Why Energy Efficient Home Building?

Energy efficient home building sometimes referred to as green home building is one of the many ways that we can reduce our impact on our planet.  According to statistics from the EPA, electricity and heat production accounted for 25% of greenhouse gases produced in 2010 and as we know greenhouse gases are largely responsible for global warming. 

Each year approximately 1.4 million new homes are built and most of those still consume fossil fuels.  While today’s building codes lean more towards energy efficiency then those built prior to 1970, the new codes are just a start.  At Theta-Homes we want to do better.  We want to do what we can to leave this world as good or better than we found it. Because of that we build EarthCraft certified, energy efficient homes.        

The Benefits of Building an Energy Efficient Home

hers index scale showing home energy ratings To the buyer of an EarthCraft energy efficient home, green building practices can increase the value of your home on resale, but immediate benefits are realized in your monthly utility bills, cleaner indoor air quality and year-round heating and cooling comfort. 

For example, a home with an Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rating of 40 is 60% more efficient than the production homes built to standard building codes.  According to the HERS website, this translates into an annual energy savings of approximately $1078 per year. 

The ultimate goal in building energy efficient homes is to get to a HERS rating of zero also referred to as “Net Zero”.  A net zero rated home means that the home produces as much or more energy through renewable resources, such as solar panels, as it consumes.  A net zero home:

  • reduces temperature fluctuations in the home,
  • protects the owner from fluctuations in energy prices or eliminates energy bills completely, and
  • reduces greenhouse gases, cutting carbon emissions and saving energy.

While not every home we build will be net zero, our “standard” built homes typically come in with a HERS rating of 59 meaning they are 41% more efficient than production homes built to current building code standards.

What Goes into the Design of an Energy Efficient Home?

Every homeowner is different, and every piece of land is unique.  We design our homes to fit the needs of our customers while also planning for energy efficiency.  The considerations that go into designing an energy efficient home include how to:  

  • efficiently use energy, and when possible renewable energy
  • reduce pollution and waste
  • enhance indoor air quality
  • use non-toxic materials
  • consider the environment and the quality of life of the occupants in design, construction, and operation
  • create a design that is adaptable to a changing environment.

Designing Your Energy Efficient Home

When designing your home, we start by walking your lot to determine the best orientation for the home.  Our goal is to take advantage of available shade and the direction of the wind for summer cooling, and the orientation of the sun in both summer and winter for passive heating.  If you intend to use solar panels, the orientation of the home is an important consideration as well.  We also consider the ecology of the lot to make sure we don’t disturb anything living in its natural habitat.

If you haven’t purchased a lot yet, you’ll want to consider the size of the lot you purchase.  Larger lots far from schools, places of worship, grocery stores, work and extra-curricular activities will have a greater environmental impact than a smaller lot close to amenities. Larger lots require more water, fertilizers and other chemicals to keep the grass green.  Having a larger yard may also mean more grass to mow or snow to blow and both add to carbon emissions.

On the other hand, if you want to live off the grid, the property has to be large enough with the right conditions to accommodate more solar panels or wind power, and the zoning has to allow it.

The House

The size of the home you build will play into the energy efficiency.  A larger home requires more energy and materials to build and maintain, as well as more energy to heat and cool. That being said, your lifestyle and your desire for the benefits of building green will all be considered when planning the design of your home.  Together we’ll work to make the most efficient use of the space in your floorplan to ensure maximum energy efficiency.  Some of the details that are considered when designing your home include:

  • Use of natural light,
  • Use of engineered products,
  • Use of products that require minimal maintenance or that can be cleaned with non-toxic cleaners,
  • Use of materials that won’t harm the environment now or when the home is eventually demolished,
  • Use of clean, renewable and sustainable sources of energy like wind, geothermal heating and cooling, or solar power,
  • Proper sizing of your HVAC systems and hot water heater,
  • Proper insulation, moisture and wind barriers,
  • Water conservation through the use of a gray water system, collection of rainwater, and low flow or composting toilets,
  • Smart home technologies and energy efficient appliances, and
  • Energy incentives offered at the state and local levels.

As new products and new construction practices evolve, we are continuously researching and enhancing our green home designs.

Energy Efficient Construction

To construct your home and achieve the desired energy efficiency requires skilled trades and craftsmen with expertise in energy efficient home construction.  Not all construction workers have this knowledge.  To ensure the best possible product our crews keep up on the latest best practices in the field of energy efficient home building and renovation. 

Cost of Building Energy Efficient and ROI

The cost of building an energy efficient home is typically going to be equal to or a little greater than building a home to standard building code.  However, the return on investment (ROI) in an energy efficient home starts as soon as you move in. Over the lifetime ownership of your home, your energy costs and maintenance costs will be less, and as energy costs rise, energy efficiency will be more desirable and can make your home more desirable upon resale.

Solar Energy Incentives

As the demand for solar power increases, photovoltaic (solar) panels are becoming more efficient and less costly. With the currently available solar rebates and incentives, you can offset some of the cost of your solar installation. And, with an energy efficient mortgage or renovation loan going green just makes sense.  Some of the solar energy incentives include:

Net Metering

For homeowners using solar that are tied to the grid, net metering from Dominion Energy offers you the ability to send electricity you are not using back to the grid.  This gives you credits on your electric bill that can be used in those months when you consume more energy than your solar panels are producing. 

Federal Solar Energy Tax Credit (ITC)

Another incentive is the Federal solar energy tax credit also referred to as the investment tax credit. The ITC allows you to deduct 26 percent of the cost of your solar equipment from your taxes. This can be a tremendous savings.

Residential Property Tax Exemption

And last is the residential property tax exemption.  When you install a solar energy system on your home, your home goes up in value.  That’s great for resale purposes but not for property tax purposes. Because of this, Virginia passed the residential property tax exemption that allows localities to exempt or partially exempt solar from the property taxes residents pay.  What this means is you can enjoy the benefits of solar energy and pay less in property taxes.  But, be sure to check if your city or town offers this benefit.

Get Started on Your Energy Efficient Home Project

Whether you are looking to build a brand new home or want to renovate an existing one, Theta Homes has the experience and knowledge as an energy efficient home builder to help you design, build or renovate your energy efficient, home.  For more information, schedule your getting started meeting today!  Call us at: +1 (804) 519-2331 or fill out our Getting Started form in the right hand column.