The Modular Homebook
“If you are thinking of ‘going modular,’ this could be your primer: it covers all the steps of the process and features a 16-page color insert that helps you visualize the possibilities.”
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Energy Star Modular Homes
An Energy Star Modular Home Is an Energy Efficient Modular Home
One of the best parts about building a modular house is that you get superior home energy efficiency as part of the standard package. Evidence of this modular advantage is readily available from the Energy Star initiative, a federal program administered by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency that promotes greater energy efficiency standards in new home construction. An important component of the Energy Star construction program is the tightness of the home. Tests performed for the energy efficiency program show that when a typical modular home is finished correctly by the set crew and general contractor, it does considerably better than a typical stick-built home. For more information, see chapter 1, “Why Build Modular?” in The Modular Home by Andrew Gianino, President of The Home Store.
How the Energy Star Program Produces Energy Efficient Modular Homes
You can make your an even more energy efficient modular home than it already is by having it built to the full Energy Star construction specifications. Conventional builders need to take many extra steps at greater cost to their customers to meet these energy efficiency standards. For modular customers, the Energy Star construction steps require very little effort or expense.
The reason this energy efficiency program might interest you is that a typical Energy Star modular home lowers utility bills by hundreds of dollars per year. It also improves a home’s comfort and safety. The higher levels of insulation and lower levels of air infiltration make the interior surfaces of the modular home quieter and warmer. By closing off the air gaps in the walls, the tighter construction retards the spread of fire, which allows occupants more time to exit their home safely and call the fire department. The reduced air infiltration also decreases unwanted moisture in the house, and it blocks bugs and rodents from gaining entry.
Energy Efficient Modular Homes Improve Air Quality
The mechanical ventilation included in an Energy Star modular home, which greatly improves indoor air quality, is another key feature. This is important because the reduced air infiltration, while enhancing energy efficiency in the home, can allow 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 practices. You might think the answer is to abandon the new green building practices, or at least to avoid tightening a home beyond what the code requires. But tighter green 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 energy efficient modular homes, but to let them breath with controlled continuous ventilation. The Home Store will accomplish this by installing an appropriately rated bathroom fan connected to a variable-speed timer. This very affordable system 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 Role of Energy Star Builders in Producing Energy Efficient Modular Homes
If you would like to participate in this green program, you need a modular dealer, like The Home Store, with experience in building energy-efficient homes. You also need a modular manufacturer that has experience with building Energy Star modular homes. The Home Store’s modular manufacturers have the necessary energy efficient modular construction experience. Some modular manufacturers are unwilling to participate because they would have to change too many construction procedures and building specifications to comply with the green program.
The most important extra step that some modular manufacturers need to take to build an energy efficient modular house is to apply extra air-sealing techniques to the exterior shell. Although all modular homes are tight, not all of them are tight enough to comply with the Energy Star construction requirements. The modular manufacturer also needs 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. These are either standard features or routine options for The Home Store and its modular manufacturers. For more information on making an energy efficient modular house, see chapter 4, “Specifications and Features,” in The Modular Home by Andrew Gianino.
Energy Efficient Modular Appliances
To complete your Energy Star modular home, your general contractor needs to install an approved Energy Star heating system and water heater. The GC needs to seal the joints between ducts on a forced-air system with mastic and then insulate the ducts. He must also seal the registers, the basement plumbing and electrical penetrations, the bulkhead, kneewalls, and sill plates. In addition, he should put a door sweep on the bottom of the door to the basement and insulate and seal the attic, including the hatch or pull-down stairs. If you decide to insulate the basement ceiling rather than the walls, the GC should install R-30. Should you have your GC construct any living spaces, such as a site-built bonus room, he must construct them in compliance with Energy Star specifications. If you select The Home Store as your GC, we will complete all of these tasks. For more information about the GC’s responsibilities for making your modular home energy efficient, see chapter 7, “The General Contractor’s Responsibilities,” in The Modular Home by Andrew Gianino.
Energy Efficient Modular Homes and The Home Store
The Energy Star program will assist The Home Store with designing your home for energy efficiency by reviewing your modular home plans and specifications and your GC plans and specifications. The green program will also provide you with a rebate if you select Energy Star approved appliances and light fixtures, both of which use less energy.
Some of the things that make a home more energy efficient can be postponed. For example, increasing the ceiling or basement insulation can be done at any time. But other items, such as energy-efficient windows or sealing air leaks, should be done when the home is constructed. As an investment, energy-saving options pay for themselves relatively quickly and ultimately save money. They offer protection against future leaps in the cost of fossil fuels. And energy-efficient homes are a lot more comfortable, because they maintain their temperature without drafts. If you value these benefits, work with us to build the features into your home.
For a comprehensive overview of what you need to know to build a modular home, order The Modular Home (325 pages) by Andrew Gianino.
The Home Store — Your Best Energy Star Builder for Energy Efficient Home Plans.