Published on June 15th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor
Deep Energy Retrofit: What it is and How it Can Help Create an Energy Efficient Home
More homeowners today realize the importance of having an energy efficient home. A decade ago, heating and cooling expenses created the bulk of energy bills. Today, appliances also make a significant impact on home performance. By implementing a deep energy retrofit for your home, you can reconfigure the way your dwelling uses energy so it’s more comfortable, healthier and cost-efficient.
What is Deep Energy Retrofit?
A deep energy retrofit involves getting a professional energy audit of your home and completing the suggested changes to achieve maximum energy savings. A retrofit uses integrative designs that take a whole-building approach – it requires more than merely making simple, fast changes, like upgrading an HVAC system or using energy-saving light bulbs. The following steps are included in a deep energy retrofit.
1. Home performance audit. When a professional conducts a home energy audit, he or she tests all areas of the dwelling to see how air-tight it is and how well the systems work together. The tests conducted include:
- Blower door test: This test uses a thermal camera to measure how much air leaks from certain areas of the home. The camera also detects low insulation levels and water problems.
- Duct blaster: This test reveals which areas of ductwork leak and points to methods for improving indoor air quality.
- Combustion safety test: A combustion analyzer and gas sniffer make sure gas appliances work well.
- Ventilation test: This test measures the effectiveness of ventilation fans throughout the home.
- Visual test: The auditor looks for red flags like damaged insulation, mold growth or structural problems.
2. Building envelope optimization. The second step of a deep energy retrofit is optimizing the building envelope so there are no unnecessary air leaks. To properly seal a home, you must align the pressure and thermal boundaries. The pressure boundary is the surface that separates the inside of the home from the outside. The thermal boundary is the insulation between living spaces and non-living spaces of a home. Other ways to seal a home include installing proper insulation, weather stripping and energy efficient windows.
3. HVAC performance test. By measuring your HVAC’s performance, you’ll learn if there are any leaks or other inefficiencies in the system.
4. Renewable energy sources. An energy auditor can review the different forms of renewable power for which your home may qualify. Such forms of energy can include solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power.
How a Deep Energy Retrofit Improves Home Performance
- Improved insulation: Insulation in a home keeps it warm during the winter and cool during the summer. A gap of as little as 7 percent in a home’s insulation can reduce its effectiveness by up to 50 percent. When a home has adequate insulation, the heating and cooling systems don’t have to work as hard to maintain comfortable temperatures.
- Eliminate air leaks: Air leaks in a home compromise your comfort. Home auditors share that the places with the worse leaks are floors, walls, ceilings, windows, ducts and fireplaces. Consequently, leaks can make a home 50 percent less efficient.
- Cost savings: A tight building envelope; aligned pressure and thermal boundaries; an efficient HVAC system; and the use of renewable energy sources can yield energy savings of 30 percent or more. This means a retrofit can pay for itself in as little as four years. You’ll also find that new appliances (like HVAC units, washing machines and water heaters) that have an ENERGY STAR rating work more efficiently and cost less to use, which translates to more savings on your monthly power bill.
- Health benefits: When a home has a tight building envelope, adequate ventilation and an HVAC system that works well, the indoor air quality improves. Consequently, you’re less likely to experience certain allergy symptoms or mold growth from high humidity levels.
Image from EcoFriend.com