“The devil is in the details”. Probably you listen this phrase before, don’t you? In in home construction it is not different: some details during the building can cost homeowners a lot of money in the future.
Insulation is one of the most important topics when you are planing your house building. We have clear rules dictated by the codes in place, but you also have to decide among a lot of options that contractors present you: fiberglass batts and blankets, cotton batts, rockwool batts and blankets, blown-in cellulose, open and closed cell spray foam, among others (you can find a list of different types of insulation clicking here).
Despite the importance of the R-values to pass the inspection, also you have to remember that air leaks are very important for your to have an energy efficient house. Air leaking into your attic, for example, could be costing you money—from 15 – 20% of a home’s heating and cooling energy is lost due to air leaks normally. A single 2″ hole can draft expensive heated air into your attic and suck cold air in around your windows and doors. And you don’t want to waste lots of money just because of that, do you?
Thinking of your ceiling as a solid surfaces is a big mistake: the truth is that ceiling leaks air into unfinished attic spaces through a lot of gaps and openings:
heating and air conditioning ducts
Air leaks have a chimney-like effect on the insulation of houses. When leaks exist in the attic, warm air from the living areas is funneled upward and out through the roof. As this upward suction occurs, cold air that enters the house – through leaks in the basement, for example – is funneled through the ground floor into the living quarters.
To avoid this air leak you need a caulk, tape or a spray foam (a lot of brands are there in the market). You have to seal all possible spaces that can leak air from your main living area to your attic. It is a time consuming process but not an impossible work for you. If you prefer, hire a specialized contractor to help you on that (at least to test if your house is leaking air to your attic).
The EnergyStar.gov website has a lot of good information that can help you decide if you need to improve your insulation to save money in electrical bills. It will also help our environment.
Automated blinds: this is not only luxury – installing smart blinds represents one of the most economical options to save energy. You can also set a timer remotely, and also synchronize them with your HVAC system to have the best energy efficient system (and decrease your monthly bill).
Front door smart locks: many people are impressed by advertisements of having your child opening the front door using his mobile phone, miles away from your house, when you forget them in any other place and can’t find it. You have some cheap options to choose, and of course other complex and more expensive systems that are also integrated with life cameras.
Sprinkler system for lawn irrigation: it is a difficult decision to make when you are working with your landscape, I have to admit. Normally the landscape is the last phase of a building process (in new homes), and during that time you already spend more than you expected. So…you will think that a sprinkler will be a waste of money. Until you have the first or second dry summer, and your grass was gone. Plan to have a good system installed in your house – it will also help you a lot to increase your home price when you sell it.
Home security system: one of the fastest-growing section in this area. The majority of the systems we have in the market now are connected with mobile phones, and you can find affordable prices even for more sophisticated and advanced systems. In big cities – specifically in some neighborhoods – they are considered a must-have (even if it’s only to see if your Amazon delivery arrived safely)
Smart home hub: this is a must-have if you are planing to increase the value of your house to attract millennial and gen-Z buyers. A hub works like the brain of your house: it connects all different devices (thermostats, alarms, appliances, sound systems, windows, among others). A tech-savvy buyer will be specially impressed if you have your house in the market and can provide this system as a plus in your listing.
This decision is an important one when building a new house: how can you manage the costs if you decide not to use a water heater fuel as natural gas or oil. If you decide that your house will have an electric water heater the increase in your monthly bills can drive you crazy, believe me.
First of all, you have to look for Energy Star systems, that can save you money because they have different functions. The Voltex® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump, for example (A.O.Smith) reduces water heating cost by up to 58% through an innovative design that pulls environmental heat while dehumidifying and cooling the ambient air at the same time.
It delivers good savings by generating heat through the heat pump technology instead of the heating elements. These tanks also offers user-friendly display, vacation mode to save money while you are away, and a heavy duty anode that protects your tank for 10 years. this model also has two heating elements that help the water heater recover quickly during periods of high demand. The tank has a 80-gal capacity, pretty nice number if you like to use your tub frequently.
If you are thinking about take advantage of the new solar panel credit program available by the government this can also help you in terms of electrical bill costs. Between financing and incentives, customers are usually cash-flow positive in their first year, and the system itself can be paid off after 3-5 years on average (depending on a lot of factors, of course – some some systems only break-even after 10 year, be aware of that).
Massachusetts has one of the strongest solar incentive programs in the country. In addition, federal tax credits and low-interest solar loans contribute to a positive cash flow. You can also sell some energy in the market, and have positive incomes that helps you decrease your bill expenses.
During the last 5-10 years we are listening that solar will become the cheapest source to produce power in many countries. Unfortunately this is not the reality yet here in the USA, despite many states are trying to push hard the system. California, for example, is thinking about a law that will put an obligation for every new home to have a solar panel system to generate energy. I can image how home builders there are afraid of this proposal – and probably the price for customers there to buy a house will jump more.
I am a big believer in solar energy, and in my opinion this has to be a matter of study. Nevertheless the panels are still very expensive, and even with some government incentives it takes a lot of time to have your money back. In Massachusetts, depending on your house will be built, you just will have your money back in no less than 7-10 years, depending on the amount of panels you installed.
Gas continues to be the cheapest way to move in terms of energy, even in the New England region (where the prices are among one of the highest in the US). But I think that if you can afford the price it is worthy. I have them here in my home (12 panels) and for a house of more than 3,000 sf I pay no more than 150 dollars per month during the summer time. Also, every quarter, I have a deposit of 250 dollars in my account, because of the energy that can be sold in the market. But when I remember that I’ve paid of it around 18,000 dollars I also remember that the investment will take some time to break-even (around 8 years in my case).
As I mentioned I am a strong believer of solar panel energy, but I think the companies and the government has to continue to put efforts to find the best way to provide customers a more affordable price.
Water is a big problem in some regions of USA because of a lack of lakes and water treatment related with conservation rules. So it is quite frequent for a lot of houses to have a water well.
Many people underestimate the amount of water they use. Here you have some interesting numbers related with that:
Dishwasher: can use up to 16 gallons of water per cycle (old models). EnergyStar ® models use 6 gallons or less per wash cycle and also save electricity.
Shower: A low-flow shower-head uses about two gallons a minute, or 20 gallons for a 10-minute shower. A standard shower-head uses 2.5 gallons a minute, or 25 gallons for 10 minutes.
Toilet: water use can vary significantly. Older toilets can use 3.5, 5, or even up to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF), and there are high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF.
In Massachusetts the estimated average of water use per person per day is around 75 gallons. For a family of 4 they have to be prepared to use 300 gallons per day of water (if you don’t have a large garden with an irrigation system).
Think about these numbers if you are installing a new well in your house.