Building an Energy Efficient Home

Energy-efficient homes have become more of a focus of today’s consumer. These homes leave a homeowner with a feeling that they are doing something good for the environment while cutting expenses from their utility bills. When considering energy-efficient home building, builders follow many different design concepts. Some builders address various issues homeowners want to address, such as passive cooling in Oklahoma or efficient heating in Minnesota. Our experienced experts at Land Rush Homes take the most complex concerns and build a home you feel proud to call your own.

Here’s how we build energy-efficient Land Rush Homes.

Homes require more energy consumption in cold climates over warmer climates such as Oklahoma. In states such as Minnesota which is a heating-dominated climate, homes use more energy than those in warmer climates that use more air-conditioning. There are two main reasons.

A warmer climate like the one in the Oklahoma City area has fewer degrees of difference between indoor and outdoor conditions for much of the year. Attempting to cool a building from 96 degrees to 76 degrees requires only 20 degrees of change. Warming a home in a northern climate like Minnesota from 30 degrees to 75 degrees means increasing the temperature by 45 degrees. These calculations are determined by using metrics called heating degree days (HDDs) and cooling degree days (CDDs). These calcs further reflect the amount of energy required to make homes comfortable by comparing the outdoor temperatures to the indoor temperatures. 

Another reason is that cooling is done with a refrigeration cycle. Air-conditioners have compressors that operate efficiently while heating is mostly done with some sort of combustion that is not as efficient. Heat pumps also use refrigeration and are basically air conditioners that run backwards. They must work harder to warm air in colder climates than to cool air in warmer climates.

Now that we understand that it takes less energy to provide comfort in cooling-dominated areas, such as Oklahoma City, it is easier to build a zero-energy home. Large amounts of thick insulation are used in zero energy homes for colder climates. The idea is to reduce large space heating demand. A state like Minnesota might have 54% of household energy devoted to space heating and 2% to air conditioning comfort. In Oklahoma, 10% goes to heating and 30% to cooling. 

Considerations for Oklahoma Climates

The following are issues that would be treated differently when building a new home in Oklahoma:

  • Energy Modeling

Ask your builder to create a thorough energy plan using a HERS rater or energy software. The plan for your new home should be specific to the climate zone your home will be built in. 

  • Home Orientation

If possible, orient your home with the longest stretch going east and west. Consider how many windows you have on the west side and attempt to avoid large amounts of glass on this side. Position your living areas on a cooler side like east and north. You might also try to place patios and decks on the north side which is much cooler. 

  • Thermal Mass

When the exterior of the home is constructed from brick, stone, or stucco it will absorb large amounts of heat during the day and release that energy at night when temperatures are cooler.  This is called the “thermal mass effect”. These materials help even out daily temperature swings such as those experienced during a hot Oklahoma summer. Latent heat is absorbed by high-mass materials during the hot daytime. Opening the home at night can assist with venting the heat outside. Mechanical fresh air intakes also assist with this process. 

  • Insulation Choice

The best insulation products and values are best determined with an energy model using an energy rating software. In warmer climates insulation in walls and floors can be reduced. A foundation should not have insulation below the slab. Leaving it out reduces the home’s cooling load. Hard surface flooring products such as ceramic tile flooring can assist with cooling. Ceilings should be insulated to a minimum insulation value of R-30. Spray foam attic rafters and creation of a full foam encapsulated home is an expensive but worthwhile step toward the zero-energy home. 

  • Home Shading

If your building site is wide open with no trees as many are on the Oklahoma prairie, select fast growing shading plants and trees. These are particularly helpful on the west and south sides of the home. 

  • Window Shading

Attempts should be made to shade windows when possible. Thinking of providing natural shading during the design process can have positive impacts on energy consumption. Placement of patio and porches on the east and north can also assist with this concept.

  • Window Orientation

Glass exposure has been proven to impact energy consumption. Therefore, placing most of the windows facing north or south is a good design technique. Windows that are exposed to the east and west are more exposed to lower angles of the sun and create overheating as opposed to windows on the south and north.

  • Window Efficiency

Investing in energy efficient windows is something that will pay off over time. Achieving a goal of solar heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) below 0.25, or as low as 0.20 will make a comfort level in the home that a family will love.

  • Air Sealing

Sealing the home’s thermal envelope is important in warmer climates. In Oklahoma climates air leaks increase the home’s cooling load. They also allow humidity to enter the conditioned space which make air conditioners work harder. Airborne water vapor from the outdoors can create mold and rot. These terrible things will be reduced by air sealing.

  • Inside Ducts

When possible, creating a controlled environment to house cooling and ventilation air ducts should be considered. This is not always a cost friendly way to build; however, it does come with a great payoff in lower energy consumption. The insulated attic is often done with spray foam insulation which allows the duct work to be in a controlled temperature environment. This allows your air conditioning to work less which saves the homeowner on energy costs. 

  • Moisture Control

Humidity is what makes a home feel warmer and makes air conditioning work harder and cost more. Taking the following steps can help prevent humidity in the home: install a house wrap and effective moisture barrier that includes properly installed flashing; attempt to create an air- tight seal for the home in order to keep moisture out; and install properly sized vents in the bathrooms, laundry and kitchen to expel moisture but still allow the home to cool properly. Ensure that the air conditioning system is engineered and sized properly. An oversized system will not remove water vapor and dehumidify the home. It is not uncommon to see dehumidifiers installed in homes around Oklahoma. 

  • Internal Heat Gains

Limiting the amounts of internal heat within the home can also assist with energy efficiency. Using LED lighting and energy efficient appliances are ways to minimize heat gains. Land Rush Homes would love to be your energy efficient building partner for your Oklahoma City area custom home build. Please contact us and allow one of our experts to explain in detail some of the energy efficient building techniques that we have become experienced. Providing your family with a comfortable living environment in your new home is an important value that we will provide. This value is also a way that Land Rush Homes can demonstrate that we believe Family First, ExcellenceAlways.

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