Does your new or remodeled home meet the minimum energy codes for construction and design? If you're like most consumers, Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) believes that you have no idea.
Last fall, the nonprofit agency reported that energy bills in an average new home that doesn't meet the minimums are consistently higher. In fact, they're more than $200 a year higher than for those that comply. In short, you could be buying a new home thinking it's tight and efficient while it's not. Moreover, you could be upgrading your home without meeting national energy code minimums.
To help inform homeowners, do-it-yourselfers and home shoppers, the ASE has launched a campaign to put significant data in your hands about the requirements. The Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) has a downloadable interactive energy guide that spells out elements for meeting codes for insulation, ducts, windows, lighting, air leakage, thermostats and fireplaces. There are checklists for conducting blower door tests and locating energy certificates.
Want to call in an inspector? Download an inspector energy efficiency checklist from BCAP for assessing a home.
Construction and home improvement energy keys
Start with the windows. Does your home or the one you're considering have the appropriate U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient for your climate? It may be time for an upgrade. To save energy, consumers need to know more than tips for selecting the right replacement windows. You'll also need to work through the checklist. ASE says many homes in the country have less than the minimum code recommendations for insulation and even new homes fall short.
When it comes to lighting, the energy conservation code requires that 50 percent of hardwired lighting fixtures have high efficiency bulbs in a new home. It's not a bad idea to bring your existing home into compliance by installing compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.
Checking for air leaks is significant. The ASE reports that 40 percent of the air we breathe on the first floor of our homes comes from crawlspaces. That ought to scare anyone to seal up holes where ducts and pipes move through the walls.
You might consider making an electrical map of your home, ensuring that your system has well-distributed loads. Home safety is as an important part of your power picture as energy efficiency.