News & Insights

Reducing Home Energy Use & Deep Energy Retrofits

Carl Christianson

In November I gave a talk to the Academy of Lifelong Learning (sponsored by Oregon State Alumni Association) about Reducing Home Energy Use, Deep Energy Retrofits and Net Zero Homes. In front of a group of about 50 inquisitive people, I talked about how energy audits can detect home air leaks, which the EPA estimates waste between 25% to 40% of the energy used to heat or cool a home. Then I talked about the advantages of doing “light” energy retrofits, mainly the relatively low cost measures like air duct sealing, insulating attics and air sealing attics and their quick payback period.

Next, we discussed “deep energy retrofits” where we will go into a home and address the issues discovered in the energy audit. A deep energy retrofit can significantly reduce home energy use by 50% to 90% by addressing your home’s entire energy load, including heating, cooling, hot water, lighting, appliances, outlet loads and even transportation. Typically, this includes air sealing and insulating floors, walls and attics with the goal of reducing heating and cooling demand dramatically. Then, we would replace old inefficient heating systems and often install ductless heat pumps (heating efficiency above 300% vs. a 90% efficient furnace). We might install waste water heat recovery units under the home’s main shower and install an AirTap Heat Pump Water heater or a Tankless Natural Gas water heater, or even a Solar water heating system. Next we might replace old drafty single pane windows and doors. We would suggest upgrading to new energy star (or above energy star) appliances, we would replace inefficient lighting with LED or compact fluorescent. There are a lot of other opportunities for improvement as well. Often these projects occur in a phased effort to coordinate with the homeowner’s budget and schedule.

Granted some of these measures may not have a quick payoff schedule, but not everything in life is about the economics. I think there is a moral argument that we should be reducing our carbon footprint and not burning as much fossil fuels as we can.

If you take the moral angle, it makes perfectly good sense once all of the improvements above are made to your home to add solar panels to provide the equivalent power as your home uses. We can often install these fairly unobtrusively on your roof and at a very reasonable rate. If you have the roof space, you could then add additional solar panels to provide enough power to charge an electric vehicle and create a truly Net Zero Home. Please give us a call if you are interested in an energy audit, light energy retrofit or deep energy retrofit at 541-754-6326.

Our Lead Carpenter Tanner has recently updated his energy saving skills by earning the Building Performance Analyst Certification including the optional Building Envelope Specialist training. I have held my LEED AP certification since 2007, when I worked for Hoffman Construction and used my training to help build an energy efficient LEED Gold Certified condominium tower. Greg recently earned the REGREEN 301: Implementing Residential Remodeling training. Steve is taking a new course called Sustainable Home Professional, it includes 6 days of interactive training over the next 6 months.

– Carl