The debate related to energy efficiency and the total number of stories/floors in a home isn’t new. At the heart of the debate is heating and cooling costs. After all, this alone makes up about 50% of your energy costs. The consensus has generally been that single-story homes are more energy-efficient since heat rises, which causes a larger variance in temperature and puts more of a burden on the climate control system in the home.
This is correct. Because warm air is always going to make a beeline for colder air to help balance things out, the above is based on fact. While this is true, there are a few other variables, which are often ignored, that may help a two- or three-story home be more efficient than you think.
Energy Efficiency and Two-Story Homes: Why They May Have an Edge
The most significant and commonly overlooked advantage offered by two-story homes related to energy efficiency is the total surface area. Two-story homes that have the same square footage as a single-story home will have a smaller overall footprint. Since foundations and roofs contribute to the temperature transfer, homes that have a smaller footprint also have an advantage.
Also, thanks to the condensed design of many two-story homes, there is less plumbing, which minimizes the temperature loss of heated water. Also, the adjacency of walls and rooms helps to further reduce conduction, which is when heat moves through structural components.
Before you get too excited with the idea that your multi-story home may be more efficient than the single-story home next door, you also need to consider the following:
Sun exposure due to the number and orientation of windows, architecture, bushes, and trees contributes to interior climate control.
A two-story home with open, high ceiling floor plans will increase temperature transfer, making it more challenging to cook the top and to heat the bottom floors of the house.
Corners will minimize circulation and if there are a lot of angles and interesting architectural features rather than a simple box design, it is more challenging to control interior temperatures.
Put simply, there are several structural factors that may impact how energy efficient your home is, which have overshadowed just the simple concept of if a single or multi-store design is more energy efficient. In Kansas City, there are certain environmental factors to consider, as well, including the type of insulation in the home, the HVAC components and their condition, the number of lighting fixtures that produce heat, construction and roofing materials, and more.
While many of these issues can be addressed in new construction homes, updates and changes are often needed to ensure energy efficiency in any home, regardless of if it is a single- or multi-story structure.
A Home Energy Audit Can Help
If you want to find out if there are ways you can save energy and reduce costs, schedule an energy audit. This will help you find areas that may need to be upgraded or improved.