4 Features of New Homes That Reduce Comfort and Energy Efficiency
December 18, 2016
If you own a newer home and it is not verified Energy Star, HERS, or one of the other recognized green designations, then chances are this article is for you. If you have a verified green home these things can affect the dynamic of your home if not done well.
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Through the years, calls originating from late model homes, whether comfort or high bill related, by and large are a result of one of these things or a combination of one or more.
The typically constructed home built to code in Cincinnati and the rest of Ohio prior to 2013 has done a poor job addressing these areas. Up until earlier this year, Ohio was using a building code based on the 2003 energy code. Though the residential energy code has been updated 3 times, (2006,2009,2013) earlier this year Ohio became a late adopter of a modified version of the 2009 energy code. The 2009 code addresses most of the issues we will point out.
1) Rooms built above an unconditioned garage. Often referred to as bonus rooms.
These spaces have many elements working against them. If special care in not given to make sure they are sealed, insulated and conditioned properly, they are eternally problematic in terms of comfort and energy efficiency. This article written by Building Scientist Dr. Allison Bailes,of Energy Vanguard, entitled “Does Your Bonus Room Need More Air Conditioning” ,gives an explanation of the problems and solutions associated with bonus rooms.
2) Unsealed and/or uninsulated ductwork in attics or crawlspaces.
According to the Department of Energy ductwork in unconditioned buffer zones that hasn’t been professionally insulated and sealed can lose between 25-40% of heating and cooling energy that pass through them. Rooms that are directly supplied by ductwork in these areas, especially the attic, will be very hard to keep comfortable. This will also cause your home to use a lot more energy than it should to heat and cool. This link to a Department of Energy document entitled“Better Duct Systems For Home Heating and Cooling”, gives a thorough explanation of ductwork locations, effects and solutions.
3) Large amounts of recessed lighting.
This is usually a 2 for one. First off there is the issue of inefficient lighting. Although the very efficient compact florescent lighting (squiggly bulb) has become very common place, recessed lighting is the fixtures we see them used least in. Many people tell us they do not produce the desired lighting for those types of fixtures. So you end up having anywhere from 10 to 50 sometimes more 40-75 watt incandescent bulbs being used. The second part of this is the fact that recessed lighting next to an attic or vaulted ceiling space is a passage for conditioned air to leave your home and unconditioned unhealthy air can enter. Even when air tight type recessed fixtures have been installed, unless special care has been taken to seal them correctly they still allow for unwanted air exchange with unconditioned areas. This can lead to various comfort issues as well as energy loss. LED lighting has come a long way and can supply just about any kind of light desired with a fraction of the wattage. (8W LED=40W incandescent) When retrofitted to an existing fixture a secondary beauty ring will allow them to be sealed properly to eliminate unwanted air exchange. For more on the benefits read,“Recessed Lights can Dim Energy Efficiency”
All of these things and more are evaluated when you have a home energy audit or home energy assessment performed on your home. A home energy audit includes air leakage testing using a blower door, and duct leakage testing using a duct blaster of ductwork located in attics and crawlspaces. Energy modeling is used to tell you how much money and energy usage you will save by doing things like replacing inefficient lighting.