As we have previously examined on the Green Blog, superinsulated, high efficiency homes present themselves as an often ideal solution to problems with energy usage. Buildings that adhere to passivehaus standards can be heated primarily from intrinsic sources, such as sunlight, the waste heat of appliances, or excess body heat generated by residents and pets. In order to accomplish this, superinsulated homes usually sacrifice large windows and are built with particular attention paid to insulation continuity and airtightness in areas that are generally overlooked, like door and window seals.
Even houses that aren't superinsulated can benefit from attention to these areas, however, as evidenced by a recent study from building intelligence provider WegoWise. Responsible for a database of more than 17,000 buildings and 1.6 million utility bills, which also happens to be the world's largest repository of municipal housing data, WegoWise found that bills for inefficient homes can be up to eight times higher in many instances than comparable, but more efficient, buildings. During the winter, residences in Massachusetts utilize six times as much energy, while customers in California avail themselves of 70 percent more energy in the coldest season than during the rest of the year.
The least-efficient buildings examined utilize eight times more gas, four times more oil and fully five times as much electricity as their more efficient counterparts, according to Electrical Contractor. Though property upgrades that reduce water costs and the electrical costs associated with water heating can result in significant dividends over time, saving 20 to 30% of energy consumption (more in the winter), the difficulty often lies in convincing building owners to invest in the up-front costs associated with newer systems.
“Winter makes a disproportionate impact on inefficient buildings,” Barun Singh, CTO of WegoWise asserted. “Owners or managers of inefficient buildings stand to save thousands per month on their winter utility bills simply by bringing their buildings up to average efficiency. Year-round, targeted retrofits provide a clear, bankable path to increase efficiency and boost net operating income.”
While superinsulation and certain building upgrades may be out of reach financially for some homeowners, or may be prevented due to the condition or construction of a house, there are still a variety of actions one can take to increase the energy efficiency of a home.
Aside from mitigating usage, intelligent controls offer a way to fully maximize your efficiency throughout a daily cycle. Though they are associated with a moderate installation cost, they often pay for themselves during the course of the first season in which they are used. Installing window treatments like those offered by companies such as Indow will greatly reduce heat loss as well, even through already double-paned, insulated glass.
In situations when increasing insulation isn't a possibility, homeowners can focus on sealing leaks in their building's envelope. Small spots such as these can result in the loss of up to fully one third of the heated air inside a home, so identifying these areas and sealing them is crucial for mitigating winter energy consumption.
These are just a few of the ways you can quickly and cheaply maximize the efficiency of your home before the winter months set in. There are other areas in which improvements can be made, both minor and more substantial, and we will examine some of these in more detail as we move forward on the Green Blog.