Energy Efficiency

Shandy Heil, Skinner, Patricia  |  1/22/2007 4:05:48 AM

Energy efficiency improves the quality and value of indoor climate control. It not only makes a home more comfortable but also protects homeowners from fluctuating energy costs. An energy-efficient home doesn't have to cost more to build. Higher-efficiency product upgrades and features can be covered with money saved by downsizing heating and cooling systems. And quite often, government agencies and private companies that provide energy offer financial incentives.

Energy-efficiency opportunities in home design

Energy improvements will have the most effect if they are considered in the early design phase of home building. The effects of improvements are maximized if homes are sited and oriented to take advantage of solar energy. Sound energy-efficient design elements include:

  • Orienting the house in relation to the sun
  • Placing windows so they contribute to cooling in summer and warming in winter
  • Designing porches and roof overhangs to shield or capture solar energy as needed to enhance the workings of your environmental control systems

To incorporate these elements, construction must take place on a site that allows for a high degree of freedom. Existing buildings and local covenants can restrict implementation.

Energy-efficiency opportunities in home construction

If you're restoring and remodeling an existing home, some design opportunities may be available to you. You may be able to add a porch or move a window to heighten energy efficiency. But there are many opportunities in the construction phase, when you are choosing building materials; deciding where and how to insulate the walls, roof, attic, window and doors; and selecting major appliances. Because of this, some of the related articles below will take you to the construction section of this Web site.

A word of caution: There have been recent advances in building materials and methods. These advances produce homes that have less air leakage and less need for cooling. Traditionally, we have relied on the cooling system to remove moisture from the air; so if the cooling system runs less, moisture can build up and cause indoor air problems. It is therefore critically important that separating indoor and outdoor air be coupled with adjustments to the size of the heating and cooling system. The addition of controlled ventilation and dehumidification may also be necessary.

Helpful online tools that customize energy-saving recommendations by location are available at http://www.energystar.gov/ and Building America.

You may also want to visit the Louisiana House Resource Center and its Energy Efficiency information.

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