Over the past several months we have been discussing Green Remodeling and the three science principles that are the major drivers and those impacted. As a refresher, these principles are Heat Transfer, Moisture Management and Airflow and Pressure. Now lets take a look at summing up these items relative to the functional areas of your home.
Consider the following methods and materials that can achieve high levels of energy efficiency and environmental responsibility in a remodeled house:
Windows and Doors: The key to saving energy is to control it. In particular, leaks and thermal transfer around and through older, single-pane, aluminum-framed windows make it impossible to regulate and manage a home’s energy use. Replacing outdated and inefficient windows and patio doors with insulated, dual-paned windows dramatically reduces the waste of energy used to heat and condition indoor air. Just as important as the window units themselves is their correct installation: The structural frame openings should be square, allow some small measure of expansion and contraction to avoid racking the window or door, and be sealed against air transfer with insulation and/or a caulking agent. An air and moisture barrier is also helpful when installed around the rough opening.
Sealed Penetrations: Though obviously much smaller than a window or door, small penetrations in exterior walls and the roof — such as those for venting, plumbing, and other services — can add up to big leaks and high energy bills. Simply sealing these openings, often with a spray-applied, expanding foam product, all but eliminates air leaks and the accompanying thermal transfer.
Semi-Conditioned Space: For years, home energy experts have advocated adding insulation in the attic to reduce thermal transfer between the living areas below and the unconditioned space within the roof structure. With the advent of expanded foam insulation for the roof frame cavities, owners of older houses can easily upgrade the entire attic to a semi-conditioned space. Differences in temperature and pressure between the attic and the living spaces are reduced, thus lessening thermal loss for the entire house. Homes in hot, humid regions experience additional benefit because moisture build-up is less likely.
Upgraded Equipment: There’s no reason why an older home can’t garner benefits from today’s high-efficiency furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps to create a comfortable and clean indoor environment. It is possible that the newer systems might require slightly more ductwork (air distribution channels) than exists in an older home, but otherwise — assuming other upgrades are also made, such as windows and doors — the benefits of a modern HVAC unit are easily attained. These units save energy by recovering (or recapturing) more of the heat or cold from exhausted air (depending on the season), which is then transferred to fresh air coming into the house.
These are just a few examples of what can be done to upgrade your home to that of a new house energy efficiency. In fact, there is scarcely an energy-efficient product, system, or method that cannot be included with advantage in a remodeling project.
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