New Jersey Home Building Blog

The Complete Guide to an Energy-Efficient Home

Building and designing a New Jersey high-performance home is a multi-faceted process. Energy-efficient home features not only make a positive environmental impact, but they also offer long-term savings on utility costs. With new construction, the good news is you can incorporate high-performance building materials from the beginning without having to do an extensive remodel in the future.

Whole-House Approach

For a New Jersey high-performance custom home, you need to use a whole-house approach to determine all variables that will affect how energy is utilized. Energy efficiency is much more than including appliances with high Energy Star scores. The environmental conditions at the building site, New Jersey’s climate, resident lifestyle, and more will determine how well the home uses its resources.

As an example, New Jersey has a moderate climate, which means you must carefully consider window placement to avoid too much glare from direct sunlight. By letting your builder know from the beginning that having an energy-efficient home is important to you, each design aspect will be evaluated to improve comfort and durability while simultaneously reducing utility usage.

People have been perfecting the art of home building for thousands of years. With every year that goes by, new innovations in home construction change the way that we live in and enjoy our homes. In the last several decades, building innovations have improved everything from residential fire safety to the way our homes use energy. Our building styles have adapted to enhance the time we spend with loved ones and increase our quality of life overall.

What are the benefits of new home construction? More than you ever imagined.

1. Energy Efficiency

Improvements in building envelopes, insulation, and building materials ensure that modern homes are incredibly energy efficient. New homeowners can save hundreds of dollars every year on their utility bills while reducing their carbon footprint.

In an ever-expanding bubble of technology and research, building codes change more frequently than ever. As such, today’s homebuilders must keep up-to-date, not only to stay on trend but to adhere to local and federal standards. The measures builders take often include the following:

Advanced Framing and Roofing – A more conscientious approach to construction, known as advanced house framing (or optimum value engineering), this method reduces lumber use and waste by replacing certain wood frames with insulation and using only single-lumber headers. In a wood-framed home, it cuts cost and excess. In addition, some builders choose cool roofs, constructed of reflective material that absorbs less sunlight, making the interior easier to cool in warm seasons.

Energy Star-Rated Appliances – If you’ve never heard of the energy star rating, it’s a system designed to approximate appliances’ energy efficiency. With many builders including these appliances in their homes, highly-rated refrigerators, washers/dryers, and dishwashers are coming as standard offerings.

Efficient Heating and Cooling – Since extreme temperatures lead to heavy energy use, contemporary HVAC systems focus on climate-controlling only those areas in need. To aid the conservationist approach, builders are also consistently looking to improve insulation methods and materials while ensuring a tight seal at every crevice. This practice might include insulating unfinished attics, exterior walls (between spaces like the garage, storage rooms, or shed roofs), unvented crawl spaces, and slab floors.

Multi-Pane Windows and Other Accessories – Along the same lines as insulation, it makes sense to focus on high-quality windows, as they can act as significant barriers to energy efficiency. On the upside, most modern homes come with double-pane or multi-pane vinyl windows capable of cutting utility costs in half. For additional energy savings, you can also request solar panels, geothermal heaters, and other add-ons that make green living more attainable.

On top of the energy-efficient methods already in play, you as a homeowner can go above and beyond to safeguard against excess consumption. For example, the landscaping choices you implement can have a cooling effect on your property:

  • Deciduous trees planted along the southern boundary can block the sun’s warming rays.
  • Tall shrubs and greenery concentrated to the north and northwest can reduce wind gusts.
  • Any bushes, shrubs, or vines planted near the exterior can act as additional barriers against outdoor elements, providing shade and insulation.

Along with smart landscaping, you can ask the right questions as the home construction process unfolds. More specifically, you can request that the house be evaluated by the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) and/or certified by a third-party organization regarding energy efficiency.


2. Low Maintenance, Few or No Repairs

Everyone knows that home maintenance makes up a huge portion of a homeowner's budget. It's said that you can expect to spend about 1% of your home's total value on maintenance and repairs every year. The older the home, the more the homeowner spends on maintenance.

New construction homes tend to be the exception to this 1% rule. Brand new homes mean lower maintenance costs, and often no repairs for years. Best of all, new homes come with new home warranties, which provide peace of mind to homeowners.

