Environmentalism has become so much more than a pastime topic in recent years – it has become a global movement and a priority for millions of homeowners trying to aid the preservation of the natural world. But building and designing an energy-efficient home goes even beyond conservation and preservation, and allows you to make great financial savings over the long term, all the while boosting your home’s value should you ever decide to put it on the market.
Now, there are many ways you can design a modern home that conserves energy and keeps the utility bills looking normal no matter the season, and it all begins in the planning stages when you’re choosing your plot of land and talking to various innovative contractors. Here are the essential steps you need to take in order to build yourself a home that’s good to the environment, and your wallet.
Start with proper room orientation
Want to stay cool during the summer without relying on your AC, all the while maximizing direct sun exposure during the winter months? Start with positioning and orientation. No matter if you live in the southern or the northern hemisphere, say Australia or New York, you’ll want to position your rooms to face the north or the south, in order to catch the light at exactly the right time throughout the seasons. Even though seasonal change will impact the sun’s position in the sky, the general rule applies to both hemispheres – make sure your architect is acquainted with the exact positioning of the sun in your specific region.
This is also known as passive solar design, and you can choose to face each room according to the amount of sunlight (and thus, heat) you want it to receive throughout the day. Choose to face the living spaces such as the living room or your office towards the east to enjoy plenty of light in the morning, but stay cool in the afternoon.
You can choose to face the kitchen and the bathroom to the north, in order to catch natural daylight sans the heat and create that positive look and feel. Face your utility rooms towards the south for a touch of sun exposure, and let the bedroom enjoy that beautiful sunset facing the west. Of course, you can choose to position your room however you like, but be sure to consult with your architect on passive solar design.
Building with insulation in mind
The next step is to insulate the “home envelope” from top to bottom. This step requires you to research and inquire about thermal mass materials with your architects and contractors, in order to decide on the most cost-effective thermal masses for each and every room in your home. Typically, thought, the most cost-effective and durable material is concrete. Architects, engineers, and contractors love concrete for its durability and reliability, as well as its inherent ability to regulate the temperature in your home.
During the summer, the concrete will store the cold air from your AC (and during the night) in its thermal mass and allow you to turn the air conditioning off, as it will do the cooling instead. On the other end of the spectrum, you have materials such as steel, carpeting, and wood, which have a low thermal mass, so try to avoid them. Complement the design with double-glazed windows to prevent leaks and help keep the temperature in the interior stable.
Install energy-efficient heating
Now that you have your home positioned and insulated properly, it’s time to introduce energy-efficient heating in order to bring the energy bills down. Keep in mind that the heating system can be responsible for up to 48% of your home’s energy consumption, which makes heating and cooling a property in expensive residential areas is quite unrealistic for an average family.
The solution many homeowners are turning to is modern hydronic heating and other costly regions in order to a) heat their homes effectively, and b) bring the cost of heating the interior down over the long term. Building an efficient heating system into the floors is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent heat loss, and feed the thermal mass with heat in order to boost passive heating during the coldest of the winter months.
Smart, eco-friendly appliances and solutions
Aside from innovative heating solutions, you’ll want to equip your home with smart technology and tech-driven appliances in order to control energy usage throughout your home, and minimize individual appliance expenditure as much as possible. Be sure to check for the Energy Star rating on the label before you buy, and check if the appliance can be integrated into your home’s smart control system.
Install programmable thermostats, motion sensor lighting, and be sure to hook your entire appliance network to your smartphone or your smart home hub in order to control their performance no matter where you are. And don’t worry, smart features such as these can easily be integrated in every design scheme no matter if you’re going for an eclectic vibe or a rustic look.
As an aspiring homeowner who is well aware of the costly nature of owning your own home, you can appreciate the need to build a house that will allow you to minimize your financial expenditure over the long term. Use these tips while designing your dream home and you will have brought financial savings, energy efficiency, and environmentalism together under one roof.
About the author: Mike Johnston is an avid freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. He’s a regular contributor to numerous blogs and online magazines. Mike’s specialty are topics related to architecture, interior design, real estate and environmental sustainability.
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