Bauhaus Custom Homes are built on the premise of making energy efficiency stylish and modern. So when Icemaggedon came around earlier this month, folks with Bauhaus homes stayed cozy and warm in their homes despite electricity outages, while the rest of us without power froze our butts off.

I asked Marc Kleinmann, founder of Bauhaus Custom Homes — A CandysDirt.com Approved Builder — what materials and strategies homeowners can use when building and renovating their homes to prepare before the next freeze hits Dallas. Should they invest in radiant barriers? New windows? Kleinmann gives us the low-down on energy efficiency after the jump!

Bauhaus Custom Preston Hollow

The best way to combat heating or cooling loss in any house is to eliminate draft and build a very tight building envelope. In layman’s terms: Design and build a good and airtight exterior wall structure and roof. Radiant barriers won’t do anything for you, in fact, while its better than just plain roof decking, it is a much over-hyped product and the benefits are way overstated.

All building penetrations such as plumbing pipes, vent pipes, electrical lines should be well sealed with tape and silicone. Wall to roof connections should be sealed and tight with no gaps or openings. Rule of thumb: if you can see the light shine through somewhere, air will leak.

Now that we have the rough envelope covered we can move on to the insulating part. We only use spray foam insulation. We seal all exterior walls and we foam the underside of the roof deck. This is very important. A lot of times, the majority of the air conditioning ducts run in the attic. Your traditional build would insulate the attic ceiling instead of the roof deck. So now — in winter — you are pumping 90-degree air through a duct that runs in a 35-degree attic. By the time it gets from the air heating unit to the supply grill it has already lost 40 percent of its energy. To combat that we insulate the underside of the roof deck. So now the air ducts are enclosed, and we call this “conditioned space.” Now there is mostly just a 7- to 10-degree temperature difference between the home and attic temperature.

Now we have the efficient building completed and the heat goes out. Not such a big deal because we have:

1) A well insulated house with enough thermal storage to keep the heat longer …

2) and a very tight house. Since there are no holes and penetrations in the building envelope, cold air doesn’t leak in and warm air doesn’t leak out. We recently completed a project that did not have any electricity when the last cold spell hit. After three days of temperatures in the teens and 20s, the inside temperature of the building was still 61 degrees with no heat at all.

Bauhaus ModernExisting homes are tricky, because there’s only so much you can do to eliminate draft unless you take all the sheetrock down and get full access to the walls. I think the biggest mistake people make is first investing in windows. While better windows help and certainly contribute to reducing draft, I would not recommend this as a first step.

Designing, building, and renovating homes is a mix between art, craft, and science  and technology (the pillars of the Bauhaus movement). The first thing we do in an existing home is test it to find out where the house leaks the most and where the duct system leaks.

Then, once we know where the house leaks, we can come up with an improvement strategy. When doing a whole house remodel it is always best to take the house all the way back to the studs. That way we have access to the wall cavity and can seal the envelope as best as possible and the install good insulation.

In closing I would like to mention the most important fact when looking for a house that performs well when it gets hot or cold is installation. Installation is everything. Period. And people should focus less on new windows or new HVAC systems and more on their building envelope. That’s where you get the best bang for your buck.

Marc-Kleinmann-Portrait-182x217-2012-150x150Marc Kleinmann is founder of design/build powerhouse Bauhaus Custom Homes, which was recently named “Best of Houzz.com 2013” as well as a perennial “Best Builder” list maker as well as a “CandysDirt.com Approved Builder.” If you demand modern luxury with sustainability, appreciate incredible design and aesthetics, then Bauhaus Luxury Dallas custom home builder are the team for you.

Home tour season has heated up and the DFW Solar Tour this Saturday is the hottest of them all.

More than 30 homes and and buildings with solar energy systems will be open to the public across the Dallas area. The self-guided tour organized by the North Texas Renewable Energy Group is part of a larger national grassroots event put on by the American Solar Energy Society that promotes the benefits of sun power. Attendees will see different kinds of solar installations, talk to the homeowners about their experiences, and take a peek at some unique homes in the Dallas area.

Program co-coordinator Lissa Magel says this year’s free event is the biggest she’s seen in its four-year existence. Last year’s event drew a little more than 20 homes and about 400 attendees.

“This year, we’re happy to have more participating homes in Dallas,” she says. “In the past they’ve been mostly in the surrounding areas.”

When it comes to energy trends, solar is sizzling. Globally, it has outpaced all other forms of energy project starts this year. U.S. companies like Solar City, which is chaired by PayPal and Tesla Motor founder Elon Musk, are seeing rapid growth. And locally, Oncor’s solar credits program for 2013 has been drained by North Texas homeowners, including groups like Plano Solar Advocates who have used group purchasing to obtain discounts on residential panels and other equipment.

With all the new interest in this oldest of energy sources, many homeowners dream of converting their home to solar for the cost savings and environmental benefits. The process, however, can be daunting. The Solar Tour is a chance for them to meet people who have actually done it and learn from their experiences.

