Energy Efficiency a Top Priority for this House

07/25/10 by Staff Writer

The house Spear Construction Company has constructed at 209 Lowe Avenue in Kannapolis is so energy-efficient that the owners will be guaranteed a monthly power bill of only $27.

Max Spear, who has been in the construction business for 40 years, attended a workshop provided by Advanced Energy in Raleigh, which provides information on building Energy Star homes. These homes, which must meet guidelines set up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code and include energy-saving features that typically make them 20-30 percent more efficient than standard homes.

Since 16 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from electricity used in homes, making houses more energy-efficient means that power plants have to burn smaller amounts of fossil fuels, which contribute to air pollution and acid rain.

Energy Star homes focus on several features that lower energy demand and reduce air pollution:

•    Increased and properly installed insulation.

•    High-performance windows that keep heat in during the winter and out in the summer.

•    Tight construction that seals holes and cracks in the home’s “envelope” to reduce drafts.

•    Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

•    Energy Star products, like lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs and appliances.

The 1203-square-foot home Spear built in Kannapolis continues a commitment to building energy-efficient structures that began years ago. He built about a 10-12 homes for the Salisbury Community Development Corporation and is currently building another with many of the Energy Star components in Boone.

“The bottom line is sealing the house envelope so there’s no way for air to come in if you don’t want it to,” he says.

The EPA estimates that the homes save homeowners $200-$400 annually on utility bills. Any home three stories or less can earn the Energy Star label if it meets the EPA’s guidelines.

“Nearly a million Energy Star qualified homes have been constructed nationwide,” Spear says. “The EPA estimates that the amount of energy these homes save is the equivalent of taking 19 million cars off the road.

“That statistic really struck me,” he says. “We can reduce the amount of electricity power plants have to generate, which is good for the environment, and we can save homeowners a significant amount of money every year by building energy-efficient homes. It’s not that hard and it’s not that expensive. I think when people understand that, energy efficiency will be a top priority for homeowners.”

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ENERGY STAR qualified homes built in 2009 are the equivalent of:

  Eliminating emissions from 52,132 vehicles

  Saving 315,345,888 lbs of coal

  Planting 86,178 acres of trees

  Saving the environment 618,456,696 pounds of CO2

Based on national averages (www.energystar.gov)

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