40% of all the energy consumed in America every year is used for heating or cooling homes and commercial buildings. Modern insulation, fiberglass composite windows and draft reducing doors combined with passive solar design and the use of solar panels could cut that energy usage in half. So why aren’t more people insisting on higher energy efficiency for their homes?
Most people think that building an energy efficient home means spending a lot more money. But John Colucci, vice president of sales and marketing at Westchester Modular Homes, says building a house that is 50 to 60 percent more efficient than a standard home adds only 3 – 5 % to the cost. He says for only 10% more, it can be a net-zero energy house. Part of the reason why a more energy efficient house does not cost a lot more money is because it requires smaller, less expensive heating and cooling units.
Tessa Smith of the Artisans Group, a Passive House designer/builder says a home owner who spends the extra money for a more energy efficient home will recoup the cost of the upgrades in about 5 years, mostly from savings on utility bills for heating and cooling. Thereafter, the house will pay dividends for the rest of its useful life. Artisans Group is currently designing homes that cost $135 per square foot to build.
Most people are cheap (well, I am). I’m always interested in ways to save a buck if I can. People like me will say they shouldn’t have to pay for upgrades if they only plan to live in a house for 5 years or so. But society as a whole benefits if we replace existing structures with ones that use less energy. That’s why building codes must mandate higher energy efficiency standards for new construction. An energy efficient home will command a higher price on the open market, so any extra cost will be recouped when it comes time to sell.
The people at the Passive House Institute have put their 76 page brochure online. It makes an excellent resource for those who want to know more about the latest, most up to date thinking on how to build sustainable dwellings.