Any successful move towards reducing our consumption of fossil fuels as a nation needs to address residential energy consumption. According to the latest U.S. Department of Energy statistics 21% of the energy consumed by the US is used for private living quarters. Thankfully achieving sustainable levels of residential energy consumption is within reach.
Reducing consumption begins with the thoughtful analysis of existing homes, green building construction of new homes, implementation of energy saving techniques and conscientious consumerism.
Analysis of the Home
A home analysis identifies the areas where energy is escaping. Common areas of leakage are windows, doors, improperly insulated walls and attics. Sealing leakage areas creates a more energy efficient home.
Energy efficiency testing should be done by a certified energy consultant with specialized equipment and expertise. Consultants test invisible areas of concern (between walls) using infrared thermal imaging or thermography. This non destructive test will show where there are gaps in insulation, thermal defects or air leaks and electrical system defects which are allowing energy to be lost. Consultants also perform blower door testing and duct blasting to determine the integrity and both the structure and the systems (HVAC, etc.). Testing for (and providing for removal of) combustion byproducts helps ensure the air quality and the safety of the structure.
The homeowner is provided with a comprehensive list of energy saving techniques. Budgetary concerns are balanced with suggested improvements and their respective ROI (return on investment). A strategic plan can then be put in place.
Energy Saving Techniques
Energy saving techniques include exchanging incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent (this will link to mercury information) or LED bulbs, increasing or adding insulation where needed, use of ENERGY STAR rated appliances, double or triple pane windows, structural improvements and alternative energy sources.
With rising energy costs and current tax incentives home owners are able to break even on their investment much sooner. The improvements provide more immediate results in property values * and cleaner living. In addition, there is an energy efficient mortgage program offered by the FHA that allows FHA insured buyers (or refinancers) the ability to add the cost of some energy efficient improvements to their mortgage without increasing the down payment. (Visit the FHA website for more information on EEM’s)
Home energy improvements require investments in both time and money. The idea is to create a sealed or “air tight” system with good air quality. The seal is created through properly fitted doors and windows, high quality insulation and proper air exchange. The selection of consumer products (appliances, building materials, décor etc.) needs to take the entire system into account. Off gassing levels need to considered.
Having these structural systems in place will maximize the effectiveness of alternative sources of energy (solar, wind, geothermal). The alternative systems will also enjoy a longer lifespan as they are not being forced to produce wasted energy.
Home energy efficiency improvements will not only protect you from ever increasing energy costs but also help reduce our use of fossil fuels as a nation – all while helping save the environment.