Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Demystifying Energy Improvements

If you look out your window in the morning and see this on the neighbor’s roof, you know something is not quite up to par with their home’s energy efficiency.

Besides causing you to wonder if your own roof has tell-tale spots (you may want to put on your robe and take a look while the frost is still on the roof, or better yet, ask your neighbor what they can see over their morning cup of coffee), signs like these reveal the lack of knowledge that homeowners, and even many builders, have in regards to performance expectations.

The dark spots on the left side of this picture reveal areas where heat from inside the house has escaped to melt the frost off the shingles. This is concerning for three reasons. The first is the potential of ice damming and the resulting damage. The second is the transfer of heat to the outdoors, which reduces efficiency and increases utility bills. The third, and possibly most concerning, is the evidence that for this home, energy efficiency may have been an afterthought, and along with the keys, the homeowners may have purchased an abundance of missed opportunities and unrealized potential savings.

Last week, I (Cara) crawled into an attic with Anthony as he taught some local maintenance technicians how to make their apartments more efficient. Going into the project, I thought I knew a fair amount about building with efficiency in mind. What I learned, however, is unless efficiency is a priority of the builder, it simply does not exist. The spots on the roof should not be there. They are easily preventable, and planning their prevention, or in this case, their correction, is essential to a well performing structure.

Over the next few weeks, we will work to demystify energy efficiency. We will describe what the term means, the modern expectations for an energy efficient home, and how these expectations are realized.

Watch our upcoming blogs for hints on how to make your home more efficient, including a list of projects, some approximate costs, what improvements can give you the most bang for your buck, and advice on what you may or may not want to tackle on your own.

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