"As baby boomers we wanted to build a house that we could afford to live in during our retirement years and not be financially strapped because of ever-increasing energy bills. We understood that we had to spend more money during construction to reach that level of energy efficiency in a house. Even though it was most painful to lay out money above “typical home construction”, it is just a faint bad memory as we revel over our low energy bills.
In addition to out energy concerns, we wanted to make the house as green as we possibly could afford and manage to incorporate. The largest green component of our house is the extreme energy efficiency. The fewer natural resources we consume, the less impact we have on the earth. We are making a difference in our nation’s energy consumption. Maybe not a lot of difference if you consider the entire nation’s consumption, but what a difference our nation’s energy consumption would be if every new home was built to the same level of energy efficiency as our home.
We decided to construct our tight building envelope out of SIPs. Then we used very energy efficient doors and windows and a metal roof to reflect 70% of the sun’s rays. We chose a light colored stone and exterior paint to also reflect the sun’s rays. The orientation of our home (South-North) is also effective in minimizing the rays from the hot Texas sun. Our front porch shades the south windows on the lower level, and we have awnings to provide some shade to the dormer windows and to the west windows, all in an effort to control the amount of heat that enters our home.
Our HVAC is a Daikin unit that is variable speed, which means that it runs at an appropriate speed suited to our heating and cooling needs and not just on high like most HVAC units. Also the Daikin has zones, which enables us to have multiple thermostats with one unit. We can adjust the temperature in rooms where we are living to be different from those rooms where we are not. And our house is so tight that we only needed a 2.3 ton air conditioner, although we went with a 3 ton air conditioner for our 3,000 sf house because Daikin didn’t make an air conditioner between a 2 and 3 ton.
Other energy efficient features include our fireplace which doesn’t draw in inside air. It is sealed and vented to the outside to get oxygen for fire. Also, Solar panels on our metal roof heat water for our house. We do have a back up propane hot water heater just in case we need it.
Other green features of our home are the bamboo floors, PET carpet, daylighting throughout the house that reduces the need for turning on lights, granite counter tops that will never wear out, no or low VOC paints and stains, fluorescent or compact fluorescent lighting, and Energy Star appliances and ceiling fans. The stone is regionally quarried and is therefore sustainable, the wood for our cabinetry is regionally grown, and the exterior door from our garage opens to an outside porch rather than into the home, which keeps harmful automobile fumes from entering the home. During construction we chose to collect and sort our construction debris to make mulch for our garden and flower beds, thus reducing the amount of construction debris to enter landfills.
So what do we like best about our house? I suppose that it is that we are making a difference: in the usage of natural resources, our energy bills, and our footprint on the earth."