As the housing market evolves, the demand for energy-efficient homes is rapidly increasing, driven by both environmental concerns and the potential for cost savings. Energy-efficient homes not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also offer improved comfort and lower energy bills for homeowners.
With the urgency of climate action underscored by reputable organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the shift towards energy efficiency in home building is not just a trend, but a necessity.
This article explores the green revolution in new home building, focusing on the advancements in energy-efficient technologies, materials, and practices shaping the housing market’s future.
Let’s begin with the all-important measurement of a home’s energy efficiency – the HERS Index – and highlight its relevance to the green building movement.
Understanding the HERS Index: A Key Measure of Home Energy Efficiency.
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance.
The HERS Index measures a home’s energy efficiency, and there are numerous benefits to having a home energy rating performed on your house. It can provide valuable insights about your home, like how efficiently it’s operating and where you can make modifications for greater energy savings.
When selling your home, a low HERS Index Score can command a higher resale price. And when you’re buying a home, you can anticipate the costs of energy bills and efficiency upgrades. A certified Home Energy Rater assesses a home’s energy efficiency, assigning it a relative performance score. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home.
A typical home built to 2006 energy efficiency standards scores 100 on the HERS Index. A home with a HERS Index Score of 70 is 30% more energy efficient than a standard new home, while a home with a HERS Index Score of 130 is 30% less energy efficient than a standard new home.
To calculate a home’s HERS Index Score, a certified RESNET HERS Rater does an energy rating on your home and compares the data against a ‘reference home’– a designed-model home of the same size and shape as the actual home, so your score is always relative to the size, shape, and type of house you live in.
The rating takes into account all exterior walls (both above and below grade), floors over unconditioned spaces (like garages or cellars), ceilings and roofs, attics, foundations and crawl spaces, windows and doors, vents and ductwork, HVAC systems, water heating system, and your thermostat.
Advancements in Building Materials and Techniques: Enhancing Energy Efficiency in Homes.
Modern building materials and techniques have significantly contributed to the energy efficiency of homes. The U.S. Department of Energy emphasizes the importance of a whole-house systems approach when designing and building a new home or doing an extensive remodel.
This approach considers all variables, details, and interactions that affect energy use in a home, including appliances and home electronics, insulation and air sealing, lighting and daylighting, space heating and cooling, water heating, and windows, doors, and skylights.
Improved insulation is a key factor in energy-efficient homes. Modern insulation materials and techniques can significantly reduce home heat loss, lowering heating and cooling costs. Energy-efficient windows, often double or triple-glazed, can also help to reduce heat loss.
Energy-Efficient Appliances: A Key to Sustainable Living.
The advent of energy-efficient appliances has revolutionized how we consume energy in our homes.
Energy Star-rated appliances meet strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These appliances range from air cleaners, clothes dryers, and dishwashers to refrigerators, water heaters, and even electric vehicle chargers. The Energy Star label assures consumers that the product will consume less energy and contribute to significant savings over time.
For instance, Energy Star-rated refrigerators are at least 15% more efficient than non-certified models. Similarly, Energy Star-rated clothes washers use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers.
Moreover, shifting towards energy-efficient appliances is not just about reducing energy consumption. It’s also about promoting a sustainable lifestyle and contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change.
The Future of Home Building: Zero Energy Capable Homes.
These homes leverage advanced technology and energy-efficient practices to potentially generate as much power as they consume.
Zero Energy Capable Homes target a HERS rating of 25 or below. In fact, some homes have achieved scores between 16-25, making them 75-80% more energy efficient than standard homes.
This community has embraced the Zero Energy Capable Homes concept, with homes designed to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
The community utilizes an innovative geothermal loop field, known as the GeoGrid™, to maximize efficiency.
Embracing Energy Efficiency: The Future of Home Building Amidst Climate Change
The emergence of Zero Energy Capable Homes further underscores the innovative approaches being taken to enhance energy efficiency.