Is Bigger Better, Or Just More Costly?
All over the country subdivision lots are getting smaller and the houses that are built on them are getting bigger – much bigger. Where a subdivision home in the sixties topped out at about 1,400 square feet – today we are seeing 4,400 square foot homes being built in droves. Big is now commonplace. First, there were two bathrooms instead of only one. Then there were two and a half baths and then three. Kitchens got bigger and fancier and somewhere along the line secondary living quarters became a part of the equation. Now we are seeing all the features we just mentioned plus two family rooms and 30 foot ceilings. Oh, and the bedroom count is going up. Six bedrooms, five and a half baths – no big deal! What’s going on? Are families getting bigger? Fact is, it doesn’t really make any difference. Because when it comes to a big home you better get ready to start writing checks more often and for greater amounts – lots of checks.
First, you need to know that you will be writing a much larger check to the utility company. If you haven’t figured it out yet, no matter how modern and energy efficient the home, the more area there is to heat and cool – the more it will cost to heat and cool it. The increase in floor area is only one factor. Actually, there are two considerations you will need to make as you peruse model homes – floor area is one and ceiling height is the other. 10- to 24-foot high ceilings are becoming more and more commonplace. And high ceilings can be a heating and cooling nightmare. Keep in mind that a 24-foot high ceiling is almost four times the height of a standard 8-foot high ceiling found in the average home. Heck, even nine and ten foot high ceilings cost more to heat and cool than their eight-foot counterpart. Heating and cooling costs are directly proportional to the volume of the space you live in. More floor area more cost, more height even more cost.
Your energy cost also can be affected by the number of windows. And this included the modern energy efficient, insulated kind. More windows than necessary can mean horrendous heating and cooling bills. Nothing looks better when you walk into a home than an enormous entry (lots of floor space), a really high ceiling (way up there) and lots of glass everywhere (in doors and/or windows) that looks out onto the landscape in the back yard. We are sure that you can imagine what we mean. However, there isn’t a window made that is as energy efficient as a properly insulated wall. So, as you plan an addition, a move – now or in the future – keep in mind that just because it is energy efficient doesn’t mean that you can use more without a cost increase.
Remember these points:
• More floor space equals more heating and cooling cost.
• More ceiling height equals more heating and cooling cost.
• More glass in doors and windows (or skylights) means more heating and cooling cost.
Yes, you can save on energy costs by having a home that is modern and in compliance with all of the latest energy requirements. However, if your current home is 1,800 square feet and your new home will be 3,600 square feet – even with energy efficient upgrades – the energy cost in the larger place will come with a certain degree of sticker shock.
Here’s how to get an edge on the issue:
• Ask the builder for a cost summary on heating and cooling costs for the model you want to purchase.
• Ask the neighbors who have a similar home about their monthly cost.
Keep in mind that when you speak with individuals that no two people or families use the exact same amount of energy, but there are qualifying questions that will help you to make your determination as you interview the neighbors:
1) Find out how many people are in the family. More people equals more energy use. Compare family size to your own.
2) If your prospective neighbor doesn’t feel it is too personal ask about cooling habits, showering habits, clothes washing and the use of the dishwasher as well. It will surprise you to find that more use of these items will mean substantially higher energy bills.
3) Ask about how many refrigerators are in the home and if there is a separate freezer as well. Refrigerators, freezers and air-conditioners are big time energy users.
4) Find out if someone is home all day every day. When everyone in the family is gone all-day-long the energy bill will be lower if a setback thermostat is used.
5) Observe the window coverings. Heavy window coverings can help to keep a house cooler in the summer. In the winter, ask the owner if they leave the drapes open to let in heat from the sun.
6) Check to see that the register covers are flowing freely. This simple detail can change the way the system operates. If air flow is restricted there is a very good chance that energy costs will be higher in that home.