'Deep-Energy Retrofits' Take Root in Homes

By Martin LaMonica in CNET News, March 12 2010

Perhaps not surprisingly, wrapping a home in an air-tight seal and adding insulation dramatically lowers utility bills. But the question is: can people afford it?

On Thursday, contractors who could be considered pioneers in "deep-energy retrofits" presented results from their projects at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's BuildingEnergy conference here. In general, the data from early projects in Massachusetts shows that these energy makeovers delivered big gains in efficiency--on the order of 50 percent to 70 percent. 

There are a number of techniques to cut building energy but the one these contractors often focus on is superinsulating, or sealing the building "envelope" and adding insulation, both inside and on the exterior of buildings.

In one multiphase project in western Massachusetts, the homeowners anticipate getting a 70 percent reduction in energy use by adding a layer of foam insulation on the roof and outside walls among other enhancements. Slashing energy use means lots of insulation: the roof will have an R-value, or insulating value, of 59, which is two or three times that of a typical New England home.

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