Energy Efficiency:
 
Energy efficiency inspections are based on the International Energy Code 2000, The HL&P& P Good Cents program and The Energy Star System. Each of these model guidelines help to determine the efficiency of HVAC systems in relation to the building and its features. This also included the condenser, evaporator, furnace, ducts, vents, registers, insulation, ventilation, building design and position and types of windows and doors. 
 
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Information related to the HL&P system follows.  

HOUSTON LIGHTING & POWER COMPANY

GOOD CENTS PROGRAM

1996 PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Effective January 1, 1996*

*Program requirements are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer.  HL&P reserves the right to change the terms and availability of the Program throughout the Program year without notice.

INSULATION

The Good Cents home requires the following minimum levels of insulation:

* Exterior walls                     R-15
* Knee walls                         R-22
* Ceiling                            R-30
* Vaulted or cathedral               R-22*
* Floors over unconditioned spaces   R-19
* Duct System                        R-6
(ASTM C-5 18 R-6 rating must be labeled on duct)

* Insulation in vaulted and cathedral ceilings must be R-30 where 2"X10" or greater rafter construction permits the required batt thickness and where a 1" ventilation air space is possible. Otherwise, a minimum of R-22 insulation is allowed.

In addition to the above required levels of insulation, the following standards for installing insulation must be adhered to:


Insulation baffles must be installed when using soffit vents to prevent insulation from blocking the flow of air.
Batt insulation must be cut to fit into the wall ceiling or floor cavity. Insulation must not be compressed to fit into a cavity.
Batt insulation must be cut around switch and outlet boxes.
Batt insulation must be split around all plumbing and wiring within the wall, ceiling Or floor cavity where such plumbing and wiring severely compresses the insulation bats.
Wall plenums, duct chases, furrdown ducts, and fireplace chases must be scaled and insulated where they adjoin an unconditioned space.

AIR INFILTRATION

Wall and Ceiling Penetrations - All wall and ceiling penetrations must be caulked or foamed to reduce infiltration These penetrations include, but are not limited to, the following:
Plumbing penetrations
Electrical penetrations (excluding interior light fixtures' switch plates, and electrical outlets)
Telephone and TV cable penetrations
Exhaust vents through wall or ceiling (dryer vent, bathroom/kitchen vents, etc.)
Floor penetrations (if home built above grade)
Building Interfaces - Joints must be sealed with caulk or foam, or some other product designed to reduce infiltration. These building interface joints include;
Sole Plate/Top Plate
Skylight Seams and Joints
Fireplace, Wall and Corner Joints
Duct Chases, Wall Plenums and Furrdown Duct joints
Doors/Windows/Attic Access/Fireplace - Doors, windows, attic accesses, and fireplaces must be properly installed and then caulked, foamed and/or weather-stripped to reduce infiltration. Specifically, the following must be performed:
 
All windows sealed with caulk or foam
 
All exterior doors sealed with caulk or foam and weather-stripped
 
Attic hatch must be fitted properly and attic door weather-stripped

Tight-fitting fireplace damper installed which prevents air leakage in the closed position

HVAC EQUIPMENT

The Good Cents home requires the following high-efficiency HVAC equipment:
 
Electric Heat Pump - 12.0 SEER or greater with gas or electric strip backup, or

Electric Air Conditioner- 12.0 SEER or greater with 80.0% (or greater) AFUE gas furnace.
 
All HVAC equipment must be installed by an HL&P Certified Dealer.
 
Thermostat(s) must not be located on same wall section (stud cavity) as ducted return air chase(s) or any kneewalls.
 
If a gas furnace is located within the conditioned space, combustion air must be provided by means of a ducted opening to the attic, garage, outside wall vent or another source of outside air.

Refrigerant lines must be sized according to manufacturer's specifications.

