11 Tips for Building an Energy-Efficient Custom Home

March 19, 2020

Most modern homes are built with energy efficiency in mind. Generally, if they are designed and built well, they help prevent energy loss and help provide savings on energy bills long-term. Working with an experienced custom home builder helps to ensure your custom home is built with high-quality materials, meets your needs, and is energy-efficient. Here are a few tips for building an energy-efficient custom home:

1. Use Effective Insulation

Effective insulation is one of the big tips for building your custom home to be energy-efficient. A properly insulated home prevents drafts to keep your heating and cooling efforts inside your home for maximum impact.

At the same time, it prevents the air and moisture outside from entering your home. This helps regulate the temperature inside your home and allows your HVAC system working efficiently to maintain a consistent temperature.

On top of that, wrapping and insulating your hot water pipes can help your water heater work more efficiently too. You can also opt for insulated doors to help further seal your home and protect the internal temperature. This is one of the benefits of insulated garage doors, especially with attached garages.

2. Tightly Seal Ductwork and Joints

Ductwork and joints throughout a home are notorious for energy leaks. They are also essential for proper ventilation. If they are poorly sealed, air will leak from them. Poor or improper ventilation can also be a result of poor design or installation and can cause further energy loss.

These air leaks and lack of good ventilation are big causes of energy loss and make it harder to regulate the temperature in your home. As a result, your HVAC system will have to work harder to compensate and you’ll likely see your energy bills increase because of it.

3. Choose Energy-Efficient Windows

Using high-performance, energy-saving windows helps to seal out extreme temperatures while keeping moderate temperatures inside. They do tend to be more expensive windows as they are higher quality, but, over time, they can help provide you savings on your energy bills.

Not only can they help keep your home cool in warm months, but they can help keep the heat in when it’s cold. Upgrades that help improve energy efficiency also often provide some noise reduction as well, which is why high-quality, energy-efficient windows are one of the popular soundproofing options for a quieter home.

Are Energy-Efficient Windows Worth the Expense?

Yes. Energy-efficient windows not only help you save on utility costs while you are living in the home, but they also increase your home’s value should you decide to sell it sometime down the line.

Saving on Utility Costs

The average household spends over half of its annual utility budget on heating and cooling the home. On top of that, inefficient windows may be causing 10-25% or more of energy loss, which adds to heating and cooling costs.

Energy-efficient windows include features like double-paned or triple-paned glass to keep heat in and usually provide an airtight fit. For year-round savings, choose windows that come with a coating to block UV rays. You’ll get the benefit of gorgeous natural lighting in the warmer months without the heat that comes with sunbeams.

Increase Home Value

Replacing old windows in an existing home or choosing energy-efficient windows for a new home increases the value of your home. According to a report from Remodeling magazine, higher or midrange replacement costs are usually recouped at 70 -75% on the dollar. That means for every $100 you spend, you could recoup $75 in value when you sell your home.

It may seem like you’re taking a loss in a current home, but if you live in the home for a few more years, you’ll also be getting the benefit of the new windows including monthly savings on your utility bill. In the end, you’ll likely see a profit in terms of the total value. By choosing energy-efficient windows when you are building a custom home, you can help build value into the home and protect that value.

4. Include Ceiling Fans in Major Rooms

One of the biggest benefits of ceiling fans is that they help circulate air throughout a room. They can also be used to help regulate and keep the temperature consistent. It’s important to keep in mind that they are really only a good fit in rooms with ceilings that are at least eight feet high.

They can be particularly useful in assisting cooling efforts. In fact, using a ceiling fan when you are using air conditioning can allow you to raise the thermostat about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing comfort!

5. Consider Adding Solar Panels

Solar panels can be placed on a home and used to dramatically cut the cost of heating and cooling the home for years to come. Even if you have to dip into using power from your electricity provider, having solar panels available to supplement your electricity usage can provide energy savings across the board. There may even be some months when your electricity provider owes you a credit!

6. Look for ENERGY STAR Appliances

The EPA has designed the ENERGY STAR rating system to help homeowners improve their energy savings in both new and existing homes. It was created in 1992 and is the “trusted, government-backed symbol for energy efficiency”. Each product has to be independently certified regarding quality, savings, and performance before it can earn the ENERGY STAR label.

