Almost any home design can be made highly energy efficient. Early planning, appropriate material and mechanical selection, and contractor knowledge plus participation are key to a successful project.
Super Insulation: Every energy efficiency home starts with a base of very high R-value wall, roof, and foundation. See Idiots Guide tab for our recommendations.
Very Tight Construction: Energy loss from air leakage can be up to 50% of yearly heating costs. Indoor air quality is guaranteed with an air-to-air heat exchanger which recycles the the heat you have already paid for.
Passive Solar Heat: A house site with good solar exposure, southerly orientation, appropriate window selection, and thoughtful design can improve passive solar gain and provide up to 20% of your yearly heating demand and lighting for FREE.
High Efficiency HVAC, Appliances, Lighting: The choices and availability have expanded greatly! Heat pumps are an excellent choice for heat, air conditioning, and water heating.
“Alternative” Energy: Once you’ve reduced the overall energy demand of your home you can consider other energy sources. Solar photovoltaic panels costs and function have improved dramatically and are an excellent choice. Net Zero is well within reach!
Deep Energy Retrofit
Energy Audit: Very important first step will analyze you homes dynamics and allow you to consider and plan
YES it will cost you about $300-500 depending on the size of your home and bells and whistles you want in the report BUT, believe me (I’m a cheap skate too) skipping this step can cost you lots more in money and headaches in the long run. You can’t solve your home’s energy problems until you TRULY understand the big picture and how the different systems of your house work together to keep you comfortable.
For example, tightening your home without knowing how much and where it leaks could lead to condensation problems and mold or elevated carbon monoxide from a negative pressure on your boiler/furnace. A good energy audit should scientifically tell you where you will get the biggest and safest bang for your buck.
A good energy audit report should contain:
Blower door testing – will tell you how much (important for comparison) and where (even more important for fixing) your home is leaking. Remember that 30-40% of your home’s heat is lost to infiltration!
Thermal envelope assessment: Your home should be completely surrounded by a layer of insulation (thermal envelope). The report should tell you exactly where these layer exist (or not) and how effective they are. Infrared cameras are helpful and the photos are fun to look at but not absolutely necessary.
Indoor air quality: The auditor should measure and make recommendations on improving air quality on the most common household problems of carbon monoxide and moisture.
Mechanical systems: Fans, major appliances, furnaces/boilers should be inspected and problems reported.
Electrical usage: From bills and site testing the report should give you a picture of where those kilowatt hours are going.
Safety: First and foremost any safety issues should be reported, such as carbon monoxide or gas leaks.
Recommendations: VERY IMPORTANT!!!…. after all, you’re paying not just to find the problems but how to fix them. The list of recommendations should be specific and listed in order of importance and cost effectiveness. For example, if you have carbon monoxide problems (think odorless poison) this will go to the top of the list because safety always trumps cost. Otherwise recommendations should be prioritize based on cost effectiveness.
Find an Auditor
STEP 2 – Make a long-term plan based on your goals
Be sure to ask your auditor to base the recommendations on how much energy you want to save. Deep Energy Retrofits, by definition, should be at least 50% and much more savings may well be within your reach with good planning. The list of recommendations might include a list of 5-10 of your home’s systems that need significant change and another 5-10 that just need a “tweak.”
Should I do it “all-at-once” or over a longer time period???
Personally, I like to start and finish a project then sit back and enjoy the benefits of saving MONEY and improved home comfort. Low-interest rate loans are now available in many communities for home energy improvements through the PACE program in Maine and elsewhere. For up-to-date information on what is available, a call or visit to the Efficiency Maine website (or your state’s energy department) or local town officials is a very good idea. Remember that as energy prices rise over time, the price of materials and labor is likely to increase.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When retrofitting is spread over a longer period, there are times when the order of renovation projects may vary from the “do it all at once” approach. So, if you do decide on longer-term renovations, be sure to discuss the timing of these projects with your auditor or other knowledgeable energy professional so that you and your home’s safety and integrity is not compromised.
For example, issues such as a wet basement, poor ventilation, sealed combustion, etc., may need to be addressed before the home is tightened and insulated to avoid mold, rot, and/or poor air quality.