If you are considering building a new home, here are my top 5 upgrades that warrant a conversation with your builder before you get started.
An energy efficient home takes pre-planning and the right knowledge, so be sure to take some time to do it properly from the beginning.
1. R21 wall insulation and R49 ceiling insulation - while an energy efficient home isn't entirely dependent on the R-value that you choose, it certainly makes a difference. The cost difference to go from R19 wall insulation and R38 ceiling insulation to R21 and R49 respectively, is negligible. This decision is what I would call a "no-brainer".
Zip wall sheathing under construction
2. Zip sheathing for air barrier - Now that we have used Zip wall sheathing on a couple of different projects, we wouldn't use anything else. The exterior of the wall assembly now becomes your air barrier which is much easier to control than the interior of the wall assembly. Once all the seams are taped, you are protected from weather and avoid all the headaches of building wrap not holding up in the wind and weather.
3. Recessed wafer LEDs - Goodbye ugly can lights and hello modern wafer LEDs! This is an absolute non-negotiable. These delightful recessed LED's are pretty and functional at the same time. No more can bulbs to change! They do take some extra effort to air seal around, but it is well worth it when its done properly. Added bonus! One the right LED, you can even select the Kelvin or color of the light that it gives off giving you more design flexibility.
Recessed LED wafer light
4. Vapor barrier primer - Vapor barrier primer is another simple upgrade that will help ensure a healthy home. Keeping vapor out of your building envelope helps to reduce the chances of humidity related problems including mould growth. This specialized product is a very minor cost upgrade for some meaningful peace of mind. We use it on all walls and ceilings in every project.
Interior and exterior walls framed 24" on center
5. Studs framed on 24" centers - Using less lumber may seem counter intuitive, but in countries like Canada and most European counties, its actually built into the building code. Using less lumber helps reduce "thermal bridging" and maximizes the R value of the entire building envelope. Wood conducts heat, so in areas that you have less lumber, you naturally gain more insulation and less heat is lost through the wood itself. This "upgrade" is actually a cost saver as you're purchasing less lumber! An easy win/win scenario where applicable. Certain tall walls and bearing walls may need smaller centers, but the vast majority of walls can be framed on 24" centers.
Be sure to review your options with your builder to learn about what is appropriate in your area before you start construction.