The Cool Energy House in Orlando, Florida is a demonstration home designed to show how energy efficiency retrofits can not only save on energy, but also make a home more comfortable and secure while keeping the costs low.
The owners of the home, a young family of six, initiated a retrofit project with a local, energy conscious custom homebuilder, Southern Traditions. The Building America teams, BARA and the Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings (CARB), as well as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) team joined to offer their expertise in energy efficient retrofit design.
Before work began, an initial energy audit was executed. The data from the analysis was fed into the Building Energy Optimization (BEopt) software. This tool evaluates incremental energy and cost effects of different building designs relative to a reference building. The program provides a "least-cost" curve that allows users to determine minimum-cost building designs at various levels of energy savings.
The energy audit showed that the existing kraft-faced, fiberglass batt insulation, although in-place most everywhere, wasn't installed carefully, and warm air was circulating noticeably in the wall cavities during the summer months. The teams blew additional chopped fiberglass into the existing wall cavities, increasing the density, filling the voids, and markedly slowing the airflow within them.
In the attic, the few inches of existing fiberglass insulation was vacuumed up and an R-30 application of Manville spray foam was applied to the underside of the roof sheathing, resulting in a completely air sealed and conditioned space while adding an additional wind-mitigating "hold down" to the roof assembly.
Another major undertaking was the windows and doors. The windows in the house were a mix of single pane and double pane with aluminum frames. BEopt showed that replacing the windows with double pane, Low-E vinyl frames was a practical, economical choice, so the existing aluminum windows were cut out flush to the brick veneer, and replaced with high-performance, Low-E, vinyl windows.
With proper air sealing, increased insulation and better windows and doors, the two existing low SEER HVAC systems could be downsized, from two 2.5-ton units to two, high SEER 2-ton units. A dehumidifier acting independently of the HVAC system, matched with ultra-efficient bath fans rounded out the heating and ventilating retrofit, providing cheaper, cleaner and better-conditioned air to the house.
The Cool Energy House project is sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Program. HGTVRemodels is pleased to partner with the Building America Program as an industry partner of the Building America Retrofit Alliance (BARA). Our partnership allows us to help improve energy efficiency in new and existing homes by informing and educating consumers and professionals on residential energy efficiency and renewable energy.
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