Most Americans want an energy-efficient home, and they’re willing to make the necessary changes to help improve efficiency, whether it’s changing their habits or buying more energy-efficient appliances. But reducing energy bills and making your home more efficient doesn’t just begin with remembering to switch off lights in empty rooms or paying top-dollar for newer appliances.
“Energy efficiency has to start when a home is being built,” says Kevin Clayton, CEO of manufactured home builder Clayton Homes. “If you’re buying new construction, it’s important to look for a home that’s built with energy-efficiency in mind during the home design stage. Those additional features will have a great impact on a home’s overall efficiency.”
As demand for greater energy efficiency has grown, the concept of more resourceful design has moved from the realm of luxury homes into the mainstream, Clayton notes. “You no longer have to buy a mansion to get an energy-smart, sustainable home. Manufactured homes are very energy-efficient and it’s easier to add energy saving features when the home is being constructed in a climate controlled environment.”
If you’re in the market for a new home, here are energy-efficient design features to look for:
Insulation doesn’t just keep a home warm in the winter. It should also help keep it cooler in the summer, and help central air-conditioning units operate more efficiently. The R-Value of insulation tells you how well it will be able to resist heat transfer, and a higher R-Value means better heat resistance. To properly protect a home, builders may use a combination of insulation types, such as batt and blown insulations packed into ceiling, wall and floor cavities.
Windows can be a significant source of heat transfer in a home, allowing heat to enter rooms in the summer and escape in winter. Low-emissive (Low-E) windows hinder heat transfer while still allowing daylight to pass through. Not only can Low-E windows help A/C units operate more efficiently, they can also prevent fading of fabrics, floor coverings and furniture from sunlight entering a home.
Air leaks can increase heating and cooling costs for a typical existing home in the United States by an average of 15 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A newly constructed home with properly sealed ductwork inside and tight airway leading outside can help reduce your energy bills.
Minimizing air leaks begins with tight construction in which all the joints where walls, floors and roofs come together are properly sealed. Weather stripping around doors and windows reduces air flow and prevents dust from entering. Inside, duct work should be properly sealed to prevent air leaks and condensation, and tested to ensure no leaks occur.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates that according to a 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, water heating can account for nearly 20 percent of a home’s total energy use. Modern, energy-efficient water heaters can heat the same amount of water as older models, while using less energy. If you’re having a home built for you, ask the builder about installing an energy-efficient water heater. Clayton Homes use water heaters with thicker side walls that have higher insulation values and are better at retaining heat.
Small, yet significant steps
Some steps that seem minor can actually add up to much greater energy efficiency long-term. For example, installing CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs rather than traditional incandescent bulbs wherever possible can help reduce electric bills. CFLs use less energy to produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs, and can last much longer.
Programmable thermostats, like the ones Clayton includes standard in many of its manufactured homes, deliver improved comfort and can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs. Reducing temperature settings just seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day can trim up to 10 percent off your utility bills, according to the Department of Energy. Programmable thermostats automate the process, so you can maintain a more comfortable temperature when needed and automatically change the setting when you’re asleep or away from home.