Building science looks at energy-saving ideas in the context of an entire structure. One recent client, says Porterfield, was thinking of spending $700 on attic ventilation fans for his building. "We told him that was a waste of money. A 1978 National Bureau of Standards study established that running roof fans just increases electricity use for cooling, without improving on natural ventilation through grills. That's only one of thousands of in-field energy-efficiency studies that builders and buyers are unaware of."
People ambushed by high heating bills often ask Porterfield and Kidd, Where can I buy the right appliance? They answer that in nonemergency situations it's more important to reduce their home's larger energy losses first, then buy equipment to fit their new lower energy needs. In other words, make sure the building shell is doing the best possible job of using and retaining whatever energy is put into it.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Conservation: learn first, buy later
My friends John Porterfield and Cappy Kidd at Informed Energy Decisions just got a new shot of publicity from A Fresh Squeeze. If you aren't already inspired to call them for an energy audit BEFORE you make a possibly pointless investment in new windows, then check out the Reader story from 2006. They're students and practitioners of "building science":