Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US plans to improve energy efficiency by conducting a series of deep energy retrofit research projects in few homes to improve energy efficiency by 30 to 50 percent.
Deep energy retrofits are renovations to existing structures that use the latest in energy-efficient materials and technologies and result in significant energy reductions.
Jeff Christian, the ORNL buildings technologies researcher heading the project, said at least 10 homes across the region will be sought to participate.
The home selection process is yet to be finalized, and homeowners will have to pay most of the costs-about 10 dollars per square foot of living space-and agree to allow their post-retrofit energy consumption to be monitored.
But Christian said that costs can be recovered in as little as 10 years, and energy bills potentially can be cut in half.
"Most important, data from the project can provide huge incentives for more deep retrofits across the region," he said.
"Deep retrofit is a fairly expensive upfront proposition, but can be one of the best investments available to many homeowners," said Christian.
"We're targeting homes that are 15-35 years old-homes that are ready for new windows, heating and cooling units, appliances and maybe even solar panels to push their homes closer to near-zero energy consumption," he explained.
"Then we want to monitor these homes, analyze their energy consumption and celebrate the progressive vision of this region," he added.
The retrofits are part of an energy-efficient systems approach that involves making the building more air-tight; weatherizing the attic, crawl space and windows; upgrading heating and cooling units, water heaters, appliances and lighting; and installing solar panels.
In a retrofit house, insulation is removed from the attic floor. The roof and sides of the attic are sealed with insulating foam, and a high-efficiency heat pump is installed in the attic.
The result is huge energy savings in heating and cooling because the entire HVAC system is inside the insulation layer.
Also, the system provides thermostats on both floors, but instead of operating two separate heat pumps, a single smarter unit directs heating or cooling where it's needed. This project connects our research to the surrounding community," Christian said.
"We're hoping that this demonstration stimulates enough interest among members of the public that it will become self-sustaining-growing the number of houses with deep retrofits," he added.