Saturday, March 8, 2014

Working Together to Save Energy, Bit by Bit

“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.” ― Terry Swearingen

This picture was taken from the second floor Billiard's Room, looking up toward the little loft.
You can see the installation of the closed cell spray has begun on the ceiling of the loft.  

The National Association of Home Builders just reported on a recent national survey (December 2013) regarding the features that are most likely to show up in a typical new single-family home in 2014. The great news is that the list includes a number of energy efficiency features that many builders will be including in their new homes, among them low-e windows, Energy-star rated appliances and windows, a programmable thermostat, and insulation higher than required by code. 

This is great news! In an industry driven by market demand and pricing, it wasn't too long ago that most builders resisted building "green" due to the increased costs and the fear that homeowners would not pay for green features.  Now the tide is turning.  The consumer, manufacturers, and builders are working together to save more energy.   

For our new home in East Beach in Norfolk, Virginia, Bruce and I wanted to include a number of energy-saving features, although we didn't go quite as far as we would have liked (darn budget!).  We had discussed incorporating geo-thermal heating and cooling, LED light fixtures throughout, and foam insulation in the house, including ceilings, floor, and walls. While we couldn't include all the features we would have liked, we did include many energy efficient features. The inclusion of these features will provide us with lower fuel bills and a more comfortable house.  

Everyone picks and chooses. These are the energy efficient choices we made for our new home:

ZIP System® Sheathing and Tape: Our builder, Jim Schneider of Schneider Custom Homes recommended the ZIP System for us. It’s a one-of-a-kind structural roof and wall system with a built-in energy-efficient barrier that keeps moisture out and reduces air leakage, while still allowing panels to properly dry. Zip forms a tight barrier against unwanted air leakage, for a durable building envelope that promotes energy efficiency and increases interior comfort.

Our Windsor Legend Series feature
a high energy performance rating.
I love the R-PG50 Rating!
Windsor WindowsWindsor’s Legend products are made from state-of-the-art cellular PVC, which is guaranteed not to rot, warp, crack, stick or swell.  Windsor also offers the only 25-year warranty in the industry. The Legend Series that is installed in our home is Energy Star compliant and features Quality Cardinal® loE 366 Glass.  The super spacer dual-seal moisture barrier technology is designed to be one of the most thermally efficient spacers in the marketplace and reduces heat and cold conduction, which results in more comfortable living.

Rinnai Tankless Water HeaterRinnai Tankless Water Heaters save money on your energy bill by heating water only when needed, unlike a traditional tank-style water heater that heats and reheats water all day long. Based on DOE ENERGY STAR® lifecycle estimates, tankless water heaters can last up to twice as long as traditional tank units.

Closed Cell Foam insulation: Closed cell foam insulation is more expensive than typical batt insulation, but highly effective as an air barrier and a water vapor barrier. It is often used in roofing projects or other outdoor applications, but can be used anywhere in the home.  Bruce and I opted to use foam insulation on our ceilings and our contractor also sprayed around windows and outlets to reduce any air leakage. 

Closed cell foam insulation in the kitchen has started.
Foam insulation around the windows.

Spray foam insulation saves on energy costs and lowers utility bills. Studies by the US Department of Energy show that 40% of a home's energy is lost as the result of air infiltration through walls, windows and doorways. Buildings treated with spray foam insulation typically insulate as much as 50% better than traditional insulation products. Insulation that is sprayed in buildings protects against moisture, which provides the benefit of reducing the chance of harmful mold and mildew. Eliminating mold growth reduces the likelihood of rotting wood in a home, and allergic reactions to mold spores. In addition to building temperature and moisture control, spray foam insulation is often used to reduce noise. Foam insulation serves as a barrier to airborne sounds. As an extra incentive, homes treated with spray foam insulation often qualify for state and federal tax deductions.

ECOBATT Quiet Therm Acoustical & Thermal Batt Insulation:  This was a happy surprise from our builder! Knauf EcoBatt™ Insulation represents a level of sustainability never before achieved. It is sustainable, made primarily from sand and renewable resources, has a lower embodied energy than traditional batts, and its rapidly renewable binder eliminates petroleum-based chemicals. It contains no phenol, formaldehyde, acrylics, or artificial colors. EcoBatt has a high recycled content, containing a minimum of 61.9% post-consumer recycled content, and is thermally efficient resulting in an excellent insulating value. EcoBatt reduces airborne sound transmission and significantly improves STC ratings of wall configurations. EcoBatt is being used in our home for everything except the ceiling which has closed cell foam insulation. I love the fact that even insulation the insulation that Jim Schneider is installing is more environmentally friendly and will help make our home quieter.  

Energy rated light fixtures:  We ordered most of our light and fan fixtures from Progress Lighting and brought a few key pieces with us that we already owned. Some of the fixtures are Energy Star and LED compliant (we wish all of them were). We are using railing-mounted soft LED lights to illuminate our front porches which have an open rafter construction technique. Our electrician is also installing LED accent lights for interior cabinet lighting and accent lighting. Our Energy Star rated ceiling fans will save on energy costs, too.

James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding: "The single most important factor in green architecture is durability. If you want something to be green it has to last a long time. It has to handle water, heat and UV radiation. Fiber-cement handles all three exceptionally well." Joseph Lstiburek, BASC, MENG, PhD, PENG  

HardiePlank lap siding is the most popular brand of siding in America and can be found on over 5.5 million homes. Engineered for Climate®HardiePlank has earned the Good Housekeeping Seal and comes with a 30-year warranty.  The Fiber cement siding resists damage from freezing temperatures, snow and ice, and moisture, and maintains dimensional stability under challenging weather conditions.  It's noncombustible, too.  
Our home will also include other sustainable materials such as CertainTeed Panorama porch railings that we'll be using on our back porch and for the staircase to the carriage house apartment, Clubhouse Solid Plank decking for our back porch and apartment staircase, and Wolf PVC porch boards for the front porches.  

It's so nice to know that modern construction materials make it easy to be a better friend to the environment, while also saving money on operational and maintenance costs. This is great news, indeed!

Installation of the James Hardie siding has begun.  The house has no face as yet.
The porches should go up this week.

Coming on our next blog, "A Home with a Face."  The story of our front porch (it should be constructed this week!). 

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