AIR DISTRIBUTION

The Good Cents home requires the following specifications be met when designing and installing the air distribution system:
Distribution system can be constructed of either flexible, sheet metal or rigid fibrous ductboard and must be designed and ins ailed according to ACCA Manuals D, G and T. Duct must meet a minimum installed insulation value of R-6 in accordance with ASTM- C518 testing procedures (must be labeled on duct).
All supply and return duct runs and chases must not he constricted or improperly sized in any place as to severely restrict the flow of air.
All flexible air ducts, both supply and return air, must be Class 1 air duct with an outer metalized vapor barrier
Flexible air duct transitions and joint connections must be of sheet metal construction with a bead (raised ridge) to prevent separation of duct from transitions and connections.
Where two lengths of flexible duct are spliced together, a sheet metal sleeve must be utilized.
Where flexible air duct is suspended, spacing between hangar straps must not be greater than five (5) feet and hanger straps must be a minimum of one and a half (1-1/2") inches in width. Maximum permissible sag is 1/2" per foot of spacing between hanger supports.
Flexible air duct must not be crushed in any runs, turns or openings, nor is it to be stretched or distorted to fit a span which is too long, or allowed to sag to fit a span which is too short.
Duct Sealing
 
All air duct transitions, joints and connections (including where duct attaches to supply boot) must be sealed airtight using a UL181 approved (or pending approval) mastic sealant for all types of duct material (i.e.. sheet metal, ductboard, and flexible duct)
 
All seams on air handler(s), furnace(s), and plenum(s) must be sealed with mastic and reinforced with fiberglass mesh tape or UL181 tape. Do not block combustion air passages on fossil fuel furnaces. Mastic alone is acceptable on unit access panels.
 
If using ductboard, all seams must be sealed with mastic on foil side reinforced with fiberglass mesh tape or UL181 tape. It is recommended that ductboard used within a return chase be turned foil side in.
 
Return air chase(s) must be sealed with mastic at sole plate and top plate and at all corner joints and seams. The preferred method of return air design is a ducted return. Using building cavities for the return duct chase should be avoided. If building cavities are used as return air duct, duct chase: must extend into attic or between floors such that section penetrating floor joist or ceiling is continuous to prevent leakage.
 
Mastic sealant utilized must be water-based, non-toxic, and consist of at least 50% solids. Mastic must be applied according to manufacturers' specifications.

All plastic or nylon tic straps used for securing flex duct must be installed with a Duct Tie Tool.
Return Air Filter Grille and Chase Sizing
 
Return air filter grille and return duct chase must be sized in accordance to ACCA Manual D.
 
Return air filter grille(s) must be sized to accommodate 200 square inches of gross grille area per ton, or 2.0 CFM per square inch of gross grille area.
 
Return air duct/duct chase must be consistent in diameter from filter grille to plenum.

See the Good Cents Builder Reference and Compliance Verification Guide for specific guidelines concerning return air filter grille and chase sizing.

COOKING EQUIPMENT

Electric cooking is standard in the Good Cents home.
 

WATER HEATING

The Good Cents home allows either electric or gas water heating. It a gas water heater is utilized, it must be:
Located outside the conditioned space, such as the attic or garage, or
Installed in a sealed closet inside the home with combustion air provided by means of a ducted opening to the attic, garage, outside wall vent or another source of outside air. The door of closet must be weather-stripped as if it were an exterior door. Additionally, the walls and floor of closet must be insulated as if it were in unconditioned space.

WINDOW TREATMENTS

The Good Cents home requires a minimum level of treatment on all windows. Requirements for window treatments can be met at either of two levels:
Level One:
The first level of window treatment requires choosing one of the following options:
Single pane tinted windows with a Shading Coefficient (SC) of 0.88 or better
Single pane clear windows with solar screens. Solar screen material must meet ASTM- D4028-84 and Screen Manufacturers Association (SMA) standards 4001 and 5001 for vinyl- coated fiberglass solar screens. Solar screens must be installed at time home is verified for program compliance
Level Two:
 
The second level of window treatment requires choosing one of the following options:
 
Single pane tinted widows with a Shading Coefficient (SC) of 0 82 or better
 
Double pane insulated glass, clear or tinted

Factory-designed double pane window system which has one permanent frame and pane of glass separated by an air space combined with a factory-designed removable panel. The glass utilized may be clear or tinted glass. For this type window, both the fixed and removable panels must be installed at the time the home is verified for program compliance.


