Written on
February 2, 2017

9 Secrets to Energy Efficient Home Design

Celebrities with deep green homes fascinate us. Bryan Cranston, for example, has a Platinum LEED-certified house that boasts of low-maintenance insulation materials, solar panels, LED lighting, rainwater collection capabilities, and energy-efficient appliances. It is said to be the first passive house in Ventura County.

But you don't have to be a celebrity to adopt an energy efficient home design. There are ways to make your house use less energy without spending a lot of money. 

Don't believe us? We've compiled 9 secrets to greening your home.

Energy efficient home design 101

According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), an energy-efficient home is:

  • less expensive to operate;
  • more comfortable to live in;
  • more environmentally friendly

If you're planning renovations or improvements, NRCan recommends getting an EnerGuide home evaluation, which is a service that provides useful information about your home's energy performance.  

The service is conducted by an energy advisor who will check your home's energy performance from the basement to the attic. He or she will make recommendations so you can decide on which upgrades or renovations would work best with your home.

Of course, the goal is for your dream Toronto custom home to save as much energy as it can, while keeping your renovations costs low.

Year-round comfortable temperatures 

One secret to an energy efficient home design has to do with temperature. A well-designed eco-home will stay at comfortable temperatures even without a heater or air-conditioner. 

To do this, make sure majority of the windows are on the south side to increase the house's heat gain while the sun's up. Don't place a lot of doors, windows, and vents on the north and northwest sides of the house to keep the draft out. 

You also want to have right-sized roof overhangs or sun screens to keep your interiors cool during summer. Essentially, you're restricting the exposure of your walls and windows to direct sunlight so you're less tempted to turn on the AC.

Green insulation options

Did you know that the right insulation can reduce an energy bill by up to 30 percent

To choose the best insulation, you can't just look at the R-value or how well an insulation resists heat flow. In terms of energy efficient home design, you also have to look at the material and how much it costs. 

Some green insulation options you can consider are sheep's wool, cotton, aerogel, rigid polystyrene, and icynene. Wool is perhaps the most cost-effective option as it's more fire resistant than other types of insulation.

And since it will keep your house cool in the day and warm at night, you wouldn't need to adjust your heating or cooling systems often, which saves money in the long run.

Energy-saving window treatments

Though window treatments or coverings cannot reduce air leakage or infiltration, these can help reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. 

For example, if you prefer window awnings, you can choose one made from synthetic fabrics instead of metal or canvas. Not only are these water-repellent, they also resist mildew and fading. 

You can also go for vertical or horizontal slat-type window blinds, draperies, window shades, window shutters, storm panels, and mesh window screens. 

High-reflectivity window films are also recommended especially in climates with long cooling seasons. You can apply these films yourself or you can request your Toronto custom home builder for windows with reflective glazing or glass.

LED lights

We know that most Canadians are using compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) but the problem is that these usually end up in landfills, eventually releasing toxic mercury into the ecosystem. 

So if you're still using fluorescent or incandescent lights, you may want to switch to LED lights, which are 80 percent more efficient and contain no toxic elements. 

LED lights also have longer life spans. This means you don't need to replace them often which is good for your wallet. Fewer replacements also mean fewer resources are required for manufacturing, packaging, and transportation.

ENERGY STAR® certified appliances

Products bearing the ENERGY STAR® symbol have met or exceeded technical specifications for high efficiency.

You can find a list of ENERGY STAR® certified appliances, as well as electronics, heating equipment, cooling and ventilating equipment, water heaters, and more on NRCan's website.

Skylights and solar tubes

An energy efficient home design takes advantage of natural daylight. This can be done by installing skylights or solar tubes. 

A good skylight can save up to 80 percent energy. Compared to a traditional window, it distributes natural light more evenly and covers more floor space.

Solar tubes, on the other hand, are 10- or 14-inch-diameter sheet metal tubes with an interior that functions like a mirror. These are installed on the roof, where they capture daylight and spread it via diffusers into your living space.

Whole house fans

Whole house fans are a good substitute for air conditioners. They pull air in from open windows and release it through the attic and roof. 

It's important that you hire a professional to install a whole house fan. Operating large exhaust fans could be dangerous without the proper structures in place.

If ventilation's not enough, for example, the fans can cause a backdraft in your water heater or furnace, pulling in carbon monoxide into your home. 

An experienced professional can take attic measurements and install dedicated circuit wiring, as well as attic vents. If you have heating and air conditioning ducts in your home, a professional can modify these systems to provide whole house cooling. 

Thermal chimneys

Like whole house fans, thermal chimneys or solar chimneys let cool air in and keep hot air out. Unlike whole house fans, however, thermal chimneys are nonmechanical. 

A typical thermal chimney is made of a black, hollow thermal mass with an opening at the top, where hot air is exhausted. It is placed at low to medium height in a room.

Solar chimneys have been in use for centuries, particularly by the Persians in the Middle East and Near East, as well as the Romans in Europe. 

If you need help with energy efficient home design, our team would be glad to help you. You can contact us by phone by calling 647-795-2798 or you can email us at info@structuredb.ca. 

Article written by:
David Le Prevost