Can You Afford an Ultra-Efficient Home?

by Barbara Lane 10/17/2021


Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

An ultra-efficient home is one that's designed and constructed not only to save you energy but provide its own. This means it uses no more renewable energy that it generates. To the novice homeowner, this may sound impossible. However, to the architects and engineers who specialize in designing this type of abode, it's all in a day's work.

How Can a House Be Its Own Energy Source?

Using a whole-house systems approach, architects use materials that are designed to harness and trap energy from the sun. Homeowners then use this energy to heat the water and air inside the home. It takes careful planning to design and build an ultra-efficient house, and the costs of construction usually reflect this. However, once built, this type of structure uses little in the way of traditional energy, and utility bills may even be nonexistent.

To provide its own energy, a home must feature south-facing windows and unobscured access to the sun. As the sun rises throughout the day, it shines into the windows and is collected by materials inside the home - usually a wall made of masonry or a tiled floor. Heat is stored in these materials according to their thermal mass. As the sun goes down and the day cools, heat stored in the thermal mass keeps temperatures inside the home comfortable.

There are controls in place to prevent the home from overheating. Usually they comprise window awnings, blinds or landscaping that limits the amount of sunlight that's allowed to enter during the hottest hours of the day.

What Types of Materials Are Used in Ultra-Efficient Homes?

Builders who construct ultra-efficient homes use materials that are functional for collecting and storing heat as opposed to ones that are simply attractive. These include:

  • Glazed glass

  • Brick

  • Recycled Steel

  • Spray foam insulation

  • Radiant barrier sheathing

  • Concrete

Most materials used in the construction of your ultra-efficient home will serve a purpose while looking beautiful and modern. They're filled with natural light and rich finishes that lend themselves well to heat absorption. The temperature and humidity inside the home is always comfortable, and if you have a utility bill, it won't fluctuate with the seasons.

What Does It Cost to Build an Ultra-Efficient Home?

It may cost as much as 7 percent more to build an ultra-efficient home as opposed to a more traditional design. However, you'll usually recoup that extra investment in under 10 years. By using energy-efficient materials, appliances and building techniques, the day-to-day costs of home operation are greatly reduced. As a result, the money you would usually spend on heating and cooling can begin going back into your savings account from the day you move in.

Can you afford to build an ultra-efficient home? The answer to this question may surprise you. There are several government grants and programs designed to encourage homeowners to build or upgrade to energy-efficient homes, according to Energy.gov. Some come as annual tax credits. Others are available as grants or as Energy-Efficient Mortgages (EEMs). Make sure to look into these options if you're interested in an ultra-efficient home.

About the Author
Author

Barbara Lane

I am a professional realtor with several years of experience representing buyers and sellers. Selling homes, condos, villas, new construction and land. A member of the National Association of Realtors, St Charles Board of Realtors for residential and commercial, as well as my CRS designation (Certified Residential Specialist) and currently working on my PSA designation (Pricing Strategy Advisor). I also have a back ground of mortgage lending, was a loan officer for local banks and brokerages firms. Processed Conventional, FHA, VA, MHDC, home equity line of credits and First Time Homebuyer programs. This knowledge is very helpful in understand the process as well as negotiating and supplying the proper paperwork to the correct parties of the transaction. Hobbies include, volunteer at my local church, playing golf, bowling and rooting on the St Louis Blues and St Louis Cardinal teams.