Efficient Site Selection and Development Options
Often times site development decisions are made and completed long before home design or construction of an individual home begins. Many of these decisions are outside of the scope of things that can be influenced by the homeowner or builder.

However, there are some items that you can consider when selecting your home�s site. When selecting a housing development consider locating your home where efficient design has been considered in the development of the lots. Some efficiently designed developments include the following features:

  • Minimal land disturbance so that the existing topography and trees are preserved. The typical practice of clear-cutting a site or entire development allows builders and developers easier access, which is beneficial and cost effective for them, but it also has detrimental effects such as:
    • Increased stormwater runoff during development and construction often carries away valuable topsoil.
    • Requiring the purchase of replacement topsoil, trees and grass which increases the owner�s final construction costs.
    • Increasing the owner�s initial costs to establish the replaced grasses and trees. New plantings typically require additional watering and fertilizing.

       
  • Minimize paved areas in the development such as sidewalks on only one side of the street, use of porous paving materials and limited use of curb cuts. All of these options help to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff which reduces the amount of topsoil lost during construction, the amount of road salt required for winter driving, and can help reduce the demand on a city�s storm drainage system.

Additional siting options that should be considered by the individual homeowner prior to purchasing a lot:

Solar Access:

  • How will the sun�s access and latitude affect the heating and cooling requirements of the home?
  • Are there planned outdoor areas that will be affected by the sun�s access or shading?

Winds:

  • What is the direction of the prevailing wind?
  • Will the home experience cold winds in the winter or are there wind blocks?
  • Will there be breezes in the summer months that will help to reduce cooling costs?
  • Are there planned outdoor areas that will be affected by the wind?

Winter Conditions:

  • What are the directions of prevailing snowfalls and drifting?
  • Will the home�s location increase or decrease the amount of snow removal required?

Current Water and Drainage:
 

  • Evaluate the site�s current drainage patterns and design your home to incorporate as much of the natural drainage system as possible. This will minimize the possibility of future water damage, while retaining as much of the current site topography as possible.

Efficient Building Design Options
A well-designed and constructed building will reduce the amount of natural resources needed for future operating costs as well as the amount of construction material resources.

Achieving the goal of an efficient design may include simple or dramatic design statements, standard or highly efficient mechanical systems or changes in standard construction practices, but quite often it is best achieved through a combination of these options completed by all participants in the construction process. These participants include, but are not limited to the architect/designer, the contractor, sub-contractors and owners.

Some options for the participants to consider include:

Architect/Designer:

  • Locate rooms/spaces with little or no HVAC requirements such as garages, breezeways and storage rooms toward the colder areas of the site, if the home is being built in cold climates.
  • Evaluate appropriate window locations and views.
    • Limit the number and size of windows on the north and south sides of the house in cold climates.
    • Limit the size and number of window areas in the home�s service rooms.
    • Locate operable windows in each room to provide cross-ventilation or �free cooling� during spring and fall seasons.

