When designing your dream home, you have the perfect opportunity to make it work harder for you every year you’re in it. Take advantage of the opportunity to make your custom home a high-performance, hard working place for your family to be comfortable.
Make your roof and attic work harder
Dark rooftops absorb the sun’s heat, resulting in an attic space where the mercury just keeps climbing. This part of your home should be one of your first lines of defense.
Consider a radiant barrier at the roof deck. Blocking radiant heat can reduce your attic temperatures by 20+ degrees in the summer. This will reduce the strain on your AC system.
Sprayfoam insulation at your roof deck, instead of traditional insulation on the attic floor, can create an attic where the temperatures are within 10 degrees of interior of your home. Now your AC unit is operating in an 85-90 degree environment instead of 140+ degrees. This option not only saves you money every month on electricity it also makes your home more comfortable and can extend the life of your AC equipment.
Choose landscaping that throws some shade
Landscaping isn’t just about green lawns and attractive flower beds. It can help protect your home from the heat by providing additional shade and moisture.
Tall shady trees and perimeters of shrubs can help create a heat barrier that keeps your home cool. For best results, plant strategically in areas that get the most sun. And if you want to reduce your water consumption, choose a hardy garden suited for Texas weather – not the Pacific Northwest.
Go for efficiency in your mechanical systems
Quality HVAC systems heat and cool more efficiently.
HVAC units are rated in SEER, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the units should be. Opt for the most efficient unit you can afford.
16 SEER units should be the minimum to consider for your new home. 18 and 20 SEER units are available at reasonable upgrade costs.
Your HVAC unit has to do three jobs: it has to cool, heat and remove moisture from the air. Therefore, it is important that your HVAC unit is sized properly for your home. An oversized unit will cool rapidly but it will not provide the dehumidifying that is necessary in new homes.
If the humidity gets too high, your home will not be comfortable regardless of the temperature. You will be more comfortable in a home that is 78 degrees at 45% relative humidity than in a home that is 75 degrees at 65% relative humidity. Indoor humidity also has an effect on perennial allergies. You can reduce the growth of mold and dust mites by keeping your indoor humidity at 50% or less.
Paying attention to your water heating equipment and location can save money, water and frustration. The latest in hot water systems can save up to 40% over traditional water heaters; the most efficient options will carry the Energy Star label.
If the home has natural gas, we like using tankless water heaters. If the home is all electric, a hybrid heatpump hot water heater is an efficient option.
How the water gets to your fixtures is also important. It is very frustrating and wasteful to have to wait a long time for hot water. Placement of the water heater is key to how fast you get hot water and how much cold water is wasted while waiting.
If you cannot get your water heater close to the fixtures, consider a circulation system using an energy efficient circulation pump.
Other options to consider are programmable thermostats and zoning systems that give you control over which parts of your home are being cooled and when, as well as solar heating, hot water and rooftop panel systems. In combination, these translate to greater efficiency, lower energy consumption, and serious savings on your monthly bills.
The bottom line
There are several ways to ensure that your custom home is fortified against the Texas heat. From small things, like sealing the sills around doors and windows, to larger projects, like a roof-mounted solar panel system, every energy-efficient choice you make means more comfortable, more cost-effective living.