‘Deep retrofits’ can halve home energy bills

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is looking for volunteer homeowners to try out deep retrofits on their houses with the aim of slashing energy bills.

Jeff Christian, the ORNL buildings technologies researcher heading the project, said the lab is looking for at least ten homes locally to participate. Homeowners will have to pay most of the costs – about $10 per square foot of living space – and agree to allow their post-retrofit energy consumption to be monitored.

But Christian said costs can be recovered in as little as 10 years.

“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.”

The retrofits will involve 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. Stuffing insulation into attics and installing heat-pumps can also bring huge savings, said Christian.

Christian said results of all of the retrofits will be available online, showing detailed data on the costs and benefits of the retrofits.

“This project connects our research to the surrounding community,” he 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.”