Sunday, March 17, 2013

Energy Efficiency Upgrades

When I found out that I was buying a home, I decided to go research what energy efficiency upgrades made sense. A lot can be done with new construction which will ultimately save money in the long run. Builders have a lot of incentive to use building code minimums though so they can advertise lower prices.

The main place where you can actually save money is insulation. Air conditioning and heating costs are a big part of energy bills and insulation is cheap. So I got the builder to upgrade the insulation to:

R-38 in the ceiling instead of R-19
R-19 above the garage instead of R-13
R-15 in 2x4 walls instead of R-13
R-21 in 2x6 walls instead of R-13

This meets or exceeds the Oak Ridge National Labs recommendations for the area which seemed about as credible a way to go. I tried to get some underslab insulation, but the builder was not willing to go along with that which probably means they know something I do not about difficulty of installation.

The double pane low-e glass that the homes came stocked with actually appeared to be quite good. Triple pane glass does exist, but it wasn't clear that it would pay for itself in energy savings in this climate. 

I got a whole bunch of recessed LED lights. This lights really impressed me in home depot the other day. For some reason I touched the bulb. It was cool. This seemed so remarkable to me that I touched the bulb on the metal halide bulb on display next to it. Sure enough, it was as hot you would expect a light bulb to be. These were expensive enough that I am not sure they will actually pay for themselves, but I should be able to avoid the need for lamps in most if not all of the house which will also save some money. 

I tried to get the air conditioner upgraded and got a great lesson in government inefficiency. The builder declined to let me upgrade the air conditioning. In order to install a higher efficiency air conditioner they would have to go back to the city of [La Habra]( with amended title 24 documents. This opened them up for additional demands from the city, a risk that after all of the trouble the city caused for them they were just not willing to take. So an energy efficiency law, resulted in a home being built that was less energy efficient.

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