You’ve probably heard the words “energy efficient” used concerning appliances, windows, or light bulbs. They may seem like silly buzzwords or just a way to sell products, but there is much more to know about energy-efficiency for the entire house. Especially as a potential home buyer, you should note that when you design your custom home, hiring energy-efficient home builders will make a significant difference in the long run.
Energy-efficient home builders are becoming the industry standard. So, what does this mean for you? Newly built homes certified by Energy Star – an energy-efficiency rating program run by the US Federal government – use at least 20% less energy than those not. But using less energy is just the start.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the Energy Star program, also offers green certification programs like LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and NGBS (National Green Building Standard). These have even stricter standards for water conversion, greenhouse gas emissions, and indoor air quality, among others.
All of this may not sound very exciting, but following these standards when building your dream home will improve your family’s health and comfort while also reducing your energy bills.
The Home Energy Rating System Index
Also known as HERS, the Home Energy Rating System Index is a way to measure a home’s energy-efficiency. It is the nationally recognized building industry’s standard system to calculate and inspect energy performance. This rating and measurement can tell you a lot about your house.
For example, the HERS index will tell you if your home is operating efficiently and notify you where to make changes to save even more energy. A low HERS Index Score will also give you a higher financial return if you decide to sell the house in the future. According to a 2019 National Association of Home Builders study, energy-efficient homes list for $5000 higher than standard homes of the same size.
A standard new home is given a rating of 100; therefore, the lower the score, the more energy-efficient the residence. A score of 70 means that the home is 30% more energy-efficient than average. If your house gets a rating of 130, it is 30% less efficient. A certified HERS rater will assess your location and then compare it to a “reference home” of the same type, shape, and size. This allows the final assessment to be more accurate.
What is Energy Star?
The eco-friendly term, “Energy Star,” is also used more and more by energy-efficient home builders. But what does it mean? This voluntary federal program was established in 1992 as part of the Clean Air Act. This program teaches the general public and home builders how to reduce environmental impact and save money in homes. This is done by improving energy-efficiency through the use of specific products and new building technology. This innovative program has significantly reduced greenhouse gases and saved billions of dollars in energy costs.
During both the design and construction processes, energy-efficient home builders wanting an Energy Star certification must meet strict federal requirements and follow specific criteria. Certification is made through independent building inspections and testing to ensure the house meets the EPA requirements. The builders must use energy-saving architectural features as well as energy-efficient appliances, insulation, windows, etc., to lessen energy consumption, reduce pollution, and improve energy security. When energy-efficient home builders place an Energy Star label on their construction, you know your home was well built and vetted for the required criteria.
The Benefits of Hiring Energy-Efficient Home Builders
According to a 2018 NerdWallet study, 30% of homeowners say their utilities and monthly housing costs are too high. Especially for homebuyers used to living within fewer square feet, the cost to light, cool, and heat a large house can be shocking. Fortunately, buying a home that is built to be energy-efficient can help to lower those utility bills.
On the one hand, Energy Star certified homes might cost up to $2500 more to build, but on the other hand, homebuyers can recoup this investment fairly quickly through lowered utility bills. Energy-efficient homes also sell faster and for higher prices than others.
How Are Energy-Efficient Homes Different?
In general, energy-efficient homes have region-specific architectural designs, pass rigorous performance evaluations, and use high-efficiency appliances, features, and building materials. However, more than just the building is held to a high standard.
To qualify for Energy Star certification, the home, the builder, and the contractors must have EPA training and earn the proper credentials to meet minimum standards. Additionally, for NGBS or LEED certification, an inspection of the home’s lot design and location, use of sustainable building materials, and even access to public transportation is involved.
Environmental concerns and rising energy costs are pushing energy-efficient home builders to increase these desirable features in their custom homes. However, just because a house is newly built doesn’t mean it’s also energy efficient.
When building a new home, be sure to talk to your builder about your interest in energy-efficiency in the design, construction, and products used. Let your contractor know you want to follow the guidelines of an Energy Star home.
Features and Benefits of an Energy-Efficient Home
When you use Energy Star standards to build your custom home, it will change how your residence will look, feel, and operate. Here are four ways an energy-efficient home is different:
1) Complete Thermal Surrounding
An Energy Star home has a combination of properly installed and high-quality insulation and comprehensive sealing. High-performance windows incorporate advanced technology, such as protective coatings and improved frames. These building materials improve the comfort and durability of your home. The complete thermal enclosure translates to saving on utility bills and using less energy for water heating and heating and cooling the residence.
2) Water Protection
Energy-efficient home builders need to use the right materials and implement updated construction practices. Both elements must be present. Your builder should use a heavy-duty membrane, flashing, and moisture barriers to effectively drain water away from the roof and foundation. This will prevent water and mold damage.
Saving water by using less is also important. Low-flow toilets and showerheads help regulate the amount of water used by the family every day.
3) Efficient Heating and Cooling
Energy Star homes only use high-efficiency HVAC systems. These high-quality systems are engineered to offer a quieter operation, improved indoor air quality, and better moisture control. Energy Star-certified equipment delivers a premium performance while using less energy. The ventilation system benefits you and your family’s health by continuously exchanging indoor and outdoor air and decreasing the home’s air pollutants.
