Contributed by Robert Haroun, CEO of SIR Development
“How energy efficient is my new house and what will be the cost savings?” is one of the most common questions asked by new home buyers when considering a new construction home.
There are three key things you need to understand about the energy efficiency and cost savings. Many of these will only be available in a new construction home as building technology has changed dramatically in the last 5 – 10 years. Reduction in energy usage has become so important as heating costs continue to rise. The three main categories are: (1) keeping hot/cold air from leaking into the house and from escaping out; (2) generating heat/cold in the most efficient manner; and (3) using electricity for appliances in the least wasteful way. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you understand the energy consumption, the operating cost and, probably, the comfort of your house.
A house today should provide a relatively air-tight and water-tight barrier from the outside. At SIR Development we typically use spray foam in the walls to achieve an R-21 thermal barrier, R-38 fiberglass batts in the ceilings, and double paned low-e windows (along with proper construction techniques). Together, these details provide the majority of the seal needed to keep the outside air out and the inside air in. When the entire house is spray foamed, SIR will provide a heat exchanger so that the house is not too air tight.
Regarding heating fuel, oil is the least efficient and presently the most costly. Accordingly and in our region, natural gas is the most efficient of the carbon based products as the furnaces that burn it can reach 99% efficiency range versus 80% for oil. A growing percentage of Westport has natural gas supplied by a local gas utility. When natural gas is not available, SIR typically installs a below ground propane gas tank, which comes with the house. In this way, a homeowner can choose propane suppliers searching for the best deals and service. Like natural gas, propane furnaces can reach 99% efficiency.
Finally, using new appliances and air conditioner compressors with a high SEER rating, almost guarantees higher efficiency as manufacturers continue to design their products to operate with low energy consumption. The Energy Star rating is a government sponsored labeling program that guarantees that a product (frig, oven, microwave, dishwasher, etc…) meets the current standards for energy efficiency. There are other “energy efficient” products being advertised such as geo-thermal heating and radiant floor heating which all come with very high upfront costs so should be investigated thoroughly.
When you purchase an SIR Development home, one can rest assured that the house was built to the highest energy standards and efficiency.