Buying an inefficient refrigerator is an expensive mistake. But at least the solution is simple: you can always buy a new refrigerator.
If you build an inefficient house, however, you may have an unfixable problem on your hands. Some newly built homes are so poorly designed, sited, and built that it would be cheaper to demolish them and start again than to correct all their flaws.
Assuming you get the details right from the start, the incremental cost of better energy features will be affordable, and you’ll still be smiling when energy prices double. But if you get the details wrong — if you choose cheap windows or build a leaky ceiling — you may be stuck with a white elephant.
The great tragedy of poorly built new homes is that many details that would have been easy to include at the time of construction are notoriously difficult to retrofit. To be sure your new home is an energy miser, not an energy hog, follow these ten important steps.
1. Design a small house
Avoid the temptation to build big, even if you think you can afford it. If you build a spare bedroom, remember that as long as you own the home, you’ll be paying taxes on it, heating it, cooling it, ventilating it, and vacuuming it. Maybe all you really need is a fold-out couch.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit friends in Paris, Madrid, or Rome, you know that it’s possible to live a luxurious, civilized life in a small apartment. If it weren’t for building code requirements, I’d advise you to design your next house like a sailboat; failing that, at least use boat design principles for inspiration.
2. Orient the house properly
Passive solar design principles aren’t very complicated; a few…