One of the best things about building a modular home is that it’s easy to make it an Energy Star modular home. Even though you already get superior energy efficiency as part of the standard modular package, you can improve on that by having your home built to the Energy Star specifications. The Energy Star initiative is a federal program administered by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Conventional builders need to take many extra steps at greater cost to their customers to meet these energy standards. For modular customers, the steps require very little effort and no appreciable expense.
Why Build an Energy Star Modular Home
A typical Energy Star modular home increases energy efficiency and lowers utility bills by hundreds of dollars per year. In addition, it will improve a home’s comfort and safety. The higher levels of insulation and lower levels of air infiltration make the interior surfaces of the home quieter and warmer.
The mechanical ventilation included in an Energy Star modular home improves indoor air quality. This is important because some of the enhanced energy efficiency is created by reducing air infiltration, which can have the effect of allowing indoor air pollutants to build up. Household cleaners, carpet adhesives, carbon monoxide from heating systems, dust, and pet dander can accumulate in a well-insulated home. In addition, showering, cooking, and breathing produce humidity that can build up if not vented to the outside.
In fact, even new site-built homes that are not Energy Star rated tend to build up too many indoor air pollutants. Today’s building codes create tighter homes even when the builder takes no extra steps to increase their energy efficiency. You might think the answer is to abandon the new building codes, or at least to avoid tightening a home beyond what the code requires. But tighter homes are not only more energy efficient, which saves money; they are also much less drafty, which makes them more comfortable. The solution is to build tight homes, but to let them breath with controlled continuous ventilation.
Increasing numbers of modular manufacturers are following the Energy Star program by offering supplemental ventilation systems. The most popular system is an appropriately rated bathroom fan connected to a variable-speed timer. Costing less than $200 to install, this addition will continually refresh indoor air for pennies a day. In fact, the cost to run the fan is only one-tenth the cost of heating the air in a leaky house.
The Right Modular Dealer and Manufacturer for Building an Energy Star Modular Home
If you would like to participate in this program, look for a modular dealer with experience in building energy-efficient homes. Ask a dealer who lacks that experience if he is willing to learn the Energy Star modular home procedures, which are quite simple to master. He will need the manufacturer’s assistance to be successful. If the manufacturer does not have experience building an Energy Star modular home, it will need to consult with a local representative from the program. The cost to the customer for participating may depend on how many, if any, construction procedures and building specifications the manufacturer needs to change to comply with the program. Many utilities and states provide cash incentives, training, and testing to make it easy to meet the standards.
The most important extra step that the manufacturer might need to take is to apply extra air-sealing techniques to the exterior shell. This will also require the manufacturer to use recessed lights rated for low air infiltration. The manufacturer might need to insulate the basement stairwell, increase the ceiling insulation, upgrade to low-e windows, switch to a properly rated bathroom fan, and use a vented range-hood for a gas range. Many of these features, however, are standard with most manufacturers, and they are routine options for the other companies.
The general contractor will need to install an energy-efficient heating system and water heater, insulate the basement, and take additional air-sealing steps. You may want to stay away from pocket doors on the marriage wall, which can be harder to seal, and to select a zero-clearance fireplace, which is more energy efficient than a masonry fireplace. A whole-house fan would also be worth considering.
The Energy Star modular home program will assist the dealer with designing your home for energy efficiency if you submit your house plans along with a list of energy-related specifications. The program also will compensate the customer, dealer, and GC for some of the additional costs. Most local gas companies will give the GC a rebate if you select gas heat. And you will receive a rebate if you select Energy Star modular home approved appliances and light fixtures, both of which will use less energy.
The Energy Star modular home program will help you build a better home. It will cost you less money to own and give you more comfort to enjoy. Building a modular home will make this easy and affordable to achieve.
For more information about Energy Star Homes, see Modular Home Specifications and Features and The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.