Home Energy Issues Washington DC
Home Energy Issues
Could the McMansion be a thing of the past? Perhaps, says a Home Design Trends Survey released recently by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Rising energy costs are causing all of us to re-evaluate most aspects of our lives, from the cars we drive to the food we buy to the purchases we make to the homes in which we live. In my own family, we’ve had to adjust our daily driving habits and alter vacation plans, and we’re facing this winter with no small amount of trepidation, since we heat our home with oil. We’re doing all we can to tighten up our house, we’re looking at alternative heating options and we’ll live in fewer rooms once the cold weather arrives, so we have to heat less of the house.
It’s this last point that many homeowners are starting to evaluate — the simple question of how much home do you really need? When you think about it, most families live in only a few rooms — the kitchen, of course, and the living or family room, plus two or three bedrooms and a couple of bathrooms. And more and more homeowners are working out of home offices, making these spaces important. Beyond that, other rooms in the typical large home are used only intermittently, which raises the question: Are they really necessary?
The recent weakness in the housing market, coupled with rising home energy costs, has prompted many homeowners “to rethink their overall space needs,” notes Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist. Commenting in the Home Design Trends Survey report, released in June, he adds, “While smaller homes may be a short-term response to economic conditions, there are signs we may be at the beginning of a longer cycle where house sizes stabilize or even decline.”
Over the past year or so, we’ve seen this happening in rapid fashion in the automotive industry, where the demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars has soared, while larger, less-efficient vehicles like big SUVs are clogging up dealers’ lots. The same sea change may be taking place in the housing industry, particularly in areas like the West, where water scarcity is a major issue and has already started to limit building and home sizes in some areas.
The concept of a smaller home shouldn’t be seen as a negative response to the current energy crisis, however, but rather as an opportunity. Architect Sarah Susanka has long advocated the benefits of building “not so big” houses. These homes are not only more efficient with energy and water, and more resource-friendly to build, but are cozier to live in as well, with more shared spaces that help bring families together.
Of course, energy issues are on everyone’s mind these days, and in this annual Home Energy Issue, we provide a wide range of options for homeowners who are seeking ways to cut energy costs without shrinking the size of their homes. We examine heating systems, attic and basement improvements, home lighting and the Energy Star program, and tell you how to create a more efficient home when remodeling. And in our cover story, contributing editor Charlie Popeck describes 33 strategies you can use to cut energy costs almost immediately. I don’t know about you, but I’m already halfway through the list.