       
  • Specify insulation types and R-values and verify that the insulation is installed appropriately. Unless specified, you can assume only �typical� insulation levels will be installed, which is generally less than that found in efficiently constructed buildings.
  • Require that the mechanical systems be accurately sized. Well-built, efficient homes have lower heating/cooling requirements and their heating and cooling equipment should not be sized based on standard industry approaches. Oversized systems cost more to install, more to operate and require more maintenance. In areas where the cooling system also provides de-humidification, larger than needed equipment can result in an uncomfortable home.
  • Consider how daylighting will affect each room of the home. Proper use of daylighting strategies can greatly reduce the amount of artificial lighting required in the future.
  • Locate mechanical rooms centrally to reduce the amount of ductwork required to condition the house. This not only reduces the mechanical installation cost , but it reduces the future energy costs of the home because conditioned air is not lost or tempered through long expanses of ductwork. This type of design can also increase the comfort level of the home because rooms located at the end of long mechanical ducts often have different heating/cooling requirements than what is being experienced where the thermostat is located.
  • Provide areas for mechanical ductwork within the interior of the insulated building envelope. Ductwork located outside of the insulated building envelope requires additional insulation to transport conditioned air through unconditioned space and back into conditioned space. The air temperature differences that occur around the conditioned air cause the temperature of the air to moderate. The likelihood of conditioned air losses from the building envelope also dramatically increases each time additional penetrations are made in the thermal envelope.

Contractors:
The successful construction of an efficiently designed home depends largely on the commitment and contributions of the general contractor and all of the sub-contractors and suppliers. Attention to detail and scheduling are essential to the construction of a truly efficient home. The following options should be evaluated and incorporated into the bidding and construction of the home:

  • Use resource efficient construction � also called �optimum value engineering� � techniques that reduce the amount of wood required for construction, the initial construction costs and future energy costs. Some of the framing techniques to consider are:
    • Locate studs at 24� on center rather than the often used 16� spacing.
    • Use two vertical studs per exterior corner, with clips or blocking to attach drywall, rather than building up four studs.
    • Eliminate the double top plate and use a single top plate in single story homes.
    • Where required structurally, use single and double headers for doors and windows and fill the remainder of the cavity with insulation.
    • Use single studs or ladder blocking to secure the connection of interior partition walls to exterior walls.

       
  • Install air and vapor barriers appropriately for the climate and protect the barriers until they are properly covered. A vapor retarder is a material or structural element that can be used to inhibit the movement of water vapor, while an air retarder can inhibit airflow into and out of the building envelope of a house.
    • Most damage to interior vapor barriers occurs when numerous sub-contractors are working simultaneously in the building. Impress on all workers in the home that one unsealed cut or tear in the vapor barrier of the home eliminates the benefits of the entire system, but not the cost!
    • Exterior air barriers can be damaged following installation in numerous ways such as by other construction work, weather and vandalism. Securely taping and sealing the barrier following installation and promptly installing the siding material will reduce or eliminate damage.

       
  • Properly sealing air leaks in the home�s thermal envelope can help reduce future energy costs by up to 50 percent when compared to other houses of similar type and age. Properly sealing a home during initial construction is the most cost effective and efficient approach. Sealing as indicated below will ensure an effective airtight barrier:
    • Under the bottom plate during installation and the inside edge of the bottom plate after the frame walls are erected.
    • Behind bathtubs before they are installed and around the bathtub and drain penetration after installation and before any floor insulation is installed.
    • Windows and exterior doors to rough openings.
    • Wiring, plumbing and HVAC penetrations at top and bottom plates, ceilings and floors.
    • Plumbing pipes, bathroom ventilation fans and electrical boxes to drywall.
    • Attic bypasses and chases before attic insulation is installed.
    • Drywall and penetrations in return duct plenums.
    • Duct boots to floors and drywall.
    • All exterior wall penetrations such as porch light fixtures, outside outlets and phone and electrical services.
    • Gaps around whole house frame.
    • All exterior sheathing cuts and openings.

