There’s no denying that buildings created in the past ten or so years are far more energy efficient than older structures. The older the building, more likely it is to be an energy sinkhole, consuming far more resources than it needs to. Older buildings more commonly have inefficient HVAC, cooling, lighting and water heating systems in place, as well as wear and tear issues: such as drafty doors and windows, leaky pipes, and worn insulation (if there is any at all).
Many articles and much attention has been given to the easy fixes regarding these buildings. Updating lights to CFL or LED lighting, installing a smart thermometer, and purchasing inexpensive insulation from hardware stores for attics, windows and walls are all excellent ways to cut down on energy costs. However, with the ever-rising costs of energy prices, and the knowledge that resident and commercial buildings still account 40% of energy consumption globally, it might be time to consider doing more than picking up a few draft stoppers.
Today there are close to 20 million home remodels a per year, with up to $150 billion spend on renovations. Unfortunately, this money is generally driven toward expansion and aesthetic purposes, such as replacing worn out interiors. Little is done toward updating the energy efficiency of a building -perhaps due to a lack of motivation, or lack of knowledge regarding the inefficiencies of a particular structure. Some home and commercial building owners might have even resigned themselves to the belief that unless they were to entirely rebuild, there’s not much that can be done, and obviously, rebuilding a structure from top to bottom costs more than most people can afford.
However, this thought process is entirely untrue. There is more that can be done beyond easy quick-fixes, and it doesn’t require knocking a structure down and starting over. In fact, it has been proven that completely rebuilding would waste more material, energy, and money than committing to a Deep Energy Retrofit -what renovation companies and contractors are calling the intense weatherization program that saves far more than the 10% to 15% of standard energy efficiency driven upgrades.
Deep Energy Retrofits do more than locate energy weak spots in a home and replace outdated systems. Some contractors, in an effort to create a perfectly insulated building, even use laser technology to create a 3D model of the structure - in addition to traditional scanning technology. Every DER involves adding some form of interlocking, leak proof, thermally efficient material (such as TES, a timber-based facade) onto every outer wall, as well as double and triple glazed windows. Both additions will do far more for a building’s insulation than anything store-bought and self-applicable could ever do. Deep Energy Retrofits might also include replacing poorly installed batt insulation, adding ceiling insulation, sealing ducts, and upgrading hot water heaters, HVAC and temperature systems, and all appliances to Energy Star approved machinery. Additional changes might include installing a sealed combustion furnace and improving kitchen and bath exhaust, as well as whole-house ventilation.
On average, depending on the size and state of the building, a full retrofit could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000, with many variations. The cost is high, but still less than a complete rebuild, and well worth it: buildings that have been retrofitted can see onsite energy reductions of up to 74%, and carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced as much as 54%. With energy costs only continuing to rise —more than doubling in the past ten years— and the sluggish pace of renewable energy projects, an Deep Energy Retrofit is likely the best option for many outdated residences and commercial buildings. Building updates, paired with a re-evaluation of energy prices and renewable energy programs (through sites like albertaenergyproviders.ca or http://www.papowerswitch.com/shop-for-electricity/ depending on your area) are more immediate, and have more drastic results than investing in unreliable renewable energy sources onsite, such as solar panels or wind turbines, and then rewiring the building.