3. WINDOWS AND DOORS – Opening in the exterior envelope are the big holes that need to be addressed thru the use of well made quality fillers. Most upper end window manufacturers have made great strides in providing a standardized system by which to judge windows and how they will perform under different conditions. The National Fenestration Rating Council was born of this desire to quantify windows and doors and has been instrumental in bringing the industry up across the board. These fillers work with the sealing of the Building Envelope to create that energy efficient bubble that we are trying to achieve.
4. HVAC – Heat, Ventilation, and Cooling. Which of these is the most important? In a well designed and executed home design they are all equally important. Ventilation may carry the most weight but is often the most neglected. As a home efficiency expert once told me he likes to be able to point to a vent and be able to know that his home leaks right there! By leak he means he knows where unconditioned air enters and/or leaves the home. Because he knows where that is he can condition it by either heating or cooling it as it enters the building envelope. This is generally achieved by using a heat or air-to-air exchanger which draws warm moist air from the bathroom and kitchen areas, thus helping to control latent moisture in the home and depositing this conditioned air into the supply side of the air conditioning system. This in turn allows your air conditioning system to work more efficiently because the air it is conditioning is already partly conditioned. And to continue on that theme, having the air handler in a conditioned space such as the crawl space or a mechanical room inside the home moves this equipment into the building envelope and helps the system work easier and better for its lifetime.
Builders who practice these several items will have HVAC contractors and other Trade Contractors who have bought into the practice of creating an energy efficient home. We built homes that the second floor required that a ½ ton air handler was all that was required to heat and cool the space. Of course a one ton unit was used because we could not get one that small! This is where the real payoff began. The cost of 2-3 tones of heat and air equipment was moved into the sealing of the building envelope which generally created a minimal if any cost at all to the homeowner. Instant payback! Whereas the windows may be a big cost up front these help the building envelope and therefore the energy efficiency and ultimately the cost to heat and cool your home on a monthly basis. There are many documented cases of 3000 square foot homes costing as little as $35 to heat and cool without resorting to drastic building techniques.
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