When something is rated as energy efficient by the ENERGY STAR rating system, you know you can count on that information and rest assured that the product you have is energy-efficient. By choosing energy-efficient appliances, you can help make sure your larger appliances are not a drain on your home’s system and are not inflating your energy bills unnecessarily.


Even residential homes can be considered an ENERGY STAR home. To be considered an ENERGY STAR home, a third party must be able to verify the newly constructed dwelling meets and then exceeds homes built to code by 10%.

These homes must also achieve an average of 20% improvement. A home inspector or an insurance agent who specializes in insuring homes and businesses can provide the verification and qualify the home as ENERGY STAR-approved.

7. Pick the Right Window Treatments

Window treatments offer an exceptional efficiency option while improving the look of your home. For south-facing windows, choose drapery or blinds that filter the light in the summer to reduce the heat. Reducing the light during these months will also reduce the potential for color fading in carpets and furniture.

Heavy, insulated draperies should be used over large or north-facing windows to reduce cold air filtration during the winter. You might also choose clear plastic liners designed to prevent airflow while still providing a clear view.

8. Upgrade Your Lighting

CFL bulbs save a large amount of energy over incandescent. So much so that the federal government has banned the production of 40 and 60-watt bulbs in the U.S. as of January 1, 2014. Higher-watt bulbs are also being phased out. Choose CFL or LED lighting for low-cost, long-lasting lighting options. The bulbs may cost more in the initial purchase, but they are designed to operate much longer than incandescent types.

You can also set up automatic lighting systems in your custom home that turn needed lights on or off at set times of the day. Motion detection systems are another choice and work well in areas where individuals may forget to turn lights back off. You can even control them remotely from a computer or smartphone. These are all lighting ideas that you can use in any room and in the bathroom too for an eco-friendly bathroom idea.

9. Pay Attention to Caulking and Weather-Stripping

Use a durable caulk around all door and window seams. Even the smallest gaps can let in a significant amount of hot or cold air. Check both the inside and outside of the window and door frames and seal any areas where you feel a draft. Look for any areas where utilities enter your home and caulk around these openings.

Use weather-stripping for any gaps where an exterior door meets the frame. Rolls of weather-stripping are low in cost and self-adhesive types apply easily with no mess. Add quality door seals to the bottom of all exterior doors to stop drafts from entering underneath. As a temporary fix, a rolled-up towel can be placed at the bottom of the door to stop drafts.

10. Install a Smart Thermostat

With a custom home, you’re getting modern technology and building methods. This allows you to get the most efficient water heaters, heating and cooling systems, and more. You can also make sure a smart thermostat is included in your new home.

When your heating and cooling system runs unabated, it can seriously hinder your energy savings. In fact, not installing a smart thermostat or some way of managing heating and cooling better is one of the most common home heating mistakes.

Oftentimes, the smarter the technology that is operating it, the more efficient your system can be. A smart thermostat will turn heating or cooling on and off when necessary and will often optimize according to your use and needs rather than just allowing your system to work endlessly and waste money. Not only can this help you save on energy bills, but it’s also one of the eco-friendly design trends.

11. Partner With a Reputable Builder

These tips for building your custom home to be energy-efficient are easy when you have the right custom home builder as your partner. An experienced builder with a good reputation for delivering quality work will cover all of these bases. You won’t need to worry about poor construction, installation issues, or improper sealing causing you problems down the road.

These are just a few of the benefits of using a custom home builder. Plus, a builder with an in-house design/build process can help you work through options during the design phase to further increase the energy efficiency and sustainability of your home if those things are a priority for you.

Building an energy-efficient custom home is one of the important custom home building tips to keep in mind. Keeping these tips for building your custom home to be energy-efficient in mind and working with the right builder for you can help ensure you get the home you need and the home you want. Plus, it can help you save on your heating bills during the winter and cooling in the summer!

If you’re ready to bring your dream home to life, contact Custom Home Group at 717-284-4090!

Infographic Provided By The Solar Energy Company, Route 66 Solar