       
  • Make certain that the specified insulation is installed according to the manufacturer�s recommendations. Inappropriately installed insulation can dramatically reduce the R-value of the product and, in extreme cases, be detrimental to the life of the home. Some specific insulation installation issues to consider:
    • When installing faced batt insulation, the facing material should be attached to the interior side of the stud ends, not the inside cavity face of the stud. Compaction or gaps in the batt insulation to accommodate gypsum board, piping and wiring can reduce the insulation�s overall R-value by nearly 1/3.
    • When installing blown-in insulation make sure the proper density is installed to achieve the specified R-value. Different manufacturers require varying depths and densities of products to meet specified R-values. Require insulation sub-contractors to provide the manufacturer�s density requirement data and written documentation of the total amount installed. Blown-in attic insulation should also be identified and documented to allow verification of the installed R-value following natural settlement.
    • Make sure all exterior building envelope wall cavities are insulated. Although this seems like a simple concept, quite often as different sub-contractors work in a home, exterior wall areas get covered up prior to the insulation being installed. Pay particular attention to areas such as shower surrounds, behind tubs and medicine cabinets.
  • Require the mechanical contractor to seal and mastic all supply and return air duct connections including the attachments to the air handling equipment. Experts indicate that nearly 30 percent of conditioned air, in residential buildings, is lost through poorly sealed and connected ductwork.
  • If the home design requires ductwork to be located outside of the insulated building envelope make sure that the mechanical contractor has insulated the ductwork to a minimum of an R-8 and properly secured the insulation.
  • If flexible duct is to be installed in the home, verify that the duct has no sharp bends or crimps in the system. Blocked or crimped ductwork reduces the amount of conditioned air delivered into specific areas of the home causing occupant discomfort, often requiring that mechanical systems operate longer.

Selection of Mechanical Systems, Appliances, Fixtures and Colors
Often the owner assists in the selection of mechanical systems, appliances, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and colors. In some cases, the initial costs for efficient systems are higher. However, higher efficiency options provide a measure of insurance against increases in energy prices, emit less air pollution and, many times, recover the added cost in a short time.

Mechanical Systems

  • There are numerous manufacturers of residential mechanical systems � heating, cooling and water heating � as well as numerous types of systems provided by each manufacturer. And each system type has its own variances in efficiency, excluding electric resistance heating. We recommend owners research the types of systems available and appropriate for their needs as well as the efficiencies of the systems. More specific information regarding many types of mechanical systems is available on the Nebraska Energy Office web site.
  • Heat recovery ventilators � also called energy recovery ventilators � are increasingly being used for controlled ventilation in airtight homes. These ventilators can salvage about 70 percent of the energy from the stale exhaust air and transfer that energy to the fresh air entering by way of a heat exchanger. They can be attached to the central forced air system or may have their own duct system.

Appliances

  • Home buyers should purchase high-efficiency appliances such as clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers and refrigerators, especially if these appliances will be used frequently. Because all major appliances must have an EnergyGuide label, read the label carefully to make sure you have selected the most efficient appliance.

Light/Electrical Fixtures

  • Energy efficient lighting not only reduces the owner�s cost for operating the fixture, it also helps keep energy bills down by producing less heat, thereby reducing cooling requirements. Fluorescent lighting, both conventional and compact, is generally the most efficient lighting available for home applications.
  • Lighting controls, such as timers and dimmers, can also contribute greatly to energy savings. Timers should be installed to control restroom area lighting as well as the lighting used in rooms that are minimally used. Timers ensure that lights and fans are not left on accidentally. Dimmer switches can provide savings where minimal lighting levels are maintained. There are restrictions on using dimmers in combination with fluorescent lamps, so make sure your lighting supplier and electrician know if you intend to incorporate fluorescent lamp replacements on dimmer controls.
  • Fans used for kitchen and bathroom exhaust often have vents that penetrate the roof or walls. All exhaust fans should include a backdraft damper. The damper closes when the fan is not in use and helps to stop conditioned air from leaving the home. It is also recommended that no exhaust fans terminate or exhaust into the attic space. Exhaust air from kitchens, dryers and restrooms has a high moisture content. When the air is exhausted into a cold or cooler attic area condensation will occur and damage attic insulation as well as the roof and ceiling structure.

