Energy Efficient Building or Remodeling

energy efficient buildingIf you are building a new home, or doing a remodel, there are things you can do to make your home more energy efficient. Here are some items to discuss with your contractor that can reduce the costs to heat and cool your home.

Insulate and Seal

Air that moves through the envelope of your home wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility bills. So the first priority is to make sure that your home is properly insulated and sealed. Add insulation to the attic area to block heat loss in the winter. Don’t worry about finding and sealing all the little holes in your attic; your biggest savings will come from plugging the large ones. The areas where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (inner and outer) meet the attic floor, dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas), and behind or under attic kneewalls. You can ask your contractor to use additional insulation in the walls. Sealing air leaks throughout the home will reduce drafts, improve comfort, improve humidity control and reduce pollen, dust and insects from entering your home. Your contractor may have special tools that can pinpoint hidden air leaks in your home, especially around windows, doors, ductwork, and switches.

Your local utility may offer rebates for a professional home energy assessment and certain air sealing and insulation projects. Be sure to contact your utility company before beginning a project to see what incentives are available in your area.

energy efficient basement remodelBasement / Crawl Space Leaks

Check your home’s foundation to see if there are any areas that need to be sealed. Your basement or crawl space may need to be insulated if you experience cold floors in the winter; hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; or uneven temperature between rooms. Second to the attic, the basement is one of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. Look for common locations of air leaks in basements and crawlspaces, including between rim joists and under the sill plate, around windows, electrical conduits, pipes and vents that run up through the walls and the floor. Make sure your contractor uses low VOC caulking when sealing the leaks, to minimize the effect of harmful indoor gases. Sealing the home can trap indoor air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and create unsafe conditions. Properly addressing this may require additional ventilation fans to maintain safe air quality in your home or repairs to eliminate the sources of indoor air pollutants.

Window Replacement

If you are renovating your house, consider replacing windows with new, more energy efficient models. You can get double or tripled paned windows, argon gas-filled, and low-e coated glass. Each of these technologies may cost incrementally more at the beginning, but will save on energy costs over time. Check the “R-value” of each window type you are considering. The R-value is the measurement of thermal resistance—the higher the number, the more efficient the window. Your contractor can help you determine the cost-benefit of each window type. Replacing old aluminum window and door frames with vinyl can also reduce heat transfer. Weather stripping placed around windows and doors will also improve performance.

Sealing Ductwork

Sealing your heating and cooling system duct work can not only save up to 20% of your heating and cooling costs, it also can improve indoor air quality. Sealing duct work gaps can help reduce asthma and allergy problems aggravated by particles entering the home’s air flow system. If you’re planning to install new heating and cooling equipment, a well-designed and sealed duct system may allow you to downsize to a smaller, less costly heating and cooling system that will provide better dehumidification.

Contracting for Energy Efficiency

Hire a contractor, such as Weston Construction, that understands and incorporates some of the Energy Star techniques into your new home construction or remodeling project. In fact, improper installation of new cooling and heating systems can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent, as well as reduce the life of the equipment. By hiring the right contractor, you will be able to:

  • Cut back on your heating and cooling bills.
  • Improve the comfort of your home.
  • Protect the environment.

 

Tiling Spaces

bathroom renovation with tile Tile Choices for Construction and Renovation

Ceramic and stone tiles have become a very popular construction material when renovating an existing home or building a new house. We will discuss the types of ceramic and stone tiling options and the benefits and usage of each type. When choosing tile materials for flooring, counter tops, back splashes and shower or bath, it is good to know which tile materials work best for that placement.

Tiles may be broadly divided into two types, ceramic and stone. Both are then sub-divided into other types.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is manufactured from quarried, prepared, and molded clay. The two types of ceramic tiles are:

Porcelain
Porcelain ceramic tile while composed of clay and minerals, also contains 50% of feldspar crystals – a kind of white sand. These crystals melt during the kiln-drying process to form a glass-like material that bonds all the other ingredients together. Even with minor modifications to the ingredients or tile making process, a huge variety of porcelain tiles can be achieved. More durable, stain resistant, and less water absorbent than non-porcelain tiles, porcelain tiles also demonstrate a thorough-bodied color. Porcelain tile is well-suited for construction of exterior walls and floors.
Non-Porcelain
Made from either red, white, or brown clay, non-porcelain tiles are one of the most economical types.
Both types come in unglazed and glazed varieties. The glazed tile may come in semi-high gloss or matte look. Glazed tiles will be increasingly resistant to stains, scratches, traction, and water absorption, making them ideal for bathroom floors and walls.

Natural Stone TileStone tile types

Many people like the natural earthy look of stone tiles. Depending upon the location and time of the stone being quarried, slabbed, and finished, stone tiles come in many varieties. For foyers, and hallways – high-traffic areas – stone tiles with a matte or satin finish last longer, whereas highly polished tile begins to show wear patterns.

