What You Need to Know About the Whole-House Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency
Whether or not you’re aware of it, your home air environment is a complex system. The furnace and air conditioner maintain an optimal temperature, ductwork moves conditioned air through your home and your home’s thermal envelope — the barrier between indoor and outdoor temperatures — keeps your home habitable. If any single system is operating poorly, your entire environment can be compromised. This is why a whole-house systems approach to energy efficiency can deliver disproportional results. A whole-house approach recognizes the interdependence of the parts of your HVAC system and improves holistic efficiency by fine-tuning a variety of aspects:
- Home sealing – A drafty house will literally leak out energy by losing air that’s been heated or cooled. Furnaces and air conditioners have to work to replace lost conditioned air, meaning they expend more energy maintaining an indoor temperature. Sealing home air leaks reduces energy loss.
- Ductwork maintenance – In the same way that home sealing prevents loss into the outside world, sealing ducts prevents air from escaping into undesirable home locations, like attics and crawl spaces.
- Insulation – Temperature transfers between indoor and outdoor areas even without air transfer. Still, when the indoor and outdoor temperatures deviate by a significant margin, such as in the frigid winter months, heat loss or gain can be significant. Insulation increases the resistance to temperature transfer.
- Windows – Not only are these prime candidates for sealing, but a whole-house systems approach to energy efficiency will also examine the outside environment. Is there shading on windows which receive sunlight during the summer? Do windows receiving winter sun have good exposure to sunlight? High-efficiency windows and double panes can also play a large part in retaining energy.
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) – High-efficiency appliances that are maintained yearly are well-recognized energy savers and are featured in programs such as federal tax credits to help homeowners transition to more energy-efficient homes.
- Other appliances – Although they contribute less to energy costs than heating and cooling do, high-efficiency lights, kitchen appliances such as refrigerators, and water heaters all contribute to whole-house energy savings.