BuildDirect Blog: Life at Home

Heating, Cooling, and Home Construction Energy Efficiency

As the summer begins to approach, the area of managing temperatures in your interiors is once again becoming a key area of concern. After all, you want to be comfortable as the weather outside begins to heat up. But, you don’t want to spend more than you should on keeping an interior at a comfortable level.

Also, it’s not just about summer heat. It’s about how you are able to affordably manage your interior temperatures all year around. When you’re building a custom home, in many ways, you’re at an advantage of being able to optimize your savings for the long term.

HVAC systems and home construction expert George Rollins is here to talk about heating and cooling, and how to amp up your home insulation and temperature management systems to maximize energy efficiency, and save on your utility bills, too.


With energy prices soaring, everyone is looking for a way to save these days. Because of new innovations in the construction industry, if you’re in the midst of constructing or renovating a home, the decisions you make today may help you save on your monthly utility bills in the future. While taking an energy efficient approach to your construction project can help you save money, it can also help preserve the environment. Consider these issues when tackling your next project:

Selecting materials for maximum energy efficiency

For decades, if you were building a custom home it was a given that your contractor would use the traditional stick-frame construction method to build the house. With that method, wooden studs are erected to create the structure of the home, and a layer of sheathing (usually plywood) completes the form before the exterior is clad with wood, brick, hardi-plank, etc. Today, however, numerous alternatives to stick-frame construction have emerged, some of which offer major benefits in terms of energy efficiency.

Structural insulated panels (SIPs), for example, are fiberglass panels which come filled with insulation and can make the home more airtight. In addition, insulated concrete forms (ICFs), which are hollow foam forms that stack together like cinderblocks and get filled with concrete, can be used to frame a house. Like SIPs, ICFs have inherent insulating properties that form a strong barrier to warm outside air. As a result, indoor climate control is much easier and there may be less need to run an air conditioner or use other cooling devices.

Selecting a cooling system

Traditional air conditioners have long been the preferred cooling system for residential home construction. However, in certain areas of the country, installing other kinds of cooling systems can improve a home’s energy efficiency. For example, in dry climates, evaporative cooling systems, which pull outdoor air into the house and cool it with water, can provide relief from outdoor heat. In addition, absorption cooling systems, which use heat as their energy source, can be less costly and produce less threat to the environment than air conditioners.

However, if installation of an air conditioner is a must where you live, they can be operated in a responsible manner that avoids overuse. For example, vigilantly replacing air filters and using a programmable thermometer can help prevent waste, and save you money on your utility bills too.

Installation of Insulation

If your framing materials don’t have insulation built into them, make sure your contractor installs good quality insulation with a high R-value (and an adequate amount of it) in all areas of the home. Without insulation, the warm outside air can penetrate the home and cause interior temperatures to rise. Pay special attention to problem areas like the attic. Without proper insulation, heat build up in the attic can eventually make its way into a home’s living space.

Completing the thermal envelope

While insulation can help defend a home against absorption of outdoor heat and solar energy, careful caulking and weatherstipping are necessary to ensure that the home remains airtight. Caulking and weatherstripping help seal all the tiny cracks in a home’s thermal envelope. Without them, a house would be vulnerable to the intrusion of hot air into the home and the escape of cool air out of the home.

Radiant Barriers

Installation of a radiant barrier, which has a foil lining, underneath the roof sheathing can help reflect solar heat away from a house.

Selection and Placement of Windows and Doors

Check the energy efficiency of windows and doors when making your selections. Today, choosing a brand and model of window can be overwhelming because so many options are available. Narrowing down your choices by adhering to this advice will help make your decision easier:

  1. Choose materials with a high R-value. R-value relates to the window or door’s resistance to thermal transfer or heat flow.
  2. Choose materials with a low U-value. U-value relates to the amount of heat transferred through a window or door.

When designing a custom home construction project, and determining how the structure should be oriented on the lot, consider sun exposure. For example, if possible, you may want to avoid placing lots of windows in areas that get a great deal of sun exposure, because solar heat can penetrate windows more easily than the rest of a home.

Installing Fans

Installing ceiling fans throughout the house will enable you to help keep the air circulating and give your air conditioner a break every now and then. Fans use considerably less energy than air conditioners, so utilizing fans whenever doing so is sufficient to regulate the home’s temperature and is wise from an economical and environmental perspective.


Thanks, George!

George Rollins is a home construction enthusiast at, a site that has extensive information on brands and models of furnaces, boilers, air conditioners and heat pumps. FurnaceCompare alsopublishes consumer reviews and tips on choosing HVAC contractors.

George has a passion for educating consumers on home improvements, as he feels that the right information can help consumers choose more wisely.

Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.


  1. Maintenance is definitely key in maintaining proper insulation. It’s so important to have building envelopes examined annually to make sure there are no leaks that could lead to energy bills that are through the roof (no pun intended :) We offer infrared & ultrasonic testing solutions for commercial buildings nationwide. This includes: electrical systems, building envelopes and commercial roofing system surveys and would like to invite you and your readers to checkout our website: Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. We recently purchased a Golden West manufactured home that is so airtight that if we have a fire in the fireplace and the furnace comes on, the room fills with smoke ,fire alarms go off, dogs howl and my wife gets mad!! The firplace is ducted to under the house. What will happen if we install a woodstove? I suspect the same thing. Is there a cure?

    • It sounds like your fireplace might need an outside source of air.
      Most fireplaces send a lot of indoor air up the chimney and are for looks mainly.
      If you have glass doors on it, they need to be closed, but not with roaring fire.

      If you install a woodstove, make sure you get an airtight one that has provision for an outside source of air.

      If you continue to have problems, you can get what is called an ‘ air to air heat exchanger’

      this allows two way air flow, to keep air fresh, but takes the heat from the outgoing air and adds it

      to the incoming air. However they are expensive, but used in many super airtight homes to maintain
      air quality.

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