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Energy Efficiency: One House at a Time?

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Nevelyn Black's picture
Writer, Independent

Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Jan 29, 2023

A passive home in Maine maintains a comfortable temperature of 70 degrees rain or shine.  How?  Homeowners, Patrick McCunney and Madeleine Mackel, credit the airtightness and insulation for the homes’ efficiency.  "No furnace," he adds. "Just this small little heat pump. Relying a lot on the sun to heat, which in the winter is pretty amazing."  A rooftop solar array also generates four times as much energy as the house needs.  While passive homes do cost about 10 percent more to build than a traditional home, many homeowners feel the investment is well worth the upfront costs.  McCunney only pays a $13 a month connection fee to Central Maine Power.  McCunney adds, "Also with a passive home, you're severating yourself from the volatility of the energy world and what that brings and unknowns as we enter into this new warming planet and sort of provide some buffer against that chaos." 

The UK is struggling with that ‘chaos’ and ‘volatility’ of the energy market and was reported as having the most poorly insulated homes in Europe.  "The majority of homes in the UK were built before we understood about climate change," explained Sarah Wigglesworth, an architect who recently retrofitted her own home in London.  Most housing needs better insulation and higher performance windows, but homeowners are concerned about losing the traditional look of their homes.   "Ultimately we are going to have to accept some changes in the appearance of our traditional homes,” said Architecture for London founder, Ben Ridley.  Architect and Passivhaus advocate Paul Testa said a "compromise between performance and heritage" is a must.  Another challenge believed to hinder the UK from improved energy efficiency is “the lack of consistent government strategy,” said Tetsa.

In Oregon, lawmakers are getting involved and they are taking a closer look at building codes.  With more new construction projects on the horizon, climate advocates want to improve energy efficiency, building codes and retrofits.  “Oregon has made some incredible strides to clean up our electric grid and start to transition our transportation sector, but the building sector is the second biggest source of climate pollution, and we need to see more progress there,” said Meredith Connolly, the director of Climate Solutions Oregon. “I’m hoping to see some cornerstone policies that set a framework for our built environment to reduce pollution and increase the resilience of our homes and buildings in the face of climate impacts.” 

Will lawmakers move forward with stricter standards to increase energy efficiency?  Are passive homes and costly retrofits worth the investment?

“We have to not repeat the mistakes of the past, but just spend the time and dollars to build differently, to really prioritize frontline communities in how we transition to a clean energy economy,” said Meredith Connolly, the director of Climate Solutions Oregon.  





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