4) Lighting and Appliances
One of the easiest ways to improve your new home’s energy efficiency is to use Energy Star-certified ceiling fans, appliances, lighting, etc. These products account for 11% of a home’s energy use. Certified appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers can reduce utility costs without sacrificing durability, performance, or quality. Plus, light bulbs and fixtures have longer life spans and come in various shapes and sizes to let you create the perfect atmosphere.
More Ways to Guarantee Energy-Efficiency
From the foundation and the insulation to the windows and the roofing materials, ask your builder to use the highest-quality, eco-friendly, and energy-efficient products and materials. Here are more ways to guarantee your home will be built exactly how you want:
- The Foundation
Ask your builder to insulate the foundation and apply a waterproofing membrane. Adequate drainage around the entire perimeter keeps moisture away from the house, eliminating potential health risks with mold and water damage. If the lower level will be finished, the walls of each room should be insulated as well. This will keep the area more comfortable and prevents dampness.
Grading around the foundation should always slope away and be done to industry standards and code specifications. Lay mulch to deter insects and rodents; trees and shrubs should be planted far enough away from the foundation to prevent damage from roots and moisture penetration.
- Framing and Sealing
There is such a thing as energy-efficient wall framing. OVE (Optimum Value Engineering) wall-framing leaves more room for insulation versus wood framing. Structural insulated panels consist of two layers of strand board sandwiching a thick layer of insulating foam.
Watch out for air escaping through joints and crevices and focus on sealing. Keep the air in and lower your energy costs by properly sealing, weatherstripping, and caulking around the entire structure. Don’t forget to seal the light switches on the outside walls.
- The Roof
Ask your builder to use sustainable materials for the sheathing and roofing. Additionally, the right color and materials can reduce heating and cooling use by 30%. A cool roof with specially designed granules or coating applied over the top will reflect sunlight and absorb less heat. Proper insulation below the roof reduces the heat used in colder weather and the amount of air conditioning needed in the summer.
How Does Energy-Efficiency Impact a House?
There are two sides to energy-efficiency. It can increase the initial cost of a new home, but it also leads to significant savings in energy bills while you own the house. Plus, energy usage correlates to home size: the more heating and lighting you’ll need as the residence gets larger.
However, your roofing, appliances, HVAC, windows, and insulation are all part of boosting your house’s energy-efficiency. They insulate your home and keep the heating or air conditioning from seeping out. Using less energy means lower utility bills. It also means that you don’t have to sacrifice the size of your home to keep your costs down. Large, energy-efficient custom homes use less energy than inefficient homes at half the size.
If you are trying to decide between several home designs, compare energy ratings. This will give you a clue as to what your monthly utility bills will be. The lower the rating number means you’ll be paying less each month, which translates to thousands of dollars over the life of your home.
A climate-adapted, structurally sound, and energy-efficient design will reduce your exposure to household air pollutants, excessive dampness, cold, and heat, as well as lowering your family’s carbon footprint.
Cobblestone Builders Are Energy Efficient Home Builders
When Cobblestone Builders works with customers to design their dream home, they always incorporate proven technologies and the latest building techniques. This ensures that all their homes rate among the best in southeastern Wisconsin for energy-efficiency.
From the foundation to the roof, Cobblestone Builders carefully chooses components with an overall focus on savings – both in money for the customer and in energy use. All of the houses that Cobblestone Builders constructs are certified by a Wisconsin Focus on Energy consultant to ensure every new home has been built to a higher standard. They are also rated on a HERS scale to show the homeowners how energy-efficient the residence is.
As mentioned earlier, a standard, code-compliant new home without any energy-efficiency adaptions has a rating of 100. Cobblestone Builders’ homes are always rated between 47 to 55. That means their houses are 45-53% more efficient, saving their customers money year after year!
Cobblestone Builders Construction Goes Green
Before building a new home, there is a lot of planning first. Especially when you want an energy-efficient house, you’ll find many opportunities to choose “green” products. But the effort is worth it when you experience the final results. Choosing an energy-efficient home will positively impact the environment, increase the house’s value, and lower your bills.
Cobblestone Builders continues to educate their staff on the newest building techniques, technologies, and products to incorporate them into their homes. Throughout southeastern Wisconsin, Cobblestone Builders’ homes rate among the best! Here are just some of the products they choose for their houses:
- High-efficiency and Low-E windows
- Energy Star certified appliances – dishwashers, washers and dryers, refrigerators, etc.
- High-efficiency water heaters, fans, and HVAC systems
- Low flow toilets and showers
- Exterior wall energy-saving insulation
- And more!
An Energy-Efficient Certification is awarded by a Focus on Energy consultant for every home constructed by Cobblestone Builders. This building consultant ensures that every newly built home meets the highest standards for safety, comfort, and durability and scores well on the HERS scale, too.
Contact Cobblestone Builders Today!
Do you want to build an energy-efficient home? Let Cobblestone Builders help. They have a variety of floor plans to choose from, or you can create your own.
Cobblestone Builders hires skilled craftspeople, uses name brand materials and products, and always listens to their customers’ desires, wants, and needs. Contact Cobblestone Builders to build your dream home today!