Our Favorite Features

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more energy is consumed in the building sector than in transportation or industry. Why is that important you ask? Because in most cases, the life of a structure will far exceed the life of a vehicle. Decisions made regarding insulation and energy efficient products for a home constructed today will have a direct impact on the energy consumption of that structure for the next 50 to 100 years. With the energy crisis now facing our nation, there are many energy efficient options that should be considered when building or remodeling. These new technologies will pay for themselves over the years in utility savings. Here are just a few of our favorites.

“CONDITIONED ATTICS”, also called “sealed attics” or “unvented attics”, are created when the insulation is moved from the floor of the attic to the underside of the roof decking, usually in the form of spray foam insulation. This brings the attic space into the “thermal envelope” of the home and can have a dramatic effect on the tonnage of a/c equipment required to cool the home. Since the HVAC equipment will no longer be trying to cool the home to 76 degrees while sitting in a 150 degree attic, the reduction in tonnage can be significant, perhaps as much as 40%. However, this type of construction is for NEW HOMES only. Existing homes may need to make modifications to existing gas furnaces and/or gas hot water heaters located in the attic. Seek the guidance of a building professional before attempting to make this type of modification to an existing home.

SPRAY FOAM INSULATION is more energy efficient than traditional fiberglass or cellulose insulation. The insulation is sprayed into the wall cavity and around plumbing and electrical connections. In only seconds it expands to fill the small cracks that would otherwise be difficult to insulate. An additional benefit of spray foam inslation is its ability to sound proof. You know how well your styrofoam ice chest works? Imagine the insulation on your house working that well.

RETROFIT FOAM INSULATION is now available for existing homes. Companies such as Homesulate are able to inject foam insulation thru the outside wall with only minor touch ups to the mortar. The Department of Energy says that only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well insulated. If the energy bills on your existing home are high or your home is drafty, you might check out Homesulate of North Texas’ website at www.FoamMyWalls.com for more information on this innovative process.

LOW-E VINYL WINDOWS are much more efficient than standard metal windows. Have you ever touched a metal window frame in the winter? Metal is a good conductor so the outdoor temperature can be conducted to the interior of the home by way of metal windows. Vinyl and wood do not conduct temperature in the same fashion as metal, so windows made from these materials are more efficient. Additionally, new advances in glass and shielding technologies have made today’s low-e glass far superior to plain insulated glass. This is an area where you need to pay particular attention. Many builders will use inexpensive windows because it is difficult for the average consumer to discern the difference. Take a look at the photo to the right. These numbers will reveal the efficiency rating of the window. The lower the “U-Factor” and “Solar Heat Gain Coefficient”, the more efficient the window.

TANKLESS HOT WATER HEATERS provide hot water on demand. Here is how they work: When hot water is turned on in the house, the electronic ignition lights the burner to heat the water. Water is heated as it passes thru the system on its way to the fixture. When the hot water is turned off, the tankless hot water heater also turns off. Unlike traditional hot water heaters, the “tankless” system will supply an unlimited amount of hot water. Imagine never running out of hot water again! Plus, the only time they consume energy is when the hot water is flowing. Compare that to the traditional hot water heater that runs 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year.

RADIANT BARRIER ROOF DECKING features a thin, durable sheet of aluminum overlay laminated to the underside of the roof decking. What does that mean to you? It means in the middle of the summer, your attic can be as much as 30 degrees cooler than a similar house without it. (Radiant barrier roof decking should not be used when spray foam insulation is applied to the underside of the roof decking. This material would not be used in a “conditioned” attic as discussed above.)

HOUSE WRAPS are weatherization membranes that provide a protective layer under a home’s exterior. They resist air infiltration and water intrusion, yet are engineered to readily allow the moisture vapor to difuse through the sheet, helping prevent mold and mildew build-up and wood rot. Siding, whether it is brick, stone, stucco, composite, vinyl or wood, will not completely prevent air and water penetration. House wraps are a secondary defense against water intrusion.

DIRECT VENT FIREPLACES look very similar to traditional fireplaces except the fire box is sealed off from the interior of the home. (The average person would probably not notice a difference.) With a direct vent fireplace, air from inside the home cannot escape up the chimney. Instead, the fireplace draws and exhausts air from outside the home thru a double-walled duct system. This is particularly important since we build homes so much tighter than we did a few years ago.

COCOON INSULATION also known as “cellulose insulation”, is an insulating wall spray made from 100% recycled fibers. Unlike fiberglass batts, it will not sag, settle or shrink and will fill cavities and gaps around wiring, plumbing and ducts. It also provides a higher level of noise reduction than traditional fiberglass insulation.

DUAL-FLUSH TOILETS provide two flush levels… a light flush for liquid waste or a heavier flush for solid waste. They have two buttons on the lid which allows the user to select the amount of water to be used to empty the bowl. These toilets help preserve our water resources so we have included them as an energy efficient feature.

RECLAIMED WOOD FLOORS are highly sought after by many decorators today. As old structures are torn down, some floor suppliers harvest the old lumber and remill it into new wood flooring. These floors could be 50, 75 or even 100 years old! The nail holes and knots give the floor a warmth and character not easily duplicated with new floors. An additional benefit is that society is able to use the wood from demolished buildings instead of sending it to a landfill. Reclaiming this wood helps preserve our trees. In the photo to the right you will see a reclaimed wood floor soon after it was installed. It can then be stained in a wide variety of colors to suit the taste of the client.

ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES use less energy than other choices. When shopping for your kitchen appliances or lighting, but sure to look for EnergyGuide’s familar yellow sticker. It will show you how efficient that particular model is compared to others on the market. For an example, look at the black bar in the photo to the right. This gas furnace from one of our homes is rated at 96%. Now look for the arrow on the black bar and see how it compares to the most efficient model at 96.6% and the least efficient at 78%. The model with the higher efficiency may cost more up front, but can save more over the life of the appliance when utility savings are taken into account.

CLASS 4 ROOF SHINGLES are stronger and are designed to withstand high impact hail as well as high wind velocities. Some insurance companies pass along a discount of up to 25% on homeowners insurance for homes with Class 4 shingles. This isn’t exactly an energy savings but the discount is worth mentioning.