Besides sustainable materials, one of the key elements of green building is energy efficiency. An energy efficient building needs much less energy than a conventional one, and a fraction of its energy comes from renewable sources. As a result, such a building saves money on the long run, but also contributes to conservation of global energy resources, mainly the fossil fuels and reducing atmospheric pollution.
Planning a Retrofit
An existing building can be modified or retrofitted with energy saving solutions. Before you start, you should conduct an energy audit accompanied by your contractor. When the audit is through, the contractor will be able to tell you what needs to be done to improve the building’s energy efficiency. Having consulted your contractor and your finances, set priorities and start with the most critical ones.
Moving towards the Project
The most important thing is not to rush and have all the goals of the project listed in writing. The answers that were yielded by the audit will help you make more accurate decisions. Once all the members of the household have answered these questions, set up an informal meeting where you will discuss answers and try to outline the project together.
It All Boils Down to Thermodynamics
Energy efficiency is based entirely on thermodynamics and its laws. Your goal is to or reduce the amount of heat exchange between the interior and the environment, but also to prevent energy dissipation through air gaps, cracks and crevices. In common language, you need to replace the existing windows with more effective ones, include as much insulation as possible and seal the house. In addition, you need ventilation that is able to direct and control heat convection.
Core of the Problem
There are two ways in which heat can escape or enter the house:
- Conduction – the process in which heat flows through material directly. It can be reduced by insulating the walls, as insulation material conducts less heat than wood or bricks.
- Convection – when heat is transferred through a gas or liquid by circulation. Single-glazed windows are highly inefficient, as they cool the air which then flows down the pane and across the floor. Deciding on double glazing retrofit, on the other hand, will significantly reduce your heating bills.
Energy Saving Goals
At one point, you need to determine your goals, or what you want to improve. Maybe you want to improve comfort during cold or hot months. On the other hand, your primary motif might be to increase your savings by reducing the energy bill, or you are concerned about rapid climate changes. Eventually, the drive for improving your home energy efficiency might be to increase the property value.
When you seal and insulate your house, you need also to think about air quality. In other words, you need to use solutions that will retain the quality of indoor air as well design an effective ventilation system. Also, faulty insulation, may create pockets of wet environment that can give rise to mold problem. In the end, some insulation materials are greener than others. For example, cellulose is made from recycled newspapers, while fiberglass takes a lot of energy to produce.
With all the information you need and the goals you want to achieve, determine the budget and let the project unfold. Whatever you do, bear in mind that energy retrofitting is not an expense, but an investment.
Written by Lillian Connors. If one thing is true about Lillian Connors, her mind is utterly curious. That’s why she can’t resist the urge to embark on a myriad of home improvement projects and spread the word about them. As the Co-Editor at SmoothDecorator, she cherishes the notion that sustainable housing and gardening will not only make us far less dependent on others regarding the dwellings we inhabit and what we eat, but also contribute to our planet being a better place to live on. You can check her out on Twitter and LinkedIn.