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Making a Home Energy-Efficient

by Mike Dodd, Home Remodeling Expert
April 03, 2015

Question: What is involved in making a home energy-efficient and is it expensive?

Answer: Rendering a home to be energy efficient depends on many, many factors. First and foremost, the age of the house will have a huge bearing on determining the proper course of action with respect to reducing both the energy costs and footprint. Any home can be dramatically improved by simply addressing air infiltration.  

Overall indoor air quality has become a buzz phrase in our industry. Caulking and air-sealing around windows, doors and any penetrations in the "building envelope" will make a house more energy efficient and comfortable. Air-sealing at the rim joist of a home (the vertical structural member that sits on top of the foundation wall) is a fairly simple and economical exercise that most homeowners can perform. Weather stripping at doors and windows to reduce air infiltration is another simple do-it-yourself task that most homes would benefit from, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Serious energy efficiency can be very expensive. Replacement of older forced-air heating and cooling systems can run into the tens of thousands of dollars with the newer generation 90% and above efficiency units. Geo-thermal and ground source systems have many limitations in retrofit applications and are very expensive, as are things like solar panels and solar collection systems. The cost of operation of the aforementioned systems is a fraction of more traditional systems, but the payback can easily take upwards of twenty years to realize.  

Replacement of doors and windows can be expensive, as can the installation of closed-cell spray foam in walls and ceilings. Glass in and of itself is a poor insulator, so replacing windows is only as good as the quality of the installation. At the end of the day, however, window replacement is not an inexpensive proposition.  Spray foam technology has improved dramatically over the past ten years to the point that many homes are actually being built too tight...in other words, they aren't able to breathe. Retrofitting older homes with newer technology presents a litany of logistical challenges, which ultimately means that it won't be cheap.   

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Mike Dodd is the founder and President of Lifewise Renovations, that combines home remodeling project management with the expertise of health care professionals, to make it possible live safely and comfortably at home regardless of age or physical ability. As a member of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Mike holds the Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) designation.

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