Ask Eartha: Remodeling with an Energy Efficiency Advantage

If you’re renovating, energy efficiency analysts at the High Country Conservation Center can conduct energy assessments for your home to inform you what work should be done as you make improvements.
High Country Conservation Center/Photo courtesy

Dear Eartha, I am planning a home remodel this spring and want to make sure I also think about energy efficiency. Do you have any advice on how I can help my project get the most out of it?

It’s DIY project season! The warm months are a great time to plan and complete that job you’ve always wanted to do to your home – or even the upgrades it needs to make you and your family cozier and happier next winter and beyond do. renovation work, such as A renovation, such as a kitchen renovation or additions, can add a lot of value to your home. And when you’re planning these projects, it’s an excellent time to start thinking about energy efficiency as well.

Why? Because you may already have walls open – or even knocked down – during a remodeling project and it’s an inexpensive time to make some energy efficiency improvements. Not only do you benefit from energy savings, but it’s generally more convenient and cost-effective to improve efficiency while tackling other projects.

How to plan efficiently

The key is to develop performance improvements early in the planning process, when small changes to the scope of work can make a big difference with minimal effort. Below are some common retrofits that incorporate this concept. Every project is unique, so use these examples as a guide for your own renovation goals:

  • If the project involves opening walls, ceilings or floors, or replacing roofs, consider incorporating insulation and sealing air leaks to the recommended levels for our cold climate. The same applies if the project involves the construction of an extension or the completion of a previously unfinished space.
  • If the project involves replacing light fixtures, switches, or outlets, you may again consider sealing air leaks, time around switch boxes, and light fixtures before installing replacements. You can also maximize efficiency by using LEDs if you don’t already have them.
  • If the project involves upgrading kitchen or other major appliances, look for Energy Star-certified appliances, especially for large energy consumers like refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, and dryers.

Get the experts involved early on

Wondering how to start? The best way to understand how to build efficiency into your remodeling project is to first get an energy rating for your home. This process identifies opportunities for improvement. Through thorough testing and diagnostic procedures, a home energy analyst will identify where air is leaking from your walls or around your windows (which wastes a lot of energy – and money – in the winter), where the insulation may not be adequate to keep in heat (or where it could be missing at all), along with other important safety and durability checks.

After the assessment, your analyst will discuss their recommendations with you and produce a detailed report with tons of useful information about your home’s performance. Even better, if you complete the assessment, you’ll be eligible for local and utility rebates on qualifying energy efficiency improvements that help make them more affordable. Who doesn’t like being paid to save energy?

Once you have these recommendations in hand, talk to your contractor about including them in the projects you have planned. You’ll likely pay a little more up front, but you’ll reap the benefits in the long run: energy savings, greater comfort and longevity, and a safer home.

Ready to get nerdy about how your home uses energy? During the month of April, the High Country Conservation Center is offering bonus discounts on home energy assessments to the first 35 people to sign up. Valuations typically total $99 after rebates, but this month’s additional payback makes them completely free for homes under 2,500 square feet. For larger houses, there are additional costs per square meter. These spots are going fast, so sign up to now to snag the deal.

Here’s the big take: Whether you’re planning a remodel this year or not, there’s a good chance your home could use a little TLC in the energy efficiency department. Working with a building performance expert and following their recommendations will make you feel more comfortable while using less energy, and that’s pretty darn stimulating.

Taylor Magnus

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