Get advice on how to build an energy efficient home. Learn how to choose energy efficient features for your home, from the point of new construction, to adding features later, like solar panels, for a truly energy efficient home.
LESLIE: Dan in Idaho needs some help with a new home he’s building. What can we do for you?
DAN: Hey, we’re building a new house …
DAN: … and I want to know if there’s a website to go to that will tell us what efficient things that we can do that are cost-effective, before we get started.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a good question and I think a great place to start is EnergyStar.gov . That is the website put together by the Department of Energy and they have Energy Star information there for pretty much every room in the house, for every construction technique, there’s info for homeowners, there’s info for builders. You can really do a good job of educating yourself, Dan, on that single website put together by DOE.
DAN: The whole thing. Wind; maybe putting in a boiler, a wood boiler and …
TOM: Yeah, you’re not going to find a one-stop shop for that. I will tell you that, generally speaking, that the alternative energies like that are going to be pretty expensive. Like I know – for example, I heard just the other day that the cost of installing a wind generator was averaging at around 20K and it was going to save you about 700 bucks a year in electrical costs, so think about it; do the math. You’re not going to break even on that for more years than that generator is probably going to – than that wind generator would actually last.
So even though it sounds like a good idea, the install costs are so high it doesn’t always make a good idea. I’ll tell you what is a wise thing to do when you’re building your house and that is to build one that is really energy-efficient . I mean, you can basically build an Energy Star-rated house today …
TOM: … where you test it when you’re done. You actually have an independent test  done to make sure that it’s draft-proof and it’s insulated well, it has the right kinds of doors and windows. All those sort of things are the best …
LESLIE: Will keep your costs down.
TOM: … are the best way for you to keep your costs down . Again, maximum energy efficiency; I would concentrate on that first.
TOM: And then, you know, if you have the opportunity to put a small solar panel on the roof or something of that nature, you can do that second. But the first thing is to make sure you build an energy-efficient house.
TOM: Don’t worry about how to fuel it; just make it tight first.
LESLIE: And you know what, Dan, there’s actually a great website. It’s the website for the U.S. Department of Energy and they have a whole site dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy and that website is EERE.Energy.gov . And when you go to the site you’ll see a whole section on solar energy and wind and hydropower and geothermal technologies and there’s a lot of information there that might help you along the alternative track as well.
TOM: Dan, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.