Granite
Granite is an igneous, dense, and hard rock with a distinctive speckled appearance and unique veining that comes in multitudes of colors. Almost impervious and scratch resistant, this tile makes an excellent choice for kitchen floors and countertops, other high-traffic areas, such as curbs and paving stones, solid, colorful, and durable workstations, such as sinks, and backsplash.

Marble
A metamorphic rock available in many colors and featuring rich veining, marble is more porous and not suited for kitchen flooring. It is, however, a perfect choice for interior walls and floors in areas with moderate traffic.

Limestone
A sedimentary rock that comes in both light and dark shades, limestone’s earthy appearance can be polished smooth or textured. Use limestone for structural and entry walls, the area around a fireplace, vanities, and shower walls.

Travertine
A limestone type that has a crystallized appearance and an earthy tone, the surface has natural pitting. Like limestone, travertine is perfect for entry walls, fireplace surrounds, shower walls, vanities, tub decks and mosaics.

Slate
Slate is a type of metamorphic rock that is extremely dense and very durable. Slate is available in darker earthy tones. The surface of slate is naturally textured unless a smooth, honed finish is achieved. Slate is an excellent choice for kitchen – countertops and wet bars – roofing and high-traffic area flooring, such as walkways.

Other
Other stone types include onyx and quartzite.

The Benefits of Tile
1. Environmentally friendly. Little to no volatile organic compounds are found in ceramic tile and stone, as compared to other types. They contribute towards building a healthy environment.
2. Durability. High durability and sustainability makes ceramic and stone an ideal choice. Floorings, such as carpets need replacement after every 7-10 years, making them less economical.
3. Mildew resistant. Good fighters against mildew and mold, ceramic and stone are constructed from materials that are not food sources for mold and mildew. Less mold and mildew is healthier for your home.
4. Moisture resistant. Inherently water resistant, ceramic, and stone do not degrade when exposed to moisture.

The type of tile you choose will depend on your usage – amount of traffic, area covered, type of area being covered etc – and budget. Choose wisely, although keep in mind that stone and ceramic tiles are more durable, healthy, and sustainable than other building material choices out there. Weston Construction can help you assess the best tiling materials to use for your new home construction or renovation.

It’s Easy Being Green

You don’t have to turn into a frog to go green. Adopting eco-friendly ways not only improves your quality of living, but also helps the environment. If you are renovating your current home or building a new house, follow these tips to make your house greener.

insulated windowsInvest in Double or Triple Paned Windows
The advantage of using double or triple paned windows is that they have a layer in between the glass (often filled with gases) that acts to insulate, so there is less heat / cold moving through the window. Low-E glass and windows filled with Argon gas can reduce heat loss up to 70% over single pane glass. This not only saves energy (money), but also keeps the interior temperature steady and more comfortable. The added benefit is it also has noise-reduction qualities.

Add Insulation
Adding insulation regulates the temperature of your home, but can also increases sound control between rooms and floors. There are several types of insulation to choose from. The most common is the type of fiberglass that comes in rolls or bats, and is easy to install. Another common type is a loose-fill blown-in insulation, often made of fiberglass, cellulose, or mineral wool. Cellulose is made of recycled newsprint, and most fiberglass contains some portion of recycled glass. Another option is a liquid foam insulation that is sprayed into the space and will expand, and then harden.

Solar Panels
We are not likely to run out of solar energy from the sun any time soon, which makes adding solar panels a great choice for going green. Replacing traditional energy sources with solar energy reduces your home’s green house gas emissions. But also helps reduce the money you pay to the power company. Dominion Power Company has a pilot program allowing homeowners with solar systems to sell the excess energy back into the grid for 5 years, which helps defray the initial solar panel installation cost. Installation of solar panels is getting easier and the cost continues to drop—making it an increasingly popular energy efficiency choice.

wood beamsUse Reclaimed Materials
Use reclaimed elements from older homes (called upcycling) such as old flooring, exposed wood beams, doors, architectural molding, etc. Recovering and reusing these gems is good for the planet by reducing material in landfills, but also gives your home unique character. There are many sources for finding these materials, including local businesses and national online matching services. In our area, there are lots of old barns and out buildings that can be sources of materials if you are ambitious and handy.

Get a Programmable Thermostat
Installing a programmable thermostat is a simple way to reduce energy usage when you’re not home. These thermostats are easy to install, and have timers to let you pre-set the temperature controls to suit your schedule, down to daily and hourly specifics. It also can automatically increase or decrease the temperatures during the night while you are sleeping.

Making green choices in the construction of a new home or renovation can not only save you money by reducing your energy costs, but will also make you feel good by helping out the planet. Weston Construction is very experienced in green building techniques. We’d be happy to discuss options with you on your next construction project.