Ask Eco Ed: Renovating Our Home – Is Energy Efficiency Important?

Dear Eco-Ed:

We are planning a renovation, and were wondering if we should be looking at efficiency upgrades at this time.  Our budget is already stretched for the work we’re doing, and we would like to put off what we can, until a later date.

– “Movin’ On Up” in Ridgewood

Dear Movin:

Ask Eco-Ed uses his years of experience to provide professional, helpful answers to sustainability questions.

Improving your living space can be very rewarding.  I am glad you contacted me at this point in the process.  It happens far too often that people contact me a year or two after the work is done.  Many times it is too late or cost prohibitive to make efficiency improvements at that time.  Now is definitely the right time to consider Energy Efficiency, because your entire house is a complex single structure, not just a rooms being worked on during construction.  Your heating/cooling systems, your exterior walls and attic spaces, the balancing of the home are all critical to your overall comfort and efficiency.  The “Building Science,” or Zen approach helps you look at the bigger picture of your home, which almost always yields the best results.  And the better news is that more often than not, it is less expensive to approach your project this way!

Many times, you are upgrading heating/cooling systems, or adding additional units to address the work being done on your home.  In Ridgewood, many of the homes are older, and some do not have insulation in the walls.  This is easier to address when walls are open, or during construction, and will balance your home’s thermal envelope.  You want to look at the original part of the home to make sure that any contaminants (mold, asbestos, carbon monoxide, etc.) are removed, so that air quality in the overall home is improved during the process.

Choosing and sizing the overall heating/cooling systems is very important, and much more cost-effective long-term.  You do not want to be stuck in a situation with multiple units that are newer, but overall lead to inefficiencies or comfort issues.  It will be costly to remove equipment that is newer and functioning properly.  Insulation and air sealing can be done together and much more comprehensively during construction.  Any access issues, patching, sealing, etc. will be much easier and cheaper at this stage.  To be clear, you might have some additional costs for including these items in your project.  However, rebates and incentives from the State, through the Home Performance with Energy Star Program and other Clean Energy Programs, can more than offset any additional costs also.

 

When all is said and done, by addressing energy efficiency at this time, your renovation project can leave your home more comfortable, with lower utility bills.  It may also be less expensive up front, which is a complete win-win situation!

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