Energy Code Moving (Inexorably) Towards Net-Zero

Sometimes things happen faster than you expect. No, the new Energy Star standard, v 3.0, slated for mid-2012, doesn’t require houses to produce as much power in a year as they use, but there’s a chance that v 4.0 will. Currently, houses account for 40% of our energy usage, reducing that to 0% for new homes would be a huge step forward. Granted, the actual impact on energy consumption might be small as new homes aren’t a large share of the market, but the idea that we can would spur us along.

The next step is how to weatherize existing homes to that level. A major hurdle is siting. New homes can be sited so they take advantage of sun, but moving existing houses isn’t an option. Even tightening up the envelope and increasing the insulation to achieving a good heating slope (BTUs/HDD/sq. ft) can be expensive. Still, energy is pretty cheap here in the USA compared to Canada and Europe and when it does rise in cost, it will force technological advances in weatherization materials and techniques.

It’s an exciting time to be in the field of energy! Things are changing so fast that I have trouble practicing what I’ve learned before the prevailing wisdom changes. I guess that’s a good thing, at least I don’t get stuck in the old practices!

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