue Gas Heat Recovery (FGHRS) or Waste Water Heat Recovery systems can provide additional cost savings.
6. Heating design
Heating costs tend to comprise at least 50 percent of a home's energy bills. Choosing the most efficient heating system is an essential design consideration and will affect the lifetime running costs of the building. Another consideration should be the addition of controls such as thermostats, weather compensators, etc. to provide an autonomous control of the heating plant. More sophisticated control systems, Building Management Systems, can actively manage the building heating schedules.
7. Let there be light
Lighting design is another key factor for improving your home's energy efficiency. Although fluorescent lighting is great, LED's will be the technology of the future for lighting. The technology has come a long way over the last decade and will save you hundreds of dollars (or any currency) over 10-20 years before needing replacement. LED's are one of the quickest returns on investment and can fit most of the existing light fittings.
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8. Count the losses
Traditionally, hot water used to be either generated or stored in a cylinder or a tank. Hot water accounts for around 15-20 percent of most domestic energy bills. When designing your domestic hot water system you should seriously consider tankless water technology systems such as combination boilers. Clearly, the size of the house, number of occupants and hot water capacity requirements of the final home will ultimately dictate the design. A series of combination boilers instead of a large storage tank should provide the volume and supply rate needed for most situations. Additional venting and installation costs would be incurred but, this method of providing instant hot water eliminates storage or standing heat losses in the long run.
9. Powered by the sun
With energy costs constantly on the rise, they don't look set to drop anytime soon. Being able to generate your own electricity or supplement heating/hot water generation systems using PV or solar thermal systems is a good design consideration. In most cases, you can sell your excess electricity to the grid. However, future technology systems are also expected to enable you to store your self-generated power.
It’s not easy to calculate the return of investment as the market shifts, but it’s a fact that energy costs increase. Correspondingly, so does the cost of solar installations and your cost-savings. The applicability of this technology is of course latitude-dependent and the system size, design and orientation may not be flexible.
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Reducing the heat loss from building elements such as walls and floors is imperative for designing an energy efficient home. A good design of these composite components minimizes the u-Value and R-Value, which provides a passive and long lasting benefit to the buildings' lifetime costs. There are many energy efficient systems and materials available such as ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms), thicker wall constructions and roof insulations. Additionally, blown-in foam is also a well recognized, viable solution.
It's easier to design a well insulated, efficiently lit, correctly orientated and efficiently heated building than attempt to retroactively improve it. Taking good consideration of the local climate and geography, as well as supplementing accordingly with passive shading strategies will pay dividends in the long run for your dream home. Energy efficient design should always be a key consideration for any design team for any building.
Source : Energy Saving Trust