In this industry, there are times when energy efficiency experts come across some fairly prodigious claims about the potential effectiveness of the products they provide to homeowners. While these assertions are great for selling products, they don’t always create a realistic picture of the ultimate benefit to the homeowner.
Instead of claiming the added efficiency that a single product will offer, it’s much more effective to create a profile of your entire house’s energy system – one that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your home’s energy use. With this approach, we can take a more realistic look at which improvements will result in the most impactful improvement of your home.
Understanding “Whole House” Energy Efficiency
Be skeptical of any company that provides you a single product but quantifies its potential energy savings for your home. These “miracle cure” solutions are not always as effective as they seem!
For example, let’s say that a company claims that replacing your windows and exterior doors with ENERGY STAR approved windows and doors can save you up to 25% on your annual heating and cooling bills. Unfortunately, this is only likely in some cases.
Let’s look at these two examples…
House A is an old, drafty colonial house that is poorly updated by its owners. However, the furnace is fairly modern, and operates at about 85% of the efficiency of a new, modern system. Unfortunately, the air ducts that channel the heat from the furnace have several air leaks, and the furnace is being stored in a cold, uninsulated basement. The attic also has a mere 4″ layer of old fiberglass insulation installed. While the windows are not ENERGY STAR approved, they do have double-paned glass.
House B is a 1970s home, whose owners take the time to update it when possible. In this case, the furnace is very outdated, and while it still works, it operates at about half the efficiency of a new, modern system. The owners service their system frequently, and have already sealed all holes in the air ducts. Their basement is finished and insulated, and the attic is properly sealed and insulated with new fiberglass insulation. They have single-paned windows installed that are not ENERGY STAR approved.
Which House Would Benefit Most From Energy Efficient Windows?
In this case, we can see that the owners of House A are paying much more for their heat than the owners of house B. While replacing these old windows would increase the energy efficiency, there are many more cost-effective ways to reduce their utility bills.
For example, instead of spending $10,000 or more on a window upgrade, the owners of House A may want to consider using the same money on a combination of air sealing the home to eliminate the drafts, insulating the basement, repairing the air ducts, or sealing and insulating the attic.
In the case of House B, however, we can see that the basement and attic are insulated, and the home has already been air sealed. Because the furnace is outdated, heating comes at a premium. In this case, it can be very cost-effective to keep as much heat inside the house as possible. So replacement windows are a pretty good idea.
But even in this case, the savings will take many years to balance out the cost of the windows. In the end, much of the value of the upgrade will be appreciated through the increased comfort, beauty, and value of the home.
Professional Energy Efficiency Evaluation In Connecticut & New York
Before deciding on a major energy efficiency upgrade for your home, it’s worth the effort to hire a professional to inspect your problem and make recommendations on the most effective upgrades for your home.
Each house will have its own unique energy-using system; professional and customized energy efficient upgrades are well worth the investment in energy savings and comfort for your home.