Maximizing Energy Efficiency in Your ADU Construction
Constructing an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on your property can provide additional living space and rental income potential. However, adding an ADU also increases energy usage on your property. Adu builders incorporates energy-efficient features into your ADU design is crucial for saving on future power bills and reducing your carbon footprint.
Choose the Right Materials
The materials used to construct your ADU can greatly impact overall energy efficiency. Be sure to:
- Use structurally insulated panels (SIPs) for walls and roofing. SIPs have a rigid foam insulation core sandwiched between sheets of plywood or OSB, providing superior insulation compared to standard framing.
- Install high performance windows with double or triple pane glass and argon/krypton gas fills. This improves insulation and reduces heat transfer.
- Select exterior doors that are well-insulated and weather-stripped to prevent air leaks.
- Prioritize sustainable materials like FSC certified wood.
Install Efficient Appliances
Appliances and lighting account for over 20% of home energy use. When selecting fixtures and appliances, look for ENERGY STAR rated products. For even greater efficiency, consider:
- Induction cooktops instead of gas stoves
- LED light bulbs in all fixtures
- ENERGY STAR Most Efficient certified appliances
- Smart home devices like WiFi thermostats, smart plugs and wireless lighting controls
Incorporate Renewable Energy
Incorporating renewable solar energy systems into your ADU build reduces reliance on fossil fuel-generated utility power. Consider installing:
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) system
- Solar water heating
- Battery storage to capture excess solar energy
Any renewable energy generated but not immediately used can be distributed back to the main house.
Weatherize and Air Seal Properly
Drafts and air leaks can diminish insulation performance and allow conditioned air to escape. Be diligent about:
- Caulking and sealing all cracks, joints and penetrations
- Weather stripping all doors and windows
- Using spray foam insulation in difficult to access areas
- Installing rigid foam sheathing under the exterior siding
- Fully sealing all ductwork from infiltration
Take Advantage of Passive Solar Design
The layout, positioning and landscaping of your ADU can utilize free solar heat to warm the unit in winter. Design considerations include:
- Orienting the ADU to have south-facing walls and windows
- Minimizing windows on cooler north-facing walls
- Installing thermal mass like concrete floors to store heat
- Strategically placing deciduous trees to provide summertime shading
- Painting the exterior dark colors to absorb more daylight and solar energy
Consider Smart Home Technology
Smart home technology allows remote monitoring and automation of appliances, lighting and HVAC systems to improve efficiency. Products to research include:
- Smart thermostats that automatically adjust temperature setpoints
- Smart lighting capable of scheduling and occupancy sensing
- Smart plugs to better control electronic devices
- Whole home energy monitoring systems
- ADU electrical submetering for detailed power usage tracking
Prioritize Ongoing Maintenance
Proper maintenance keeps your ADU operating at peak efficiency over the long run. Be diligent about:
- Routinely checking and changing air filters
- Having HVAC systems serviced annually
- Re-caulking windows, doors and openings as needed
- Monitoring energy usage and looking for spikes that indicate issues
- Confirming insulation levels and addressing any deficiencies
Incorporate Passive House Standards
While designing your ADU for passive solar is a good start, taking inspiration from Passive House standards can greatly boost energy performance. Passive House is a stringent voluntary standard for achieving exceptional efficiency through strict protocols like:
- Envelope insulation levels of R-40 or higher
- Ultra airtight construction confirmed through blower door testing
- High performance windows with insulated frames
- Balanced heat and moisture recovery ventilation
- Orientation for maximum passive solar gain
- Elimination of all thermal bridging
Building green saves green for both you and the planet. Following these energy efficiency tips will help minimize the environmental impact of your accessory dwelling unit. With some planning and diligent construction practices, your ADU can be comfortable, economical to operate, and easy on the Earth.