[We've created an entire checklist for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall maintenance. ]

3. Customization

When you choose to build a home of your own, you have the option to customize it. Small touches make all the difference when it comes to beauty and functionality.

Think reclaimed wood floors, hand-carved millwork, or a rough-hewn stone mantel over the fireplace. Imagine built-in shelves in a library room, or a beautiful covered porch behind the house, where you can spend countless hours reading books and enjoying time with family. Customization is your opportunity to make your home different from the other homes, more personalized to your needs so that your home is reflective of your tastes and values.


4. Fire Retardation and Safety

Modern homes are built from fire-resistant materials (like fire-resistant insulation, flooring, and so on), and include hardwired smoke detectors, for an instant alert when a fire breaks out. New homes are also built to conform with modern fire codes, which helps to keep occupants safe. Should you find yourself needing to rebuild after a house fire, we've created a guide to Rebuilding Your Home After an Insurance Claim


5. Modern Floor Plan

In the past, homes were built differently. Common spaces were separated from one another, often with formal doors between the dining room, kitchen, living room, and so on. Windows were sometimes small or were not placed strategically to allow light to enter the home.

Although older homes are grand and desirable in their own way, modern sensibility prefers an open concept, where families can spend time in common areas, even when engaging in separate tasks. The emphasis on natural light allows homeowners to use less artificial light and less energy when doing work in the house. 

With your new construction home, you can choose the floor plan that's right for you. From ranch style floor plans to second or third stories, your design-build construction company will guide you towards the right floor plan for you and your family. 


6. A Home to Fit Your Lifestyle

Perhaps the greatest benefit to a new construction home is your ability to fit the home to your lifestyle. Your priorities are what matter when the home is taking shape. A pre-existing home is always built for the needs of someone else, but your new construction home is built for you. Think of the possibilities:


Aging in Place- If aging in place is important to you, work with your builder to include age in place features like first-floor living, curbless shower, non-slip floors, extra-wide hallways and doorways for wheelchair access.


In-Law Suite- Maybe you want your parents to have the ability to move into your home someday. Your builder can design your home with that mind, including an in-law suite either above your garage, in your backyard, or as an integrated part of your home.


Extra Bedrooms, Extra Space- Do you have an extra-large family? Frequent guests? Do you need more than the normal number of bedrooms? When you design and build a new construction home, you can add what you want, whether that's more bedrooms, more living space, additional bathrooms, or all of the above.


Energy Efficiency Starts at the Beginning 

Based on evaluations about the site of your new home, you and your builder can make a well-informed decision about the location of the structure and the shape of the design. For instance, your preferred orientation for the home may be from the north to the south as a way to maximize solar gains during the colder months while reducing solar gains in the warmer months. The room layout should also be a consideration.

Rooms facing the south will get the most sunlight during the daytime hours and are ideal for living rooms and dens. Rooms to the north have less sunlight and are often reserved for garages and laundry rooms. Kitchen and bedrooms are best placed to the east as a way to get good sun in the day, but start to cool down in the late afternoon. Floor plans created for a new home will also need to have strategies for maximizing ventilation through the proper window and door placement.

Building a New Home? Download our Energy Efficiency Checklist 


Energy-Efficient Building Features

From the pouring of the foundation, the process of building a New Jersey energy-efficient home will commence. As one example, manufactured concrete walls could be used to create walls that are pre-insulated with high-density insulation materials. In comparison, basements without insulation have been noted as wasting as much as 30 percent of your home’s energy dollars.

HVAC systems included in new homes need to be both properly sized plus have high energy efficiency ratings. All ductwork outfitted for the new construction project will have to be designed and installed in a manner to minimize energy loss.

Additional building features to consider for improved energy efficiency:

  • Energy Star Windows
  • Energy Star Appliances
  • Fluorescent and LED Lighting
  • Insulation and Air Sealing
  • Reflective Roofing Materials
  • Solar Panels

A New Jersey builder with experience in energy efficiency construction can assist with all aspects of reducing your household’s carbon footprint. With new technologies, it is easier than ever to invest in energy efficiency.

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