Windy House and Power Plants
Prior to tearing down the old bungalow I had the air leakage tested by H&H small space solutions. I posted the full results of the testing on my Path to Sustainability blog.
On further reflection of the topic, there is one addition reason I believe would be grounds for performing either deep energy retrofits or building new construction to a much higher thermal resistance than current building codes require.
North American energy use continues to climb and has been placing a huge burden on the energy generation providers. The generation infrastructure will need to be increased with more generation plants in the very near future if we are not able to reduce the overall energy use of the populace.
A very large percentage of electrical generation, often used for the space and water heating in dwellings, is also provided by coal which contributes heavily to the global warming of the planet. Unfortunately, the current popular replacement for coal generation is natural gas. But this too has been shown to be almost as dirty as coal as more and more of the gas is coming to market by means of fracking. Fracked wells are presenting with very limited life spans and test have shown that a significant loss of gas from around the well heads are also occurring (read http://richardheinberg.com/bookshelf/snake-oil for more information on this subject).
As building space and domestic water heating accounts for a huge share of our population’s energy use, the reduction of this use would go a long way to reducing global warming, habitat destruction, health care loads related to asthma and similar ailments, and most importantly could reduce or eliminate the need for new power generation plants.
The only way we are going to significantly reduce this sector of our energy consumption is to upgrade our existing housing stock. Yes, improving the requirements for new builds will help, but it is the existing housing stock that represents the lions share of the energy use. But as the blog article discussed, a deep energy retrofit of a dwelling is expensive and there is no reasonable payback to the home owner undertaking the renovation.
It is my opinion that we need another form of financing structure for these renovations to meet societies goals of reducing energy use and global warming. The only way this is going to work and gain traction is if the grants available from governments and utilities are much larger, to the point where they cover a larger percentage of the renovation costs. The money for the grant would come from the utility or those parties that would otherwise be financing the creation of new generation plants.
Of course I do not have the numbers and cannot speculate if this type of scheme makes financial sense. Another possible financing scheme would be a classification system of housing stock. Every house would be tested and given a energy efficiency rating (just like appliance are today). This would have to be in place prior to the sale of any dwelling. The basis of this type of scheme would be the hope that the marketplace would see value in dwellings of higher energy efficiency and as a result those homes would be worth more money when sold. This would provide the home owner with incentive to upgrade the home prior to sale as they would then by financially compensated with a higher selling price. The would work much the same way as cosmetic upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms currently upgrade the marketability of the home.
But unless some form of financing schema can be created, it is highly unlikely that a vast majority of housing stock will ever be upgraded and we will continue to escalate our burden to the utilities and energy framework of the continent.
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