A couple of months ago, an elderly couple in Maine received a lot of press from the New York Times when they offered their car as collateral for heating oil to heat their home. This article and other media attention brought in $200,000 to help pay the couples heating bill according to a recent Sun Journal article. However this money went to fix the problem by weatherizing the home to make it more energy efficient, not just fueling the energy hog.
I bring up this article because almost every home can be improved upon in terms of energy efficiency and conservation with some simple weatherization work, or in other cases major retrofits. In mostly older homes cutting the energy usage can be rather simple and cost effective with weatherization work such as air sealing and insulation in both the walls and attics. For newer homes, it is a little more costly to get the same kind of reductions; at that point you are looking at deep energy retrofits. However this is one reason why I started my “Energy Hog” series on improving the energy efficiency of my own home, as most home owners don’t know where to begin.
Now even though the strategies may be different, do you know what new and older homes have in common. They were built to the standards of the time, not really looking into the future of energy costs. And even though new homes today are much more energy efficient than newer ones, most are built to the current building code minimums. These minimum energy efficiency standards are just that, minimums. Anything less and it would be illegal to build. What this really means for a home owner is that when the energy efficiency standards in the state change, there will be need for improvements to meet these updated standards. For instance the State of Ohio uses the 2006* International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), yet the U.S. Department of Energy has released the 2012 IECC which is estimated to be 30% more energy efficient. So if the 2012 energy code was adopted tomorrow, your home that completed construction yesterday would be 30% less energy efficient than the house that starts construction tomorrow. It is because of these homes that don’t meet the current minimum energy efficiency standards that we have Weatherization Assistance Programs and utility sponsored programs to bring homes up to at least to the current minimum efficiency standards.
So why do so many design and build to the minimum standards? For the cost of an “upgrade” in the envelope with higher insulation values, you are ensuring your home will be saving you money for the life of the home. So ask your designer or builder if they are looking into the future and not only minding your money now in the design and construction of your home, but your future money to operate the home.
*Update; Ohio adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) which took effect January 1st, 2013.