Considerations for Building an Energy-Efficient Home in Phoenix
Phoenix is known for many things, including extremely hot summers, monsoon storms, and dry, dusty air. Building in Phoenix means that it’s important to keep all of this in mind so you can enjoy your home year round. Energy-efficient homes are naturally easier and cheaper to keep comfortable, even in extreme weather conditions. Learn more about what to expect when building a home in Phoenix so you can be prepared.
Weather in Phoenix
Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, with more than 517 square miles of land and almost 4.9 million residents in the metropolitan area. The weather across Phoenix is described as a hot desert climate with intense, long summers and short, mild winters. Due to the large urban heat island effect in Phoenix, nighttime temperatures stay elevated instead of plunging to cooler temperatures like in most other desert cities.
Phoenix is known for intense heat, and for good reason. In 2020, Phoenix set a new record with 144 days of 100-degree temperatures or higher. The record high temperature in Phoenix is a sweltering 122 degrees. The intense heat causes many heat-related illnesses every year, especially to people who have not properly acclimated. The intense, dry heat also taxes the energy grid with the demand for air conditioning.
Phoenix may be a dry, desert city, but when it rains, it pours. Monsoon season in Phoenix begins in June and continues through September. High humidity can lead to thunderstorms, heavy rain, lightning, hail, and devastating flash floods. A recent study showed that monsoon storms are growing more intense and frequent.
Dust Storms and Air Quality
Monsoon season can bring flash floods as well as intense dust storms. When dust is not causing issues, ozone and particulate matter in the air has caused Phoenix to have the fourth worst air quality in the country. In 2020, Phoenix had 149 days of elevated air pollution according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Threat of Drought
With the extreme heat comes higher rates of evaporation, which reduces the amount of water in the ground. When droughts hit in Phoenix, they can be really bad. In 2022, more than 75% of the state of Arizona was in a drought with little relief in sight. With the threat of megadroughts on the horizon, homes that use resources efficiently are more important than ever.
Building for Phoenix
Energy-efficient homes are becoming increasingly popular for many of the reasons we’ve 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 Phoenix 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 Phoenix energy grid.
Modern advances in LED technology have made lights much more energy-efficient. By producing less heat, most of the electricity that the 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. Look at the yellow labels on the appliances 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. In a desert city like Phoenix, these types of features are critical. 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 freshwater that a home uses.
Better Construction Methods
Most people are familiar with traditional wood framing methods, but it’s important to consider other techniques that can 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 Phoenix
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. The lack of thermal bridging and continuous insulation provides full thermal resistance properties for the building envelope, to lock the heat out which makes it easier to cool your home.
The thermal mass of the concrete also helps dampen temperature swings from affecting the temperature inside the home, and will help reduce the load on the home’s air conditioner. ICF construction is more comfortable and energy-efficient than traditional methods, and it is stronger too.
Traditional wood framing often leaks air over time. ICF construction is naturally more air tight due to the poured concrete construction and multiple layers of continuous insulation. The airtight nature becomes exceptionally important in areas of the country with poor air quality, like Phoenix. With an ICF home, outdoor air does not leak in but instead is brought in through vents and ducts, where it is filtered and conditioned before being distributed through your home.
The reinforced concrete nature of ICF construction makes it ready for the most severe of weather events. ICF blocks from Fox Blocks are even rated for use in building storm shelters and tornado 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 Phoenix, use 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 energy-efficient home in Phoenix should be made with Fox Blocks, reach out to their team today.