If you haven’t been paying attention to building code changes (and we wouldn’t blame you), but did you know that requirements for home insulation have increased significantly over the last few decades? This isn’t because companies and contractors are trying to upsell or even over-sell you out of your hard-earned money – quite the contrary! A well-done insulation job using high-performance insulation keeps your house energy-efficient while leaving more cash in your pockets!
The link between energy-efficiency and home-construction has been edging closer and closer as engineers and architects uncover new techniques in home building, especially “green” home building. Inefficiency in homes and buildings is a major contributor to energy loss or waste, adding to the carbon burden on our modern societies. The Canadian (federal) and local building codes are now finally recognizing what seals a building properly, what is referred to as a “building envelope”.
Today, contractors are taking a “whole-house approach” when designing and constructing new homes. It is no longer enough to treat windows and insulation as separate energy-saving solutions. Air sealing, proper ventilation and insulation, as well as high-efficiency mechanical systems all play a major role in a tight building envelope and ultimately, an efficient building. Each variable of a home from foundation to air circulation can make or break your energy bills.
So, if you are planning on building a new home, here are the topics you should discuss with your contractor to ensure that your home is designed to save on energy.
As stated before, your whole home plays into energy-efficiency. But what does it mean to have a “Whole-Building System” approach?
To put it simply, whole-house energy-efficiency looks at water use, electricity, gas, room ergonomics, and insulation as one complete package. As well, whole-house strategies minimize waste and materials during development.
It is an ethical approach to new home construction! Combining state-of-the-art appliances and naturally renewable energy sources (solar water heating, solar panels, geothermal, etc.), these ultra-efficient homes are built for sustainability. And not just for your wallet!
What Questions Should You Ask Your Contractors?
If energy-efficiency is your goal when building your new home, it is important to express this to your designers and contractors from the get-go! The more chance they have to coordinate your desires, the smoother the process will be.
Insulation R-Value Requirements
Building code requirements for insulation vary depending on the application. In your attic, for example, as the most cost-effective way to improve your home’s energy and efficiency, the recommended R-value has increased from an R50 to R-60 value. To reach this value, a predetermined ‘thickness” of insulation (depending on its type) must be applied in a properly sealed and ventilated attic space to achieve the desired R-value. Insulating with cellulose insulation has long considered to provide long-term benefits, such as thermal performance, moisture prevention, reduced noise levels, and fire protection.
A majority of your energy-use will come from cooling and heating. In fact, it accounts for roughly 47% of your annual energy expenditure. We recommend researching Energy Star-rated products. They certify products from refrigerators to boilers for energy-efficiency. Owning products with the Energy Star logo will allow you to compare energy consumption across brands and appliances.
When any of our friends bring up insulation, our minds go automatically to attics and walls. However, insulation is used in multiple places to varying degrees. One of the areas that can save you lots is copper piping for plumbing.
Look to insulate crawl spaces, attics, and any other place (including outside) where pipes might be exposed to extreme colds or heats. This will help lower your water heating expenses as the insulative sleeves minimize heat loss. As well, insulating your cold water lines can reduce pipe “sweating” from condensation.
Windows and Doors
On a brand new construction product, you won’t have to worry about the quality of seal on doors and windows (assuming they’re installed properly), but there are products for energy conservation.
Smart products now exist on the market that can automate room lights whenever a door or window is opened in a room. As well, plenty of companies are developing windows that tint automatically, can be closed with a smartphone, and a whole bunch more. Many of these smart technologies tote solar heat gain prevention, possibly saving tons for those who live in warmer climates.
Renewable Energies for Your Home
Now that you have minimized your energy consumption through proactive and preventative measures, you can discuss the integration of renewable energies into your property.
Plenty of homeowners across North America have been installing residential solar panels to reduce energy costs. With plenty of modular setups, little maintenance, and zero usage expenses, your investment will be paying for itself in no time.
Another home trend that has been quietly gaining momentum would be geothermal HVAC systems. Payback periods can be as low as 5 years, dependent on the system that it will replace.
When it comes to energy-saving initiatives, there are plenty of rebates to take advantage of, such as the GST/HST new housing rebate, solar power incentives, and plenty more! Take a moment to talk to your contractor about which rebates you would be eligible to apply.
Hopefully, this has sparked energy-conscious idea you can implement in your new home construction. As a final reminder, having your entire construction team on board will make the whole-house approach a lot easier. Processes, such as insulating pipes and geothermal systems, are simpler and less intrusive to install when your home is in the early stages. Tropical insulation has been involved in the insulation of new construction home for over 40 years and can provide you or your team with valuable information and competitive pricing on any residential custom home project.
Good luck creating your energy-efficient household!