When building a home we all have a list of “must haves”, and one of those that is usually pretty loosely defined is “must be energy efficient”. And while it seems like “lots of insulation” would keep the home both warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, there is much more than meets the eye to building an energy efficient home that is healthy to live in and beautiful to look at.
Mike and Cindi O’Neil @ SolAire Homebuilders have been building “green” homes in Central Oregon for 20 years now and have a simple, yet comprehensive approach to their general process that is completely logical for any of us here on the high desert. Their approach centers first on optimizing the power of the sun.
In early solar homes it was assumed that you had to give up aesthetics or comforts in order to get the greatest benefits. Fortunately this idea is completely false! By designing with efficiency in mind and orienting the home to benefit from the sun’s seasonal patterns, both passive and active solar strategies can decrease the energy requirements of your home from 30-85%. This is known as a “High Performance Home”.
Some passive strategies include:
Heating in Winter
- Orient window glazing to the south
- Cluster main living areas in south and southeast sectors of the home
Cooling in Summer
- Use correct window overhang for the eaves
- Build in thermal mass to moderate heat
- Consider natural ventilation options
While good active strategies include:
- Solar Electricity: Using photovoltaic arrays to produce renewable energy on your roof in Central Oregon’s climate is very smart. SolAire models the energy budget of your home to provide you with the optimal array size.
- Solar Hot Water: Save up to 75% on your domestic hot water heating bill. SolAire can even connect active solar panels to a ground source heating system.
Building an energy efficient home envelope is the next thing to consider. While this sounds incredibly technical, essentially it means that by insulating to extremely high standards heat loss in the winter is reduced and heat gain in the summer is reduced as well. Logical, isn’t it?
But there is much more to consider. Here are a just a few:
- Sealing the home envelope and ductwork to eliminate air leaks. SolAire insulates the home envelope to very high standards.
- Using high efficiency low U and low E glass for windows
- Preventing moisture & mold problems by using weather wrap, sealing windows & doors, and proper use of exterior flashing.
Reducing Energy Consumption in the Home is a necessity. Pairing this with our other four steps increases efficiencies even further without sacrificing comforts or the Earth itself.
Every SolAire home has standard green products that save energy in your new home.
- We use day lighting strategically with windows, solatubes or skylights.
- We use LED lighting.
- We use energy efficient furnaces and heat pumps but you may want to upgrade with Energy Recovery Ventilators
- We use energy efficient appliances: dishwashers, refrigerators, washer/dryers, tankless hot water heaters, solar hot water heaters.
Did you know indoor air pollution is now considered one of the country’s top five urgent environmental risks to public health? We live in a beautiful place with amazing air quality and sadly without knowing it, code-built homes could be silently killing us.
Our standard home interior selections are designed to be beautiful yet healthy for your family. Some of the ways we are working to Improve Indoor Air Quality are
- Standard fresh air ventilation/filtration systems that remove dirt, dust, pollen, smoke and other pollutants from the outside air in every home we build.
- Sealing off the garage fumes from the house and placing the furnace and ductwork in conditioned space.
- Use of low VOC finish materials in the home by choosing non-toxic materials like hardwood flooring, ceramic tile, cement, natural solid surfaces, wool carpet, low VOC paints, low VOC adhesives, & low VOC cabinetry.
- SolAire uses zero VOC insulation in the walls of all of their homes.
- Something that is often overlooked is using the Earth’s resources wisely. SolAire has long been a leader in sustainable building practices. You can rest easy knowing your home is easy on the environment. Green building is our core value at SolAire, not something we started doing because it seemed like people were asking for it. Here are a few of the things we do as standard practice.
- We use efficient building practices to reduce waste
- We recycle wood building waste
- Ask us about using recycled building products and local manufacturers
- We gladly upgrade your home with sustainably harvested lumber (FSC)
- Engineered lumber is standard
- We use water wise plumbing fixtures (suggested but must be specified by homeowner)
- We help you use low impact site planning, water wise & native plant landscaping techniques
2015 celebrates 20 years of “firsts” for SolAire in Central Oregon-The first LEED platinum certified building in Bend, the first NetZero home in Bend, and many more. Come see us at the COBA Tour of Homes July 17th -19th & the 24th-26th where we will be showcasing our latest Net Zero home where we will announce our Tesla Powerwall offer.