Event Recap: Sealing in the Savings

When most people think of an efficient home or building, their minds often go immediately to solar, wind, or geothermal technologies. Although these alternative sources provide clean energy, these advanced (and expensive) technologies do not guarantee an energy efficient structure.

It may seem obvious, but the first step to reducing energy use is to understand where energy is being used, or more importantly, where energy is being wasted. An energy audit can help you do just that. And, once you determine and reduce energy demands, sealing your building envelope will help prevent energy from being thrown literally out the window.

At the first Westchester & Rockland Programs Committee Salon of 2014, guest speakers Andy Padian (The Community Preservation Corporation) and Ken Levenson (475 High Performance Building Supply) advised residents and building owners on how an energy audit is conducted, what the typical trends in energy demand are, and how to implement air tight sealing strategies through Passive House Design. 

Padian, an energy auditor with over 30 years of experience, spoke about the trends he has noticed over the years. For each project, he collects and analyzes energy use data, and then presents clients with strategies to save energy and money:

• Increase air sealing and fire stopping to tighten buildings.

• Install high-performance windows and insulation.

• Upgrade ventilation systems.

• Install efficient and properly sized mechanical equipment.

• Upgrade heating, cooling and hot water controls.

• Install low-flow showerheads and faucets to lower water heating loads.

• Purchase Energy Star appliances.

• Retrofit inefficient light fixtures and bulbs.

To elaborate on the first two strategies, Levenson brought his expertise in Passive House (PH) consulting and design. Through airtight sealing, these highly insulated buildings use minimal energy to heat and cool. PH designs also increase ventilation to improve indoor air quality. In the diagram below, Levenson breaks down PH design strategies into primary and secondary elements:

Once a tight envelope is created, a Passive House relies on heat gains from the sun and optimized ventilation to keep the indoor environment at a comfortable temperature. Once those goals are reached, supplemental heating and cooling can be added for extremely cold or hot days. Levenson also discussed the importance of incorporating energy efficient systems, including LED lighting and Energy Star appliances, to work in conjunction with the tightly sealed envelope.

There was a clear message from both speakers that even the simplest of energy upgrades can decrease loads and contribute to a measurable payback, so let’s start sealing in the savings.