Building an optimal energy-friendly home is no easy feat, but it is definitely a worthwhile one. Some products available in the market promise energy-efficiency, but may be too expensive. As demand for sustainable lifestyle increases, people are looking for realistic, attainable and durable solutions.
If you are building an energy-efficient home, here are some smart choices to consider that minimize bills and maximize comfort.
Smart Roofing – Solar or Reflective?
A new roofing product by Tesla aims to replace your existing roof with sleek-looking tiles that resemble traditional roofing materials. Called the Tesla Solar Roof, it may incur a higher upfront investment, however, CEO Elon Musk claims that a solar roof is likely to cost lesser than a regular roof when you take into account the savings on electricity bills. Solar roofing is an emerging trend and though it sounds practical, it may not be the most affordable solution at the moment.
Reflective roofing is an affordable alternative to solar roofing. These products reflect the sun’s rays, thereby reducing the amount of heat transferred by up to 50F. Although energy-saving with reflective roofing varies depending on home design, insulation, climate changes, location and building envelope efficiency, it is definitely worth a consideration as it is affordable and functions just as efficiently, if not better than solar roofs.
Smart thermostats save energy, maximize comfort and are extremely convenient to operate using an app. They are inherently intelligent and are packed with impressive features such as auto turn on/ turn off, room-wise temperature setting, usage monitoring and scheduling.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is a popular choice among homeowners. It keeps the home at a comfortable temperature and auto-adjusts according to the presence of people in the room. Its elegant design and smart capabilities outmatch all other players in this category.
Not far behind is Ecobee3 with remote sensor capabilities that offer up to 32 add-on sensors. The occupancy sensors adjust temperature in occupied rooms rather than only where the thermostat is installed. Though Ecobee has several smart features, it lacks the elegant appeal of Nest.
Looking for something more affordable? EcoBee3 Lite, a budget version comes with impressive scheduling and programming features. Although it lacks remote sensors (i.e. it cannot sense if you are in the room or away) and occupancy sensors (i.e. you need to manually adjust settings), it is energy efficient and improves performance of your HVAC system.
Planning to replace existing windows? Ask your roofing contractor about energy performance ratings of different types of windows taking into account climate, home location, home design, etc. Select windows with low U-factor (rate of heat loss value) and low SHGCs (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient). U-factor and SHGCs are important determinants of energy conservation, especially in temperate climates.
The different components of a window play an important role in determining its energy efficiency. Window frames conduct heat and have a direct impact on the U-factor. As a thumb rule, the less the U-factor, the more energy-efficient they are. A well-installed vinyl window with insulated glass and tight placement prevents air leakage and is highly energy efficient. Wooden frames, on the other hand, have the best insulating properties, but they do not contribute much to reduce your utility bills. Moreover, they demand regular maintenance and may rot in humid climates, making them less competent than its vinyl counterparts.
Double-pane windows with low-E and argon-filling (gas filling to displace air between the panels) provide better insulation than single-pane windows. They offer dual protection, preventing heat from escaping during winter and filtering harsh UV rays from entering the house in summer. Thus, they save energy and have better value.
If you do not plan to replace your windows, you can upgrade your existing ones to gain energy-efficiency. Adding storm windows can minimize air leakage. Weatherstripping can reduce air leakage in operating windows. Caulking can fill in the cracks and gaps. Though window treatments and coverings are not ideal alternatives, they are effective to an extent for heat gain/loss.
A roofing contractor can provide an in-depth analysis and assessment of your current roofing and window conditions. Although you can perform minor fixes on your own, if you are considering a replacement, you may need the services of a pro as poor installation may jack up your utility bills instead of reducing them.