Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Questions to Think about When New Home Shopping

 

With the Fall Parade of Homes underway, I thought it might be worth some time to address some things you might not consider when shopping — or even just window-shopping — for a new home.home_shopping

What’s behind the sheetrock? 

I know it’s thoroughly predictable that an insulation contractor would start with wondering ‘what’s in the walls’ but this is more of a ‘how is the wall designed’ thing. Does the builder use 2×6 walls, for thicker walls that can hold more insulation (more common further north)? Did they stick with traditional 2×4 walls? Is there continuous insulation on the outside of the wall, which eliminates thermal bridging? What kind of insulation is there, or more importantly, what’s the R-value they’re putting in?

House orientation & Drainage plan

It’s no secret that most new home subdivisions don’t have large trees. A lack of trees is perfect for those of us that hate cleaning the gutters or raking the lawn, but the trade-off is a lack of natural shade from the sun. While we naturally think of east and west exposures as being important, don’t forget to account for the south side either. The sun may not be as intense when it’s further to the south, but those exposures do get it all day long. The north side should be Low-E windows, period.

How does or will rainwater flow off and away from the house? Most new home areas have a master drainage plan for the development, and there’s probably an easily discernable slope to each lot. However, it’s important to consider how your new home will fit in, as far as how the water will flow in and around your new home, plus how any adjacent homes are set up to deal with heavy rains.

Acoustics in the home

Have a kid who plays the drums? Will you be near a busy street? How about trying to sleep when you’re visiting relatives are arguing in the next room? Whatever the case, be sure to consider how the sound will travel in your home. You can account for it through design and materials if it’s an issue for you.

Fresh air machine?

This is very much NOT the technical term, but we’re using it anyway. The actual term is ERV or HRV, and in either case, they’re devices that make sure a home has enough fresh air when a home is built very tightly. In ‘ye olden days,’ houses leaked enough air to make sure occupants weren’t breathing stale or possibly harmful old air. As we’ve tightened up homes in the name of energy efficiency, sound control, and better building practices, we’ve sacrificed the primary source of incoming fresh air. Adding a ‘Fresh Air Machine’ solves this problem and should be installed if you’re significantly upgrading your home. In other words, don’t tighten the home shell without a plan!

Why not check the (HERS) score?

I know a few houses in this area have been getting a HERS score but, hey, why not ask about it anyway? https://www.resnet.us/hers-index gives you the scoop on what it is and why it exists.

Home Automation Experiments

 

Since finishing our new office up in Kechi and a highly educational jaunt to the International Builder’s Show back in January, we’ve started experimenting with some of the Home Automation devices (the skeptical might call them ‘toys’) that are available. The two devices we’re playing wi-, I mean, professionally using at the moment are a Foobot and a Nest. I thought our blog would be a great place to share some of our thoughts on them and what they have to do with an ‘insulation’ company.

Foobot  

Foobot is an air quality monitor. We’ve had one at the office since the end of last year and I’ve had one in my personal place since January. What it does is tell you (on the app, not on the device) the current temperature and humidity near it, as well as break down the air into 3 main components – particulate matter, volatile compounds (generally known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs) and carbon dioxide. Based on how much of those 3 components it detects, the lights on the device will range from bright blue, meaning great air quality, to bright orange, meaning lousy air quality. I’ll go into specifics about what we’ve found out later but it’s very interesting to notice some trends, all of which you can access on the app.

Source: Pinterest

Nest

Nest probably needs no introduction but, for those that don’t know, it is an internet-enabled thermostat. Unlike the Foobot, it requires a little work to install, as it replaces your existing thermostat. It can be a relatively easy swap, but that depends on how your system is set-up. Once installed, it works seamlessly with your heating and cooling equipment. Not only can you program it to run how and when you’d like, it also learns how you keep temperatures when you tend to be at home or away, can give you the forecast for the next few hours when you walk by AND makes you dinner. Ok, that last one isn’t true, but the rest is and is just a sampling of what it does.

The most used feature, in our experience, is the free app. With the app, alongside basic monitoring abilities, you can change the thermostat from anywhere. Cold and don’t feel like moving? Turn up the heat from your chair. Going to be home and want to crank up the heat early? Done. It’s one of those features you may think you’ll never use and then can’t live without.

Source: The New Economy

What’s insulation have to do with it?

Nothing and everything, of course! True, it’s not like you wire the devices into insulation or window film but everything we do is tied to how a building operates, for better or worse. Some insulations off-gas, which impacts air quality. Air sealing is a key component of what we do too. Window films reduce unwanted heat, so the thermostat needs less adjustment. In other words, since it’s all tied together, we’re trying out equipment that checks HOW everything is actually doing. The more we know, the better we can do our jobs, plus we can share our knowledge with our customers as well. Plus, as the cartoons of my youth told me, ‘knowing is half the battle’!

Selling with Energy Efficient Mortgages

There are many ways of approaching Energy Efficient Mortgages (or EEMs) but simply being aware of them can be worth the extra attention – and qualify more buyers. Potential buyers can qualify for larger houses through energy efficient building. An FHA-approved lender can expand the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio by 2% because financial institutions that offer EEMs know that less money will be spent on energy costs, so more money can be spent on the house itself. With natural gas prices continuing to rise, this could be a very important selling point. Plus, more first-time buyers can qualify using EEMs. In fact, the EPA estimates that an average of 6.8% more families would be able to get a loan when using more efficient guidelines. As interest rates look to be inching upwards, having a pool of qualified customers can offset higher rates. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not to mention HUD and the VA all offer different programs regarding energy efficiency. In fact, one of the mortgages even offers 100% financing on the value of the home. Using EEMs is not necessarily a more complicated step. As Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines pointed out in a recent interview, “Qualification is much quicker and easier. Lenders can use their automated loan underwriting systems to get an immediate decision.” While we are not in the business of making loans, we do have information and services that can help in the design or build stage. A more efficient home is not necessarily a more expensive one. Let us know what you need and we can point the way. The Comfort Corner Information for this article was found at theAlliance to Save Energy website and at the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.