Tour participant and electrical engineer Bob Litwins says he “took the plunge” and installed a small solar system on his Plano home in 2009, one of the first in the city. He estimates that he gets about a third of his electric power from the system and, combined with other energy reduction measures, has cut his power use by 45 percent.

He placed his home on the tour in 2009 and is back again this year.

“It’s great interacting with people when they’re are here and helping them learn about the practical nature of having solar,” he says.

The question he gets asked most by visitors is, how much does it cost? He estimates that he would spend about $7,500 for a system similar to his. The cost would be reduced by about half by federal tax credits and energy company incentives.

NTREG’s Magel has a few tips for prospective homebuyers who are looking for a house to convert. She suggests they find a property with a southern exposure, preferably in the back yard where rooftop solar panels aren’t noticeable from the street. Ranch and prairie-style homes make good candidates, because their low-angle, continuous rooflines take advantage of light for long periods of the day. And buyers should check with the neighborhood’s home owners association to confirm there are no rules that prohibit solar panels. Legally, it is becoming more difficult for associations to ban the panels, but there are holdouts.

Before homeowners start a solar conversion, Magel suggests they first take a look at ways they can decrease their current energy consumption. Getting rid of duplicate appliances and convenience gadgets, and using energy efficient lighting may provide enough benefits. If homeowners do decide to go solar, they can design a system that provides a percentage of their total energy and expand it later.

To participate in this year’s tour, visit the locations page at DFWSolarTour.org and determine which homes you’d like to visit. Locations are clustered mainly in the northern, western and southern sections of the Dallas area.

The website includes photos of each home, the type of solar installations it has, directions, comments from the homeowners, and information on additional alternative energy projects, such as wind turbines and electric cars. Most locations are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, though a few have different hours, so check carefully.

Highlights of this year’s tour include:

McKey
The Allen, McKey (pictured), Shine and Smades houses: This cluster of four single family homes on 10 acres in Oak Leaf is the brainchild of four sisters—Connie, Jan, Elaine and Paula. They’ve essentially built their own “green” subdivision. Visitors will see how each incorporated solar into these homes constructed by green building guru Jim Sargent.

Smith
The Smith House: This is a chance to take a look at a classic piece of Dallas residential architecture while learning about solar. This 1961 mid-century modern Dilbeck was completely renovated in 2008. It has a flat roof that’s tailor made for the home’s passive and active solar systems and the DIY homeowners will be happy to talk about how they did it.

Squyres

The Squyres House: It took three years, but these Flower Mound homeowners have reached net zero—meaning they pay no electricity bill whatsoever. Visitors will learn about how they completed the project in stages. And then take a look at the homeowners hot Tesla electric sports car.

Renner
Renner “Off-Grid” House: Weatherford is a hike from Dallas, but it’s worth it to see this homeowner’s effort to reduce his carbon footprint. The home has been completely off the “grid” for 11 months and has a mix of alternative energy features, including solar, wind and rainwater.

Marc LeeMarc Lee is a freelance writer and film buff who loves real estate almost as much as Candy herself. He lives in Dallas. Contact him via marc@marcsclips.com.

You are in for a really big treat this Sunday. 6552 Lake Circle Drive in East Dallas is nearing completion, AND WILL BE OPEN! An exquisite modern home uniquely situated on the Beards Branch of White Rock Creek. The stacked stone & wood facade combined with sheets of glass evoke a  mid-century sensibility. Space for pool. Energy features: foam insulation, 16 SEER Carrier units, tankless water heater. The home is located with wide, wide  frontage on Beard’s Branch & White Rock Creek, lot measuring 124 by 59 feet. Five bedrooms, four and one-half baths, upstairs master bedroom with balcony & fireplace. The kitchen opens to the den with great glassy views of the wooded creek.  Gameroom, masterpiece kitchen, two car garage — everything you need tucked efficiently into 4710 square feet. Oh, and there is space for a pool on the almost one-third acre lot.  When it comes to energy efficiency, this is where you will want to kiss this home: foam insulation, 16SEER carrier units, tankless water heaters, low e double paned windows, all the latest and greatest. Listed with Becky Frey of Briggs-Freeman for $1,099,000. Not bad. Open this weekend on Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.

This baby at 6552 Lake Circle Drive in East Dallas is not even out of the oven yet, but she is already a beauty. Completion a few weeks off, she’ll be more than ready for the holidays. The home is located with wide, wide  frontage on Beard’s Branch & White Rock Creek, lot measuring 124 by 59 feet. The facade is stacked stone and dark wood, plus tons of glass imparting a mid-century sensibility. Five bedrooms, four and one-half baths, upstairs master bedroom with balcony & fireplace. The kitchen opens to the den with great glassy views of the wooded creek.  Gameroom, masterpiece kitchen, two car garage — everything you need tucked efficiently into 4710 square feet. Oh, and there is space for a pool on the almost one-third acre lot.  When it comes to energy efficiency, this is where you will want to kiss this home: foam insulation, 16SEER carrier units, tankless water heaters, low e double paned windows, all the latest and greatest. Dying to see when complete, which we will, so stay tuned! Listed with Becky Frey of Briggs-Freeman for $1,099,000. Not bad. Open this weekend on Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.