Plans for the Design of an Energy Efficient House

Plans for the Design of an Energy Efficient HouseAn energy efficient home uses green design principles and sustainable building materials to reduce dependency on utility companies and provide a healthier living environment.  They also make good use of natural cooling, heating and lighting.

A good design of an energy efficient house should not be much more expensive to build than a traditional house, and it should still reduce energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.  In order to keep construction costs low, green design elements must be taken into account early in the design before the construction phase starts.  Following are four important design elements that should be in consideration before building.

House Orientation and Geographical Location

Heating and cooling loads on a house will vary depending on geographical location.  When designing a home, your home must be oriented to receive as much sunlight as possible while minimizing solar heat.   Design the house so that most of the windows face north and none of the windows face west.  Consider doing this by first arranging the long axis of the house to face east-west.  The western afternoon sun produces a lot of heat for your home during the summer.

Place large windows on the north side of the house to let the sun heat in your house during the winter to warm it up.   This will also provide a house with natural light without greatly increasing the cooling load.  Take in the account the proximity of adjacent buildings and trees to prevent overshadowing the northern windows.

Insulating Your House

Insulation is important because it will keep your house warm in the winter, prevent heat from entering in the summer, reduce the heating and cooling load for your appliances, reduce your utility costs, and indirectly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

Insulation performance is dictated by its resistance value (R-value).  The R-value to get for insulation panels will depend on the weather conditions of where a house is situated.   If the house is in a cold climate zone, for example New York, you should get R-19 insulation for your roof and R-13 insulation for your walls.  If it’s in a climate zone without cold winters then you should only get roof insulation since wall insulation will not make that much of a difference at reducing solar heat.

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Using high performance windows is the most important measure for making sure a house is energy efficient.  Windows account for the largest heat gain or heat loss in a house so choosing the right window size and glass materials can significantly improve your home’s performance.  Use insulated windows that block solar heat but also allow natural sunlight to enter your home.

Provide Shading with Overhangs

Proper shading by placing overhangs over windows will keep a house cool in the summer and thus reduce the costs of operation for the air conditioners.  Place overhangs over windows facing south and west.  If the house is located in a cold climate zone, be careful about placing overhangs over east facing windows.  During the winter, the morning solar heat that enters from the east will provide warmth that will reduce the need for running heating appliances.  You can also use curtains and blinds inside a home to control the amount of solar heat that enters a house.

Follow the design strategies mentioned above and you will be well on your way at designing a home that uses very little energy to provide thermal comfort for all occupants.

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