With utility bills climbing ever-higher, many homeowners are wondering whether they can improve their home’s level of energy use. While the typical goal of renovation is to increase the beauty, style, and function of a home, builders should remind homeowners that increased energy efficiency can often be incorporated into those goals. Energy efficient, beautiful renovations not only raise the future resale value of a home, they also lower the current utility costs homeowners typically pay. The three best energy-efficient renovations that can be incorporated into a current remodeling project are increased airtightness, better insulation, and new windows and doors.
Airtightness: Energy efficient homes are made to be airtight because excess air exchange forces the climate control systems to work harder (and use more power). It’s much easier to regulate the inside temperature with the heated or cooled are isn’t escaping. During major renovations, take the time to wrap exterior walls with an air barrier before installing siding or masonry. If an addition is being added to the home, there is no reason not to make that room more airtight prior to installing the exterior façade.
Even though most renovations aren’t so major as to remove the exterior, there are still smaller-scale retrofits that can be done to make a home more airtight. Addressing the drafts and gaps in doorways, around windows, and exterior walls to reduce air leakage will go far in improving a home’s airtightness.
Insulation: Another excellent way to boost energy efficiency is to add extra or improved insulation to the home. Adding attic and wall insulation is a great way to stop heat exchange. Much like adding an air barrier to external walls, the complexities of adding more insulation to exterior or interior walls are daunting and often beyond the scope of even a major remodel.
Adding insulation to the attic is an easier project that still yields energy savings. In deciding whether to use blown-in loose fill insulation or classic rolled insulation, it is key to know if the attic will be “conditioned” space—that is, know whether the attic will be heated and cooled like the rest of the house. Loose fill can go anywhere, but rolled insulation between rafters should only be installed in conditioned space. It’s also important to note where conditioned space abuts or overlaps with unconditioned space, for example a mud room wall between the unheated garage and the heated kitchen. Floors build over crawlspaces also need insulation.
Portals: Replacing old windows and doors with energy-efficient models is a simple and effective way to increase a home’s energy efficiency. To make sure that the new doors and windows fit into the home’s design style, consult with a design expert who can guide the process and ensure that the new models fit into the home’s existing style and increase its curb appeal.
All new windows are double-paned insulated glass, and some models have special inert gas between the panes to increase the insulation value. They are also glazed with a low-E coating, which is a microscopic layer of metallic oxides that deflects ultra-violet rays and helps inhibit radiant heat transference through the glass. When replacing the doors and windows, it’s a good idea to patch any gaps and properly flash the openings to prevent excess moisture and air from seeping into the home.