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ENERGY SAVINGS in buildings
AIR BYPASS LEAKS
AIR LEAK DETECTION TOOLS
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
BASEMENT HEAT LOSS
BLOWER DOORS & AIR INFILTRATION
CATHEDRAL CEILING INSULATION
COMBUSTION AIR for TIGHT buildings
DEW POINT CALCULATION for WALLS
DEFINITION of HEATING & COOLING TERMS
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
ENERGY STAR PROGRAM
FLOOR RADIANT HEAT Mistakes to Avoid
FRAMING DETAILS for BETTER INSULATION
FREEZE-PROOF A BUILDING
GREEN BUILDING CONSTRUCTION
HEAT LOSS in BUILDINGS
HEATING COST SAVINGS METHODS
HOUSE DOCTOR, how-to be
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
LEED GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION
SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS
THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY
THERMAL MASS in BUILDINGS
WIND ENERGY SYSTEMS
WINDOWS & DOORS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article explains the basic priorities of steps to take in reducing building heating or cooling costs to obtain the maximum economic return when installing solar heating systems.
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Balancing Act - how to get the most return on energy efficiency investments
I understand the importance of insulating a house before installing any solar space heating system. (See INSULATION LOCATION - WHERE TO PUT IT).
How low a Btu/hour value should I attain in a 60-year old, leaky, wood frame house before solarizing? The house is 1900 square feet, has oil / hot water heat, and is located in Maryland (4000 heating degree days).
Also, how should the basement be insulated - around its perimeter or under the first floor?
Our photo (above left) shows a building insulation retrofit project in process where the owner was removing the original brick wall lining to install building insulation. Details of that project are at BRICK LINED WALLS.
If you want to get the largest return on your investment in building energy efficiency, you should balance your expenditures on
so that your economic return is equal for each.
Whatever analysis you use to make economic decisions
you should apply the method fairly to each part of the house. How much you want to spend in total will depend on what return on your money you find acceptable.
Law of Diminishing Returns on Energy Savings Investments
In general, the first dollars invested in energy savings will bring larger returns than later dollars due to the law of diminishing returns.See ENERGY SAVINGS PRIORITIES for details.
To be fair, you should apply your cost accounting only to the energy cost of a building part, if it serves another function (for example a window decoration, structure, or added living space).
In the case of an upgraded heating system, you should consider the added cost over the conventional equipment that you would otherwise install. There is a good deal of fudging and judgment in all this and plenty of room for common sense.
Placement of Basement Insulation
As for basement insulation, either approach will work. Of course, if you want a heated basement you should insulate the perimeter. Also, if you insulate the floor above the basement, you increase the risk of freezing pipes in the basement.
If the basement is mostly below grade and has no leaky doors and windows, this shouldn't be a problem in your climate.
The question-and-answer article about energy savings investment strategy when adding solar heat, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is preceded above by an expanded/updated online version of this article.
Readers should also see ENERGY SAVINGS PRIORITIES and see the collection of energy saving articles at ENERGY SAVINGS in buildings. Our page top photograph shows solar panels, both photovoltaic and domestic hot water heating systems, on a rooftop in Surprise, Arizona. The accompanying text is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
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