The Whole House Zone
By Dan Maginn / Published by Dwell
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Get an energy audit.
A properly executed audit1 will pinpoint your energy-loss flaws. The prime culprits tend to be underinsulation, duct leakage, and outdoor air infiltration. In addition to having an efficient, properly functioning heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, fixing these deficiencies is often the most effective way to reduce your resource consumption.

Get with the program.
Having an efficient HVAC system is smart.2 Not having a programmable thermostat to properly utilize said HVAC system is dumb.3

Make every effort to utilize your HVAC system only as a last resort. Open windows to create cross ventilation and supplement the effect with fans.

Shun the sun.
Unwanted solar gain in hot months results in unwanted increases in energy bills. Exterior awnings and indoor win‑dow treatments can add to the design of your home while blocking rays.

  1. Be careful, grasshopper. There are very good companies out there doing energy audits—–and there are eco-shysters doing what look like energy audits. You would be wise to know the difference. Do some basic detective work: Review references, a completed sample audit, and a copy of a standard contract before you commit to a provider. Do the easy fixes yourself, and hire a contractor for the tricky ones. If the auditor suggests that they be retained to perform the improvements, consider getting a competitive bid on the work.
  2. If your HVAC system is more than ten years old, chances are it’s sucking dollars out of your pocket and shooting carbon into the atmosphere. Look into a new Energy Star–rated system.
  3. For about 50 bucks (plus installation) you can get a basic model, and then you can synchronize your HVAC’s operation to your weekly schedule.

Dan Maginn


Dan Maginn is an AIA-member architect who lives and carpools to work with his wife, Keri, in Kansas City. Although he and his partners at El Dorado Inc. are extremely interested in promoting sustainable design on all scales, he does not consider himself to be an "eco-warrior." Instead he prefers the term "eco-tainment specialist"

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