What Does “Green” Really Mean?
A closer look at the energy efficiency and sustainability practices in new construction.
One of the great benefits of building new is energy efficiency. Although the laws vary per state, the U.S. Department of Energy has set standards for local entities to monitor energy use in residential construction, and other industries. These regulations are in place improve and preserve environmental conditions, develop the economy of the energy sector, and improve quality of life for citizens. For example, a term you may have heard is “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified”, which means a building is recognized as one which meets the criteria of a sustainable space that is highly efficient and promoted cost-savings.
Another framework for assessing efficiency is the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index. Often required by law, the HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance. This index measures the efficiency of homes compared to a standard new construction, with a score of 70 (average for new construction) being more efficient than a new home, and a score of 130 (average for resale) being less efficient.
These factors and assessments weren’t necessarily taken into consideration during the construction of older homes, as initiatives for “green building” have only really taken off in recent years. But today, all builders should take energy efficiency initiatives into account, because newer, more energy efficient homes are good for our planet, our wallets, and for our people! But what really goes into building a “green” home, and what is it doing for you? Energy efficient building is a helpful solution to a lot of common problems that come with older, less-efficient homes. Keep reading to find out how!
This is probably the “no-brainer” of the list, but almost all modern household appliances, kitchen, laundry, heating and cooling, etc. are certified by some sort of energy efficiency monitoring entity. New energy efficient appliances use up to 50% less water, electricity and other energy sources. Not only will this reduce the amount you’d spend when compared to powering a 10+ year-old appliance, but you’d also cut your waste of natural resources in half!
There is no sense in letting all the money you spent on controlling the temperature of your home go right “out the window”. Window technology just keeps on improving! Double and even triple-paned windows save hundreds of dollars in energy costs per household per year. To keep it simple, the point of energy efficient windows is to keep the heat inside when it’s cold, and outside when it’s hot. This is achieved by replacing the outdated drafty windows with new and improved sealing techniques and glass treatments that can block up to 90% of UV rays. Imagine the savings in heating and cooling your home if every window let in only the desired amount of heat energy!
In an energy efficient home, tightly sealed ductwork is a staple. Properly sealed ducts improve the distribution of airflow throughout the house and prevent hot/cold spots from popping up in different rooms. Ensuring your ducts are sealed will also improve the performance of heating and cooling equipment. The more conditioned air that escapes your ducts, the more your HVAC equipment struggles to keep up that comfortable temperature we all want in our rooms. Without all that air leaking, there will be much less wear-and-tear on your system. This will save you tons of money in the long run on heating/cooling bills!
Without proper mechanisms for air to escape, gas-fired appliances can cause a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide in a living space. This creates an uninhabitable environment that poses a variety of health risks and can even lead to death. Energy efficient homes ensure that there is fresh air ventilation for all appliances, such as HVAC equipment, washers and dryers, water heaters, stoves and more.
Keeping some forms of air and energy in a home is just as important as letting all the bad stuff out. Lack of proper insulation allows conditioned air to leak out through the gaps in insulation at an incredible volumes. The leaks lessen the efficiency of HVAC systems just like poor ductwork, but also put homes at risk for a poor exchange of air. This often leads to excess humidity and in turn the buildup of mildew that can cause structural damage. Other issues that come along with improper insulation are roof leaks and frozen pipes that come with the melting and freezing of water in the winter. To avoid all of these problems, energy efficient homes use state-of-the-art insulation that is tightly sealed and responds properly to moisture and temperature conditions.
To learn more about Energy Efficiency standards and other related topics, visit the Department of Energy’s page on Residential Construction !