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New Home Construction Tips

Building a new home may be one of the largest investments you make in your lifetime—it’s not the time to cut corners where energy efficiency is concerned. The windows, doors, walls, ceilings and skylights define your home’s “shell.” If the shell is built properly using quality materials, you will reduce the transfer of heat, cold, and moisture and reduce your energy usage.

You can build a home that’s not only comfortable for you, but will save money on your energy bill for years to come.

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Top Construction Tips

  • Build your home to the EPA's ENERGY STAR® standards.*
  • Have a professional dealer install a high-efficiency heating and cooling system.
  • Install double pane or Low-E windows and insulated doors.
  • Light-colored roofing material will reduce your home’s heat gain in the summer.
  • Check with your mortgage lender or real estate agent for information on lower mortgage rates for building an ENERGY STAR rated home.

*ENERGY STAR is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to increase consumer awareness, interest and desire for energy efficient products, and is not affiliated with Duke Energy Corporation.

Before You Build

  • Planning: This is one of your best investments and easiest ways to avoid mistakes you might regret in the future.
  • Choosing the site: Before you design your home, consider the local environment. Where does the sun rise, travel and set over the four seasons? Which trees or buildings shade the sun during the day?
  • Hiring the architect: Select an architect familiar with energy-efficient designs such as passive solar, optimal insulation levels for the climate, efficient appliances and windows, and quality energy and building design principles.
  • Hiring the builder: Similar to selecting an architect, choose a builder that’s familiar with energy-efficient construction, insulation, and air leakage control techniques.
  • House shape: A building’s shape will influence where chilling winds enter the house, where snow piles up outside, and how much solar gain you can count on. Simplifying a builder’s layout makes the home easier and less expensive to build, improve its insulating value and air tightness, and requires fewer construction materials.
  • Insulation: Your builder and architect should be knowledgeable about the insulation requirements for your climate and the applicable building codes. In addition to having the proper amount of insulation, the proper installation of all insulation is important. Ask your builder about third party inspection services to check on the integrity of all energy efficiency related components.
  • Windows: Choose a high quality window to minimize heat loss through the glass area in the winter and to also prevent cold air infiltration. High quality windows will also minimize solar heat gains in the summer. Plan your window placements to provide good day lighting.
  • Use shading: Think about structural and exterior shading such as roof overhangs, covered patios, canvas covering, and awnings to control solar gain.
  • Preserve trees: Preserve trees on your land whenever possible, especially in warmer climates where shade trees can help reduce air conditioning bills. Vegetation can help reduce ambient outdoor temperatures, while blocking and channeling wind.

As You Build

  • Air leaks: Seal potential air leaks while building. Use sill seals under framing walls and on top of foundation walls. Fill plumbing and electrical penetrations to prevent air leakage—especially those holes between the living space and the basement, crawlspace, and attic. Seal and flash around the chimney and other penetrations. Pay particular attention to sealing potential leaks in the attic and around the foundation. Use caulk, gaskets, insulation, and other air-sealing materials. Remember to seal and insulate ductwork located in an unconditioned area.
  • Air conditioning/heating system: Follow the steps above for insulation and air leakage, and then ask a qualified dealer to recommend a high-efficiency model with a SEER rating of 14.0. For additional savings, place your outside air-conditioning unit in a shaded area.
  • Ducts: Design your heating and cooling ductwork so it is located within the insulated shell of your home. Ducts located outside this conditioned area must be well insulated with at least 6 inches of insulation. Avoid crimping the airflow with tight turns and constricted ducts.
  • Appliances: Install ENERGY STAR appliances whenever possible. Place the refrigerator away from the range and dishwasher and out of direct sunlight. Locate your washing machine close to the hot water tank, if possible, to reduce the heat loss from long pipe runs.
  • Lighting: Use electronic ballasts, modular fluorescent lamps, and efficient fixtures where appropriate. If you are requesting recessed lighting (can lights), install models that are rated for insulation contact to reduce heat loss through the fixtures. Can lights may account for a substantial heat loss or heat gain if not insulated properly. Maximize effective use of day lighting wherever possible.
  • Plumbing: Install low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucet aerators. Designing your home with bathrooms in a stack design will allow you to minimize the length of pipe runs, which will save water, reduce hot water distribution losses, and get you the hot water quicker.
  • Water heater: If you’re buying a conventional model, get a well-insulated unit. Set your thermostat no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Siding and roofing: Side and roof with light-colored materials, especially in warm and hot climates, to reduce heat gain.
  • Landscaping: Plant leaf-shedding trees to the south, west, and east to reduce cooling costs. Use evergreens to the north to block the wind.
  • Drainage: Drain water runoff from the roof away from the house.