Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo when purchasing a site-built home. Synonymous with energy savings, ENERGY STAR is a national mark for products from appliances to lighting and now includes new homes. ENERGY STAR builders are committed to incorporating energy-efficient features from top to bottom in your home.
Features to Discuss with Your Builder or Salesperson
Select a high-efficiency furnace, water heater and A/C unit. High-efficiency equipment buys you more heating and cooling per dollar. Be sure to discuss the size of the equipment appropriate for your home and lifestyle. Equipment can often be downsized when the home is built to energy-efficient standards.
Have your ductwork sealed and insulated. More than 80 percent of new homes have ducts that leak. When ducts are under pressure during heating and cooling, a 1-inch duct hole is equivalent to a hole in the wall that is 25 times as large, leading to significant energy losses.
Keep return ducts out of the attic. Hot Idaho and Oregon summers can turn attics into virtual ovens, with temperatures exceeding 140 degrees on the hottest days. When return ducts are routed through these attics, instead of the walls or crawlspace, the air heats up and makes it much more difficult for the air conditioning unit to keep your home cool.
Pay attention to insulation levels in the underfloor, attic and walls. R-values are used to rate insulation (higher numbers provide more insulation). Code requires R30 in the floor of site-built homes, but R38 is recommended by ENERGY STAR. Code requires R38 in the attic, sufficient for a home, but going to R44 is cheap relative to the potential savings on your cooling bill. For wall insulation, ENERGY STAR homes include R19 or better. In addition to the R-value, make sure the insulation is properly installed. Gaps or compression can reduce its effectiveness.
Select ENERGY STAR windows, now available at moderate prices. Don’t settle for a window with a U-value greater than 0.30, look for low-e coatings that keep rooms cooler in summer and warmer in winter and also specify windows with a lower Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (.30 or less). Note: U-values are the inverse of R-values, so the smaller the number, the more efficient the window.
Efficiency improvements such as these necessitate improved ventilation systems. These systems will improve comfort and air quality.