Contributed by Sonja Gustafson:
Here at G2B Ventures, driving efficiency into existing homes is our core mission. Locally and nationally, residential efficiency has increasingly become top of mind to homeowners and politicians alike, for a variety of reasons ranging from wanting a more comfortable home, to reducing our carbon footprint, to creating jobs, and of course, saving a few bucks on our utility bills.
We all agree that home efficiency is good, but how do we know what good is? I intrinsically understand when I change out an incandescent bulb for a compact fluorescent one my energy usage goes down.
When my husband and I renovated our 1920s home in Wallingford, we spent some extra money on better insulation and windows, so I know that our home should be pretty snug, energy-wise. We also selected sustainable materials and replaced the old boiler with an efficient radiant heating system.
So when I learned about the Energy Performance Score, a systems-based rating methodology that provides a sort of “miles per gallon” rating for a home, I thought it would be a great way to measure the success of our remodel. Given our excellent windows, high R-value insulation, and several smart home measures (including those CFL bulbs) to manage our home lighting, I was feeling preeeetty confident that we would get a good score.
So when my EPS came back with a score in the red zone (green is good, red is bad), I was shocked. Red zone?? My green home? How could this be?!
After looking through the report that accompanied the EPS, it became abundantly clear why my house scored above the Washington target of 25,100 kWh/year. You see, we live in a home that was built in an era where energy was not considered a valuable resource worth conserving, when the only constraint (for the original owner) was lot size. Our home sits on a double lot, and so the original owner built a rather generously-sized home. And when we did our big remodel, we chose to add a family room and a guest room for our frequent visitors who stay with us for weeks or even months at a time.
That remodel, while focused on maximizing the energy efficiency of the home, increased the overall square footage, which is the single biggest reason my home now scores so poorly in energy consumption.
So despite the fact that we used some of the greenest methods and materials available in the marketplace at the time of our remodel, the fact is: size matters. And now we have proof. Although we live in a home remodeled with energy efficiency in mind, it still requires an abundant amount of energy simply due to its large size. I’m not sad to have a house this large; it is a warm and welcoming place that has offered shelter to a motley crew of friends and family.
But the EPS doesn’t lie. Despite my deep commitment to sustainable homes, I have to admit that while my house uses energy efficiently, its size drives up our energy consumption, and, therefore, my EPS or "MPG" rating. It bothers me to hold this up to the light of objective measurement, but at least now I have tools like the EPS to take a closer look, to learn more deeply about the various pieces that make my home green, and incorporate them into my work and life.
Contributed by Sonja Gustafson: