Living in an “Earth Friendly” Home

Please note. The term “Earth Friendly” is trademarked by Piedmont Realty and Construction as their branding for the way they achieve energy efficiency in the homes they build.

It was 2007 when a few of our local area home builders started utilizing new building sciences to achieve energy efficiency. Lots of different materials and methods were being tried and there was definitely a learning curve.

Regardless of the methods at the time, I was impressed immediately. I can remember spending winter mornings in my home built in 2003 and afternoons in one of these brand new energy efficient homes. The difference was maddening. I wanted to tear down my 4 year old home.  My home felt drafty and uncomfortable by comparison. This was before there was any real data regarding energy cost savings.

Fast forward to 2010, and I finally got my new energy efficient home. Living  in this home since September, I have now experienced Fall to Winter to Spring.  I am constantly looking for ways to share what it is really like to live in a home built this way.

The analogy that comes to mind is from the auto industry. I am interested in energy efficient cars too. We own a VW TDI (Clean Diesel). The best way to describe this 40MPG avg vehicle is that it sips gasoline. Hybrid is the other new car technology and by far more well known. I test drove a Prius for 24 hours last month. This car achieves 50MPG by switching between battery power and gas. What I didn’t realize was how it operated in start and stop and slower speeds. Sitting at a stop sign, the car simply does not run. It is the savings from not using any gas at all that brings the MPG way up.

Now back to the “Earth Friendly” home.  I was reminded of the Prius over the last couple of months. When discussing the Earth Friendly home, we always start with the way the home is insulated. The structure is foamed in to “seal the envelope.” I’ve heard it described  as building an igloo cooler. When the home is heated, it holds the warmth longer. When the home is cooled, it has the same effect. In the Spring and Fall in the area, we have warm days and cool nights. Not unlike a Prius at a stop sign, this is when the savings start to add up. We turned our heat off after the first few above 70 degree days. With warm days and cool nights, I noticed our HVAC was not running at all. Over night, the home held its heat acquired during the day.  Essentially, for the past two months this home as pretty much held a range from 68-72 with virtually no support from the HVAC. This is where the savings really start to add up.

I am collecting data on two homes for comparison. More below. I don’t have enough to share the results in their entirety. However, I was so impressed by the early data, I felt compelled to start telling this story.

EARTH FRIENDLY HOME A: Built 2010, 3400 finished sq ft, Two zone Trane HVAC, (Zone 1 gas furnace), tankless gas water heater. This home also has a finished space over the detached garage with its own electric HVAC system not run full time.

NON-EARTH FRIENDLY HOME B: Built 2000, 2995 finished sq ft, one zone electric HVAC system, traditional electric water heater.

Since there is gas involved in one of these homes and not the other, we will look at the winter months when more data is available on the cost of the gas consumption.

HOME A electric bill March $115, April $98 for a total of $213.

HOME  B electric bill March $200, April $180 for a total of $380.

More to follow.  Feel free to contact me to discuss any of this in greater detail.