Energy efficiency comes down to one thing: the return on the investment or simply, how long it takes you to save as much as the upgrades cost. Regardless of the size of home your are looking to build, there are a few things that can be done in every new home (and many remodels) that have a very low cost and a very high return on investment.
Caulking during construction is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to improve a home’s energy efficiency. Most of us have heard by now, either on TV, radio or the internet, that a single 1/16″ gap around a door is equal to a 2″ hole in the wall. During the construction of our homes, we literally poke thousands of holes on the wood that is supposed to stop the transfer of air from the inside to the outside and vice versa. A Few cases of caulk used at the right time during construction can fill up a huge leak in our homes. During the construction of most homes, the floor is installed and completed first. The walls are then either built on site or trucked in. The walls are then stood up, and nailed to the floor. Even the wood we use during construction has many flaws in it. These flaws create gaps between the floor and the bottom of the wall, allowing air to move in and out of our homes. By simply applying caulk before we stand the walls, we can create an air tight bond between these two woods. In my experience, using two beads of caulk under every exterior wall has worked best. Now the rest of the wall is a little more challenging….
As the walls of a new home are built, thousands of nails and staples punch holes that allow air to escape our homes. In addition, the small flaws in the wood will again add up at every seam. Caulk could help in these situation, but it won’t be enough. Most of us have heard of using the new foam insulations that are sprayed into the wall cavity. This is the best option for stopping the air transfer in my opinion, but is also very expensive compared to traditional batts. However, there is an option between traditional batts and complete foam, called “Flash and Batt.” When you Flash and batt, your insulation contractor sprays a layer of foam into the wall cavity, typically 1/4″ to 3/16″ thick. Then traditional batts are installed. The spray foam stops the air exchange, while the traditional batts provide the R-Value.
The last option that I typically recommended is in the windows. Regardless of which brand, size, or shape of windows you select for your new home, all of them can be LoE windows. LoE