Considerations for Building an Energy-Efficient Home in Texas
Texas is known for many things, including hot summers, cold winter snaps, and an occasionally unstable energy grid. Building in Texas means keeping all of these factors in mind so you can enjoy your home all year-round. Making certain choices during the design process of your energy-efficient home will ensure you end up with a home your whole family is happy with.
Weather in Texas
Texas is a large state with more than 268,596 square miles of land and almost 30 million residents. The weather across Texas can vary considerably depending on the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and time of year.
Texas is getting hotter - even at night. A 2021 study published by the state’s climatologist showed that the annual average temperature is expected to be three degrees warmer in Texas by 2036. The number of 100-degree days is going up too, nearly doubling compared with the 2000-2018 period. In 2022, parts of Texas have experienced temperatures as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit.
With coastlines estimated to be retreating more than four feet per year, the risk of strong storms has been increasing along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on August 25, 2017 and is estimated to have caused more than $125 billion in damages. Designing residences and buildings to minimize the impact from strong storms will become more and more important as storms strengthen.
Texas winters are generally warm, but their cold snaps can still be brutal. In February 2021, an arctic freeze crippled much of Texas causing more than 700 deaths and up to $129 billion in economic damage. The extreme winter weather may worsen as arctic weather starts to change, requiring homes in Texas to be prepared for sudden, frigid conditions.
Threat of Drought
With the extreme heat comes higher rates of evaporation and less snowfall, which reduces the amount of water in the ground. When droughts hit in Texas, they can be really bad. The Rio Grande has even stopped flowing from the lack of water. With the threat of megadroughts on the horizon, homes that use resources efficiently are more important than ever.
Threat of Flooding
Extreme weather events have caused major flooding and flash floods in many regions. High water levels have impacted not only residential but commercial and agricultural buildings and property.
Building for Texas
Energy-efficient homes are becoming increasingly popular for many of the reasons listed. Many people are surprised by how easy and economical energy-efficient homes can be to design and build. Sometimes simple choices during the building process can have major impacts on the energy-efficiency of the home.
Here are some of the biggest aspects to consider:
The ability to generate power at your own home not only increases reliability should the lights go out, but it also keeps your energy bills from soaring. Due to incredibly high peak demands on the Texas energy grid, power companies sometimes have to ask residents to conserve power to avoid rolling blackouts. Solar or wind power generation is a great alternative to being reliant on the state’s energy grid.
Modern advances in LED technology have made lights much more energy-efficient. By producing less heat, most of the light that energy-efficient bulbs creates goes straight to illumination. Be sure to use energy-efficient lighting throughout your home to keep your energy bill low and reduce the load on your air conditioning system.
ENERGY STAR Appliances
The ENERGY STAR program is a government program that provides credible information about how much energy different appliances will use. Most water heaters, dishwashers, air conditioners, and other large appliances will be in the ENERGY STAR program. A review of the yellow labels on these appliances allows consumers to compare which ones are more efficient and will cost less to operate.
Low-flow water fixtures make it much easier to use less water without even noticing. By distributing water with a better pressure, low-flow fixtures are easy choices to add into your energy-efficient home. To go a step further, consider adding a greywater system to recover gently used water from sinks and other sources for use in flushing toilets and irrigation. These systems can significantly reduce the amount of fresh water a home uses.
Better Construction Methods
Most people are familiar with traditional wood framing methods, but it’s important to consider other techniques that could result in a better, stronger, more energy-efficient home. Many of these methods, like insulated concrete forms (ICFs), are economical and can even save time during the building process.
ICF Construction in Texas
ICF blocks from Fox Blocks consist of two sheets of EPS insulation held together by a proprietary system of ties. The blocks are easily stacked together on site and rebar is placed in the hollow space between the blocks. Once secured, concrete is poured to lock the entire structure together.
ICF blocks use their thermal mass, airtight construction, and two continuous layers of highly insulative expanded polystyrene foam to create high-performing, energy-efficient walls with R-values in excess of R-23. ICF construction eliminates thermal bridging, which creates a loss in thermal performance as typically created by wood studs. No thermal bridging and continuous insulation provides full thermal-resistance properties for the building envelope.
The thermal mass of the concrete also helps dampen temperature swings from affecting the temperature inside the home which reduces the load on the home’s air conditioner or heater. Not only is ICF construction more comfortable and energy-efficient than traditional methods, it is stronger too.
The reinforced concrete-nature of ICF construction makes it ready for the most severe of weather events - temperature changes, high winds, flooding and power outages. ICF blocks from Fox Blocks are even rated for use in building storm shelters and hurricane-resistant homes. Fox Blocks will keep your energy-efficient home safe and comfortable, no matter what is happening outside.
When building an energy-efficient home in Texas, think about ICF construction. When coupled with energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, ICF blocks from Fox Blocks are hard to beat. To learn more about why your home in Texas should be made with Fox Blocks, reach out to the team today.