What Makes A House Plan Energy Efficient?

Originally the bonus room was located above the garage. We changed the plans to locate it directly above the family room. Now we have a conditioned space above a conditioned space which is more energy efficient. This is the perfect room for my kid's sleepovers!

Here’s some good news for you. Purchasing an energy efficient house plan doesn’t cost a penny more than any other type of plan. If you don’t mind pouring over a lot of plans, you can find one that meets your needs and sets the foundation for long term savings.


Here are a few simple things to look for in a plan – or alterations to request-that will make your home more energy efficient:

Good Southern Exposure. Assuming you have picked out a lot on which to build, think about how your home will be oriented on that lot. In other words, does the house face mostly north, south, east, or west? For most families, it is best if your daytime living spaces have the greatest southern exposure and window area. This helps to minimize your lighting, heating, and cooling needs.

Look for a plan that illuminates kitchens, home offices, breakfast rooms, and family rooms with southern light during the day. Areas like bedrooms, master baths, and laundry rooms are usually best located on north facing sides. It’s not such a bad thing if these areas tend to be a little colder during the day because you’re not spending much time there. And if you like it chilly for sleeping all the better!

Avoid 2-Story Great Rooms. These rooms are notoriously difficult to heat and cool because all the heat goes up and the cooler air stays down. So it’s hard to keep one level of the house comfortable without overheating the upstairs or overcooling the downstairs. Besides all that, these areas are a pain to dust, paint, and decorate!

No Bonus Rooms Above the Garage! So many house plans place bonus rooms directly above the garage which is far from ideal when it comes to heating, cooling, or comfort. Unless you really need the extra living space, areas above the garage are more suited to unconditioned storage space.

Our original house plan had the bonus room located above the garage and had a 2-story family room. We simply had the designer change the location of the bonus room to above the family room, so we got rid of two efficiency issues with one simple, inexpensive change. Now we have a conditioned living space above a conditioned living space and we use the non-conditioned area above the garage for storage. It was the perfect solution for us.

Shade East And West Exposures. If you have, as we do, significant east and west exposure, look for a house plan with porches or overhangs on these sides or consider adding them to the plan. Afternoon sun can overheat a home in no time flat. Our previous home would heat up like an oven in the afternoon because we had a bank of windows in our west facing kitchen and sunroom. We don’t have this problem in our new home and it is all because of our window placement and the orientation of our home. The worst thing that happens to us is some temporary glare in the morning on the east side and in the afternoon on the west side in the afternoon. This pocket of time is greatly reduced by the fact that we have porches with overhangs on both the east and west facing sides of our home. And it’s nothing that we can’t solve by lowering a blind or two.

One word of caution. You won’t reap the full benefit of any of these measures if your HVAC system is oversized. (You’ve heard me talk about that, and I will continue to do so.) Going to the trouble and expense of building an energy efficient home and then installing an oversized HVAC system, is like installing water efficient showerheads and then taking 45-minute showers. It’s counterproductive.

If you would like to look more closely at the changes we made to the original Greenspiration house plan, please download this document: Floor Plan for Better Efficiency.

Greenspiration House Plan Sample.

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