What Goes Into Building an Energy Efficient, Healthy Home?

In this article, we will explore the latest green building innovations that can help you achieve an energy-efficient and healthy home. Achieving this may include a tight building envelope, renewable energy sources, indoor air control, and more. Regardless of the features and technologies incorporated into your custom home, it’s important to use the mindset “home as a system”, because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each green home and healthy home option must work together to optimize the home for the environment and you, the homeowner. Let’s dive in.

Building a Tight Air and Thermal Boundary

Perhaps the most important aspect of creating an energy-efficient home is to reduce the amount of air and thermal energy that can move through the walls, foundation, and roof. By building a tight air and thermal boundary, you can ensure that the conditioned air stays inside your home, reducing the need for excessive heating or cooling, and maximizing comfort.

Using advanced insulation techniques, such as closed cell spray foam insulation or insulated concrete forms, can greatly improve the thermal performance of your home. Additionally, sealing any gaps or cracks around windows, doors, and other openings can further enhance the tightness of your home’s envelope. When we design homes, we use 2×6 minimum exterior wall studs to allow more insulation, sealed and insulated crawl spaces, and sealed and insulated attics. In addition, we are open to discussing more advanced thermal and air boundary specifications such as continuous exterior insulation, advanced air sealing techniques, triple pane windows, and masonry framing.

Prioritizing Fresh Air Ventilation

While creating a tight air boundary is important, it’s equally crucial to ensure proper ventilation for a healthy indoor environment. This is where Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) and dehumidifying ventilators become highly recommended. These innovative systems not only supply fresh air from the outside but also recover the energy from the exhaust air, reducing the load on your HVAC system, which may actual reduce the required size of HVAC equipment. Without mechanical ventilation, tight homes can mean stale indoor air and the possibility of building up pollutants inside the home.

To that end, connected air monitors can be installed to automatically turn on ventilation when high levels of humidity, CO2, or air pollutants are detected. This ensures that your home has a constant supply of fresh air without compromising on energy efficiency.

Exploring HVAC Options

HVAC systems are the single biggest energy users in the typical single family home. Inefficient systems can result in high energy bills. However, there are more sustainable alternatives available, such as Variable Speed traditional systems, mini-split HVAC, and Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems.

Minisplit HVAC systems and Variable Speed systems are highly energy-efficient as they can throttle up or down based on heating/cooling demand. VRF systems, on the other hand, use advanced technology to optimize energy consumption by adjusting the refrigerant flow based on the heating or cooling demands of different areas within your home. We have experience with these air source HVAC systems as well as Geothermal well based systems, such as WaterFurnace.

Regardless of the HVAC system best suited for your home, we implement our green building standards: Every home we build is 3rd party tested by a certified HERS Rater which tests for air leakage to the outside as well as HVAC duct leakage. We also ensure every home is balanced with zoned HVAC to allow homeowners to customize the heating and cooling across different areas of the house, which can save significant energy.

Harnessing the Power of Natural Light

All energy comes from the sun. We always remember this when designing our homes, thinking about passive and active solar gain. Passive solar design is a principle of allowing warming light into the home during cool winter months when the sun is lower in the southern sky, but shielding the home from direct harsh summer light. This is important for informing window placement and overhang design.

Natural light is also energy saving if it reduces the need to turn on interior lights. As a standard we try to incorporate natural light into as many working spaces of the home as possible including laundry rooms, closets, and sculleries. Solar tube skylights are a great option for getting non-direct natural light into interior spaces of the home, enhancing the homeowner experience with circadian friendly natural light.

Active solar is a synonym for solar panels, or photovoltaic systems. We often work with solar panel design consultants and installers to install solar panels for our clients, including North Carolina’s first Tesla Shingle Roof in Cary, NC! We can help with the design and installation of solar panel systems including net-metering connections, battery backup, and smart load centers, such as the SPAN panel.

Ready to get started?

By embracing these green building innovations, we can help you create a luxurious custom home that meets your aesthetic and functional while ensuring energy efficiency and a healthy living environment. This article really only explores a fraction of healthy home and energy efficient options. See a full list of our green building options here.

If you are looking to build a home that combines elegance, quality craftsmanship, and sustainable practices, don’t hesitate to explore these innovative solutions. Together, we can shape the future of green building and contribute to a more sustainable built environment.

Ready to embark on your green building journey? Let’s create your dream energy-efficient home today!