Friday, March 12, 2010

Building Envelope - Crucial to a ENERGY STAR® Qualified Home

It’s blustery cold outside. The temperature is low; the wind is whipping. You go inside your home, but the cold follows you, seeping in through various leaks in the building envelope of the house. The heater runs continually trying to fight the intruding cold air. You are not warm; your heating bill grows larger. Will this ever improve?

The answer is YES when you live at On Top of the World Communities.

For years, On Top of the World has been building the highest quality home, actually surpassing ENERGY STAR® minimum guidelines. What makes our homes so much more energy efficient than the homes of other builders? What is it about a home that makes it seamless, without drafts, without air loss? The answer to both questions is the building envelope.

The Building Envelope
The building envelope is just what it sounds like, the outer layer of the home. It encompasses components such as insulation, windows and doors, roof, wall and penetrations in the walls, their fit and interaction and the entire efficiency of the final product. Each of these elements can leak air into or out of the home. Collectively, if they are leaking, there can be a lot of conditioned air seeping out or a lot of outside air coming in…not to mention moisture. Builders may focus on one area or another, but if they are not guaranteeing all of them, then you are at risk. For example, a high R-value in a ceiling may seem like a good selling point but can be completely offset and negated by exterior leakage around windows, doors or ductwork. At On Top of the World, we are committed to a tight building envelope.

Low-E, Double Pane Windows
Heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer through a home’s windows can account for up to 50% of that home’s heating and cooling expenses. A window’s energy performance is measured by the heat loss through the window on a cold day (U-value), heat gain through the window on a hot day (solar heat gain coefficient), and air leakage around the window’s edge. The lower the rating in each of these areas, the better the window’s energy performance. The use of low-E, double pane windows at On Top of the World combined with the installation practice of tightly sealing the windows’ edges guarantees high energy performance in this area.

R-30 Attic & R-13 Wall Insulation
The primary purpose of insulation in the home is to reduce the exchange of heat between the inside and outside of the home. The effectiveness of the insulation can be drastically reduced if it is not installed properly. A high R-value is important, but it can be undermined by gaps, voids and compression in the insulation. That is why our homes are inspected during the construction process by a third party inspector to insure that what is going on behind the walls is done to the highest standards. At On Top of the World, insulation R-30 in the attic and R-13 in the walls is installed without any gaps, compressions, or misalignments. This continuous boundary of insulation between the inside and outside maintains temperature efficiently and keeps the home comfortable and quiet.

Duct Sealing & Insulation
The duct system is the equipment by which conditioned air is distributed throughout the home. The potential for energy loss through this system is very high if the ducts are not installed, sealed and insulated properly. Proper sealing of the ducts prevents dust, pollen, pests, moisture and fumes from entering the home. This, in turn, improves air quality. On Top of the World seals air ducts with an advanced sealant that significantly reduces leakage in the duct system, improving the comfort and air quality of your home, while reducing utility bills. Ducts that are tightly sealed can increase your heating and cooling system’s efficiency by as much as 20%.

Tight Construction, Positive Pressure & Air Quality
Sealing all exterior penetrations is one of the most critical features of a tight building envelope. Caulking, foaming, and gasketing of windows, doors and wall penetrations in the home helps reduce energy losses, which lowers utility bills for heating and cooling. In an On Top of the World home, a tight building envelope creates positive air pressure within the home. As a result, infiltration of moisture and outside contaminates is reduced. Fresh outside air is introduced into the home via the return side of the Air Handler unit. The outside air is circulated over the coils of the air handler allowing it to be conditioned before entering the home.

Seal of Approval
In days gone by, the envelope of a letter was marked with the seal of the sender…signifying the credibility of the message. The credibility of our homes’ building envelope is determined by a third party inspector both during the construction of the home and then again at its completion. Upon inspection, the home is then marked with the “seal of approval” from ENERGY STAR. Each home displays this “seal” (or label) on its breaker box.

Interested in becoming a homeowner is Florida’s most energy efficient community? Schedule a visit today to learn how. For information about our Guest Visitation Program, call 800-421-4162.