When you hear the word eco-friendly, do you see yourself bundling up with a second sweater while you turn down the thermostat? It doesn’t have to be that way!

You don’t have to freeze yourself to save on energy costs this winter. In fact, eco-friendly homes are usually more comfortable during extreme weather because they’re better at generating and retaining heat and better proofed against drafts.

Buying a new home is the perfect opportunity to make sure that you get the best of both worlds: more comfort and lower energy bills. But what features should you expect to make the most of it? Working with a new home builder gives you the advantage of getting all the features and appliances you need right from the start. There’s a lot less fuss involved when you work with a custom home builder than renovating and retrofitting an older building.

These are some of the top features that will keep your home more comfortable and save you money.

1) Energy Efficient Furnace

Gas furnaces have become much more energy efficient over the last couple of decades. Generally you’re looking at either an 80 vs 95% efficient furnace, and while the more efficient furnace will be more expensive, you recoup the costs over time in lower energy bills.

An 80% furnace wastes 20% of the fuel it consumes. A newer model will have an easier time keeping your home comfortable on the coldest days. It should also be big enough for the size of your home.

2) Airtight Building Envelope

The building envelope refers to the parts of your home the separate the indoors from the outdoors: the roof, exterior walls, windows, and doors. Most heat loss that happens is through windows and doors. Gaps in the trim around windows and doors cause major problems with airflow, and heat is rapidly lost. Proper installation and maintenance will minimize leaks.

You can also invest in Energy Star windows that will reduce the amount of heat that radiates outdoors and is lost. The more heat your building envelope retains, the less work your furnace has to put in.

3) Energy Recovery Ventilators

An Energy Recovery Ventilator keeps the air in your home fresh while reducing moisture and retaining (or removing) heat, depending on the season. Air quality at home is more important than ever now that we’re spending so much more time there.

Here’s how an ERV works in the winter:

  • It captures air vented out of your home and recovers heat;
  • The heat exchanger transfers heat from old air into new, pre-conditioned air vented into your home from outside;
  • Outside air is filtered, capturing contaminants and moisture.

4) Buying New

Buying new is the easiest and best way to benefit from all the latest advances in homes insulation and energy saving heating and cooling systems. Achieving an air tight building envelope is pretty hard to do with older homes. A number of new home builders offer certified Energy Star homes that are loaded with energy saving features and are certified by outside experts.

There are plenty of other ways you can save money on your energy bill, such as investing in Energy Star appliances (for laundry and dishwashing), energy-efficient lighting, and investing in a better hot water system. But these are the main three factors that will affect how warm and comfortable your home is in the winter season. You can stay warm and enjoy lower energy bills!