Free software programs help homeowners and designers to ensure energy efficiency
High utility bills are one of the greatest motivators for home owners to opt for greener homes. With energy costs slated to rise dramatically in the future, there has never been a more opportune time to build a green home or retrofit your existing structure to meet exacting efficiency needs. However, an alarming number of green buildings are not living up to expectations.
The current watchdog of environmental efficiency, LEED, has had to begin monitoring buildings after they have received their LEED certifications because so many of them did not perform as expected. “In its own study of 121 new buildings certified through 2006, the Green Building Council found that more than half — 53 percent — did not qualify for the Energy Star label and 15 percent scored below 30 in that program, meaning they used more energy per square foot than at least 70 percent of comparable buildings in the existing national stock,” writes Miraya Navarro of the New York Times.
Green technologies are designed to function in harmony to create a symbiotic system that works to lower utility bills. With green technology developing at such a blistering pace, it’s difficult for the green home designer to stay abreast of developments. Now there are several free programs online (such as Natural Resource Canada’s HOT2000 or the equally free eQuest) that assist developers and home owners to determine whether their green home design is as efficient as they intended it to be. These programs help you to measure twice so you only have to cut once.
Determining accurately the efficiency of your home prior to retrofitting or building will help you to measure your return on investment and prevent you from having to do expensive alaterations once the building has been completed. Accuracy in the planning stages will also prevent the disappointment of not qualifying for government rebates.
In Ontario, the free software program HOT2000 was developed by Natural Resources Canada to help homeowners to track the efficiency of various building material options to see which green building ‘recipe’ gives them the most bang for their buck. The program also rates your home to see if it qualifies for government incentives to reduce energy consumption.
The software is easy to use if you have a little green tech savvy. Input your home’s specifications which include dimensions, roof and attic details, window specifications, wall assemblies and the specs on the heating, ventilation and cooling systems and their respective efficiencies. The home’s location is used to determine the climactic conditions and amount of direct sunshine that it will receive annually. The program will give you an estimate of your home’s energy use over a typical year. This helps designers and homeowners to teak the system until they have the efficiency rate they were aiming for.
Accuracy in the planning stages is only half the battle. Homeowners must also select their developer with care as high quality workmanship ensures a secure building envelope.