3 Basic Necessities for a Super High Efficient Home
It goes without saying but Houston real-estate is INSANE right now. Homes flipping, new towers, commercial centers. Bubble-indicators? Is this boom causing the traffic to get worse? Certainly feels like it. Maybe its just the roads. Feels like I’m off-roading anywhere near Montrose, River Oaks or West U. Anywho, I think we can agree that there there is buzz. Its the feel of progress. Though it comes with growing pains.
So what does this have to do with Home Efficiency you ask? Well, many of my friends have been asking about home efficiency since they all seem to be buying houses at these newly inflated rates. Additionally, there seems to be this universal experience that overtakes new home owner at about their first anniversary of home ownership (maybe less) where they become increasingly aware of the creeks and cracks and start to wonder, “What would make this place better?” Efficiency is up there on the list to make things ‘better’. To my friends I’ve offered the following 3 essentials. Yes I know there are many more items, however, these are the most basice and important to home owners in Houston, TX. These are ordered by a very precise scale of cost vs efficiency benefit. #1 is the most benefit for the buck and #3 is the least of these.
1. Proper Insulation
Numero Uno. Proper Attic Insulation is essential for a few reasons. It is fairly inexpensive and will improve home efficiency AND comfort (ie. fewer hot spots). The vast majority of homes across Houston TX are UNDER insulated. The Energy Star Recommended level of insulation is R-30 to R-60. What does that mean? Go in your attic and measure how deep the insulation is with a ruler. For standard new blown fiberglass insulation the expectable height according to Energy star is a minimum of ~9 inches of depth from top to bottom. More is better though.
There are other ways to additionally insulate your attic. Radiant Barrier (shown in picture one) is just aluminum foil under your roof that reflects radiant heat. This may sound silly but it reduces attic temperatures up to 23 degrees. This drops the heat load on your house significantly. Allowing your HVAC system to work less frequently especially during peak demand. This also means that if your HVAC system does not have to work as hard you won’t have as many costly repairs and the longevity of the system will be extended. Double awesome. I always recommend true foil radiant barrier over spray in radiant. The investment is greater but the product is much better.
Lastly, if you want to go the distance, investigate foam insulation(pictured above). This is applied under the roof and seals the home as it is typically NON-POROUS.
2. High Efficiency HVAC System:
By high efficiency air conditioning system I mean a minimum of 16 SEER with a variable speed furnace. The picture above is of a high efficiency Amana system. This is a 95% furnace which would be great in Chicago but not as necessary for Houstonians.
In order to achieve high levels of HVAC efficiency the system should be properly matched up. This is to say that all primary pieces of equipment(furnace, evaporator coil, and condenser) should be matching. This is the only way to know the ‘true’ factory intended efficiency. Additionally this might blow your mind but your furnace DOES work during summer time. This is where having a variable speed furnace in Houston TX is a good idea. For a deeper lesson in this read our HVAC for Dummies page.
Installation is as important as choosing a the right high efficiency system for your home. In order for systems to reach their full potential you must have a qualified company install it. Those with less experience can create issues that will largely go unnoticed in the short term. Have a reputable installer is of utmost importance. Choose a contractor wisely.
3. Tankless Water Heater
Benefits include instant hot water and more efficiency. It works only when you need it. A tankless heater flash heats water. No longer will you run out of hot water. Be sure to have a professional experienced plumber bid this work out. Often times people will look online for prices on Home Depot’s website or elsewhere and see that a tankless will cost ~$1,000 but there is much much more involved with installing a tankless water heater. Compared to your old tank the tankless heater needs more gas quickly to heat the water quickly. This entails an increase in the size of your gas line.