by Don Otto, DPO Construction LC
“All this high-efficiency stuff must be expensive and I probably can’t afford it.” This viewpiont is a misconception some clients have when I encourage them to consider a high performance approach to building a new home. Actually, by making some intelligent choices, the home doesn’t have to cost a bit more. Consider as well that there are multiple bonuses that come along with the low utility bills: durable, low maintenance construction, great indoor air quality with draft-free fresh air, quiet rooms with lots of natural light. All come together in the same package. Here are some of those intelligent choices.
- Start with design. Build only the rooms you use. Create private alcoves within public spaces. The more useful the design, the more enjoyable it is to live in. The smaller the house, the less it costs to build and operate.
- Keep the building dry. Moisture rots wood and promotes mold, which could cause health problems.
- Make use of frost-protected shallow foundations. Insulating the footing reduces excavation and foundation costs and keeps floors warmer.
- Start with an energy recovery ventilation system and build a tight envelope around it. Reducing air leaks eliminates drafts and seals out noise. Proper ventilation is specified by the American Lung Association for their Health House ®. A tight envelope with proper ventilation does more than anything else to reduce utility bills and make a comfortable home. Besides, the savings in utility bills more than offsets the increased monthly mortgage costs of the equipment.
- Use good windows and doors. Cheap windows are not only drafty, heat radiates right out through the glass. Be sure your windows have low-e coatings that reflect radiant heat back inside the house. The coatings keep the window warmer at night and reduce daytime glare and fabric damage from ultra violet.
- Take advantage of the sun and the site. What can feel better than a warm, sunny window in the winter?
- Size the mechanical equipment properly. Oversized equipment costs more and operates less efficiently because it starts and stops more frequently.