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!
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.
Existing 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 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.