Plumbing Fixtures

  • Low water use fixtures such as showerheads, faucets and toilets can reduce water use by nearly half. Although water costs in many areas of the country are low, many municipal systems use large amounts of electricity to provide water to their customers. Installation of these types of fixtures can help to keep a community�s future electrical supply costs lower.

Colors

  • Installing light colors on exterior building surfaces such as roofing, siding, stucco and face brick helps to reflect the sun�s rays which reduces the amount of heat transferred into the home. This will help reduce cooling costs as well as the damage that can occur when extreme temperatures build-up in attics and wall cavities.
  • Light interior color selections for wall, ceiling and floor surfaces helps reflect natural light that enters through windows and skylights and helps to reduce the need for artificial lighting.

Nebraska Green Building Program
Participants in the Nebraska Green Building Program are encouraged to incorporate efficient design in all aspects of the construction of their homes. Efficient design options that provide participants with �Green Building� credit include:

  • Orienting the home so east and south areas are for outdoor use
  • Orienting the home on the lot so the longest axial dimension faces within 20 degrees of south
  • Shading 100 percent of south glass in June, July and August at 12 noon
  • Limiting the south glass area to between 5-10 percent of total finished floor area, including skylights
  • Limiting the total glazing area less than 20 percent of the livable floor area, including skylights
  • Properly designing interior thermal mass to assist heating and cooling the house
  • Daylighting that allows natural light to enter house from two sides of rooms in at least 50 percent of the total livable floor area, excluding skylights
  • Locating the air-handling unit centrally, creating no duct runs greater than 25 ft. in length
  • Installing active or passive solar heating systems that provide 40 percent or greater of the home�s heating needs. (Verification required by load calculations.)
  • Installing an active solar system for cooling, contributing at least a 30 percent reduction in mechanical cooling. (Verification required by load calculations.)
  • Locating all air-supply and distribution ducts within conditioned building envelope.
  • Return air ducts or transfer grills are located in every enclosed livable room
  • Completing an earth-sheltered design that reduces heating and cooling needs by at least 30 percent. (Verification required by load calculations.)
  • Installing a thermal chimney to increase natural ventilation
  • Designing for stack and/or cross ventilation for seasonal cooling with ventilation paths no greater than 20 ft.
  • Using light interior colors.
  • Installing light colored floor coverings.
  • Implementing daylighting strategies that reduce the need for artificial lighting
  • Installing operable windows that allow cross-ventilation in all living areas
  • Using light colored walls.

Click here for some help on heating efficiency

Window Safety Tips

  • Windows provide a secondary means of escape from a burning home. Determine your family's emergency escape plan and practice it. Remember that children may have to rely on a window to escape in a fire. Help them learn to safely use a window under these circumstances.
  • When performing spring repairs, take care to make sure that your windows are not painted or nailed shut. You must be able to open them to escape in an emergency.
  • Keep your windows closed and locked when children are around. When opening windows for ventilation, open windows that a child cannot reach.
  • Set and enforce rules about keeping children's play away from windows or patio doors. Falling through the glass can be fatal or cause serious injury.
  • Keep furniture - or anything children can climb - away from windows. Children may use such objects as a climbing aid.
  • If you have young children in your home and are considering installing window guards or window fall prevention devices, be aware that the window guards you install must have a release mechanism so that they can be opened for escape in a fire emergency. Consult your local fire department or building code official to determine proper window guard placement.
  • Some homes may have window guards, security bars, grilles or grates already covering their windows. Those windows are useless in an emergency if the devices on them do not have a functioning release mechanism. Time is critical when escaping a fire.
  • Do not install window air conditioners in windows that may be needed for escape or rescue in an emergency. The air conditioning unit could block or impede escape through the window. Always be sure that you have at least one window in each sleeping and living area that meets escape and rescue requirements.
  • The degree of injury sustained from a window fall can be affected by the surface on which the victim falls. Shrubs and soft edging like wood chips or grass beneath windows may lessen the impact if a fall does occur.

 

 

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