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Discover the “Built To Save” Advantage

Discover the “Built To Save” Advantage

BUILT TO SAVE™ is an energy-efficiency certification program which recognizes new homes that outperform minimum code building requirements. With the help of the BTS program and third-party inspectors, the builder is guided through a process which leads to certifying their homes as high-performance.

In this blog post, we present to you with some of the most common energy performance issues, and we also present to you the benefits of owning a “BUILT TO SAVE” certified home.

Fact #1: THE HOME’S ENVELOPE

A typical home has about a half-mile of cracks and gaps throughout, according to the Department of Energy. This results in a 20% to 40% increase in heating and cooling costs every year through air leakage.

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THE BUILT TO SAVE™ ADVANTAGE:

A third-party energy rater inspects the home after insulation is installed to make sure the home meets or exceeds the requirements pertaining to the home’s envelope, thus ensuring proper sealing for ceiling, walls, and floors. The inspection ensures that complete air barriers are installed where required. A home is tested upon completion using specialized equipment and software to verify that the home’s air leakage is in compliance with the required readings.

Fact #2: PROPER AIR PRESSURE

If your bedroom doors slam shut when your a/c unit turns on, you are experiencing the build-up of air pressure in your bedroom from fresh air coming into the room and the stale air trying to get out. When air pressures are not calibrated correctly, fresh air is unable to come in because the stale air is unable to go back to the air handler through the small opening under the door. A simple fix involves installing a small jumper duct that allows for air to flow out of a room and back to the air handler in the home. This is best done at the framing stage.

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THE BUILT TO SAVE™ ADVANTAGE:

Proper air pressures mean every room in the home will be at the same temperature. No more hot or cold rooms. Better still, you can be sure you are breathing fresh air while you sleep.

Fact #3: PROPERLY INSTALLED INSULATION

Insulation, especially fiberglass batt insulation, works best when it maintains its form and shape. The space between the fibers is actually what makes it perform like insulation. If the material is squashed or jammed into place—like into corners, behind the electrical wires along the walls, or around electrical boxes, the insulation loses its R-value. Essentially, it no longer functions as insulation. Even spray foam insulation can be installed ineffectively.

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THE BUILT TO SAVE™ ADVANTAGE:

A third-party licensed home energy rater visually inspects a home while it is in the framing stage, after insulation and before the drywall is completed to ensure that the insulation was properly installed. Whether it is batt, blown-in, or spray foam, all insulation must be installed as per manufacturer’s guidelines in order to comply with the program. Special attention is focused on areas that would allow cold air to escape to the attic through openings throughout the wall cavities and ceiling or allow hot air to enter the home’s envelope. It takes longer to install insulation properly, and a third-party written guarantee of proper insulation is the best way to rest assured.

Fact #4: CORRECTLY SIZED AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM

Calculating the right size for the air unit in a home is the job of the HVAC contractor. Unfortunately, many rely on using a rule of thumb which is not as accurate as actually doing the cooling load calculations as required by the Manual J that takes into account all of the factors that would have an impact on the size of the unit. As a result, the a/c units installed are typically oversized because of the myth that “bigger is better.” The larger sized unit may mean more profit for the HVAC contractor, but it definitely means less comfort for the homeowner.

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THE BUILT TO SAVE™ ADVANTAGE:

The Manual J document is required to be submitted before construction is begun to give a third-party energy rater time to review the HVAC calculations to ensure that the a/c unit is not over-sized. While an a/c unit is 50% of the home’s utility bill, it is 100% of the home’s comfort. An over-sized unit will make the home uncomfortable by its ineffectiveness in removing humidity and will increase the risk of moisture problems and mechanical repairs from over-cycling—turning on and off repeatedly as it cools the home too quickly.

Fact #5: PROPER WINDOWS AND INSTALLATION

Windows give homes style and beautiful views, but they also let heat and cold in and out of a home. Walls require proper insulation. And windows are just clear walls. So windows too must meet certain requirements for energy efficiency and performance as required by code. There are 3 measurements you should know that also apply to doors and skylights: U-factor; Solar Heat Gain Coeffient (SHGC); Visible Transmittance (VT). The type of window and its required measurements listed will depend on where the window is located in the home and other variables. Tip: Window labels must remain on the windows until an inspector has verified the label. Also, if the windows are installed before the house wrap is put on, there may be a moisture issue in the future. Note that a small crack as tiny as 1/16” around a window can be the equivalent of leaving it open up to 3 inches.

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THE BUILT TO SAVE™ ADVANTAGE:

As part of the thermal inspection done at the framing stage, a RESNET certified rater verifies that all the windows comply with the new 2015 IECC law, and he/she takes photos of the labels for the record. The rater also makes sure that the windows were installed properly to avoid water penetration or mold issues in the future. Tip: Avoid aluminum or steel window frames which absorb heat and cause condensation. Vinyl frames are superior in energy efficiency and insulation.

Fact #6: LIGHTING

Typically, 20 percent of your utility bill goes to lighting your home. While the 2015 IECC requires a minimum of 75% of lamps in permanently installed fixtures be high efficiency lighting, when you look at the savings and benefits of such lighting, it makes no sense to use anything but energy efficient lights—especially the new light-emitting diode type (LED). Residential LED lights use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting products. If you replace a light in a baby’s room with an LED light when that baby is born, you won’t have to replace it again until the baby celebrates his/her 20th birthday (assuming normal use).

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THE BUILT TO SAVE™ ADVANTAGE:

To comply with the above-code requirements of the program, a BUILT TO SAVE™ home must have a minimum of 85% of the light fixtures as energy efficient. Most opt for 100%.

If you are interested in building a new home with the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification, our current magazine issue of the New Homes Guide highlights the 2018 Leading Energy-Efficient Builders of the Rio Grande Valley. These builders have stepped up to a leadership role in the construction of homes superior in every way to code-built homes.
If you are a builder interested in joining the BUILT TO SAVE™ program, call (956)778-3590 for more information.
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