Posts Tagged ‘custom builders’
It has long been known that without making your home air tight, there is no way for your insulation to perform at it true r value. For example if your walls are built with 2 X 6 studs and insulated with R-21 insulation batts, without the house being airtight, the insulation performs at a reduced R value, something around a R-17. This is caused by gaps between the studs and the insulation which allow air to leak by. The problem in the past with making a home air tight was that the process would also trap moisture in the walls, which would lead to dry rot. Back in the 80′s and early 90′s air tightness was tried by installing 6 mil. plastic on the studs and drywalling over it. With plywood or OSB on the exterior of the wall, this left no place for the water to escape. I remember walking into houses before the drywall was installed and watching the water run down the sheets of plastic. This method of air sealing was quickly dropped and no real alternative was offered. Some minor air sealing of the bottom wall plate to the floor with caulk and foaming around doors and windows is about as far as we’ve gotten with the codes.
Just this year Washington state has adopted a stricter insulation code. It is basically the old Energy Star standards. One part of the code is the requirement that all new home have a blower door test prior to final inspection. Blower door test measures the amount of air leaks a home has. New homes are required to have a blower door score of 7.5 or lower. What this means is that if the air pressure difference between the outdoors and the inside of your house is 50 pascals (50 pound per square inch) then the air in your house will completely exchange itself seven and one half times in an hour. This is still a drafty house but its a start.
By making homes airtight we obviously can cut down the cost of heating these homes. Done correctly we also can build the walls in a manor that will allow moisture to escape. This is the best way to build. In future articles I will talk more about the methods behind this type of construction
With so many options, ratings and technologies out there, picking a window can be very confusing. Add to that, you will have your own criteria for look, comfort, energy savings and of course price. However, there are many resources out there that can make this quite easy for you. We’ll list them here:
• Energy efficient windows of any type are going to be more expensive than regular windows. This is something you will need to be prepared for. However, this one-time expense really pays off, and even your remodelling contractor will agree. Energy efficient windows can lead to money savings of 7-24% (acc. To the EPA) and in some climates, upto 40% annually. It is proven that in 2-3 years, energy efficient windows pay off for themselves.
• The kind of windows you will need depends largely on the climate in your region. Your climate impacts your heating and cooling requirements, your house design and your energy bills. In order that your windows provide you with an optimal solution, they need to keep comfortable as high as possible while keeping cost as low. Thankfully, you don’t have to do the math. This neat window selection tool on the efficient window collaborative website gives you how much you can save on different window types depending on where you live. Try it out here: http://www.efficientwindows.org/selection.cfm.
• As obvious, go for windows with the Energy Star rating or the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) logo. Starting 2010, EPA has come up with improved energy star ratings for windows, which can get you tax credit of over $1,500. Make sure you check for a red label marked ‘Qualified until March 31, 2010’ which means the window was made according to the old rating system. The NFRC ratings will give you the values for the five criteria mentioned in our first post in this series and are also very reliable.
When trying to conserve energy and your wallet, one of the important factors many people overlook is weather. There is a certain ‘optimal’ HVAC system for every kind of weather, and by designing with that in mind helps to makes sure that your budget remains optimal too. Not every house needs air conditioning or furnace heaters. For instance, if you usually have moderate weather throughout the year, like we have in the Pacific Northwest, you could actually replace conventional heaters and A/Cs with heat pumps. And we generally advice our clients to go in for geothermal heat pumps. (GHP)
A heat pump works by moving heat from a warm area to a cool area. It operates on electricity and generally moves heat from the warm air outside to your cold interiors or warm air indoors to cool exteriors. Heat pumps that exchange heat in this manner are called air-source heat pumps. Overall pumps have high efficiency, in fact the highest, since they use very little energy and don’t really create heat, only move it. A geothermal pump works in a similar fashion, only, it exchanges heat with the earth, instead of air. Geothermal heat pumps move the earth’s heat through ducts into a cool house, and vice versa. Because the lower layer of the earth remains more or less at the same temperature, and is warm, GHP work in almost every kind of weather and are favored largely in extreme temperatures.
Geo Thermal Heat pumps are generally more expensive than conventional heating systems. However, the success of an installation depends on the weather, soil quality and certain other factors. Yet, over the long term, the operating costs of heat pump, especially geothermal heat pumps cost very little to operate and provide up to 300% efficiency.
1. It’s easier to install and the units are smaller than conventional duct systems. Mini splits come in different capacities depending on the area you want to use it for. However, they all require nothing more than drilling a hole a few inches in diameter through your wall. This considerably brings down you labor costs and time taken for installation.
2. It has more aesthetic appeal. The indoor fixture are usually built with very sleek design and finishing, (depending on the cost) and are come in various mounting options. For instance you will find indoor fixtures that can be installed on the ceiling, corners or walls.
3. Space friendly. The indoor and outdoor parts can have as many as 50ft between them. Thus, you could install the outer condenser somewhere inconspicuous, like the back of the house, when it won’t be an eye-sore.
4. Duct HVAC systems usually cause a certain amount of heat loss through the ducts, particularly if they haven’t been insulated well (That’s another thing – there is no insulation required with mini splits) With mini splits there’s no such issue – there’s minimal loss of heat or energy through the conduit wires.
5. The cost is comparable to a standard heat pump system. Unlike heat pumps, Mini splits only lose about 40% of their efficiency when the temp drops to zero degrees. However by over sizing the unit by 40 %,( this adds a little to the upfront cost) you will have 100% efficiency at zero degrees. Given the last cold spell we had in December, this could be money well spent.
There are also quite a few other things you should keep in mind when buying an installing LED lighting. Having the services of an experienced electrician at your disposal is very important, as is the knowledge of an interior designer who’s worked with LED lighting. Bear in mind the following points:
1. White LED lighting tends to emit a specific kind of white light, which is different from other kinds of white light. This causes certain colors to be seen differently. Thus, you might find that your interiors don’t look the way they were supposed upon installing LED lighting. It is thus important to get a ‘test’ done, or seek professional opinion to see if your interiors will go with white LED lighting. (However, newer LEDs seem to have conquered this drawback)
2. Many people will opt for LEDs specifically because of their aesthetic appeal. However knowing where to use which LED lighting is another important factor determining the aesthetics of the entire setup. An array of LED lightings could be used to illuminate an entire room, while miniature LEDs are great for lighting up stairways, corridors and external paths to the house. Many will also use miniature LEDs for lighting up kitchen closets from the inside. Using the wrong LEDs in the wrong place could lead to an interior disaster.
3. LEDs are the most expensive option – only in the beginning. Their initial high price is off-set by their efficiency (and thus the lower bills) and their lifetime. However, using them correctly is important to ensure this happens. Another aspect we suggest to all our customers who look at green building – When it comes to making eco-friendly decisions, we need to look at life time costs, rather than one-time costs. In this regard, LED seems to win the race.