50% Energy Savings in the Residential Sector? Deep Energy Retrofits Are Making it Possible

The need for innovative ways to reduce residential energy use is growing. States are setting increasingly aggressive energy savings targets for utilities and program administrators, as well as longer-term energy reduction goals that call for even greater savings. In California, for example, their goal calls for a 40% reduction in existing homes’ energy use by 2020. While this is an ambitious goal, considering that savings from the highest-performing residential [no-glossary]retrofit[/no-glossary] programs top out at about 30%, it is increasingly feasible. New research and program experiences show savings of more than 50% of home energy use can be achieved through deep energy retrofit projects. Deep energy retrofits rely on significant upgrades to a home’s shell and mechanical systems to deliver much more comfortable, long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and low-energy houses.

Our new report on residential deep energy retrofits reviews the latest research and program experiences, while providing recommendations for next-generation programs designed to target savings of more than 50% of the energy used in the home. In the report, we assess four major program and research efforts involving particular retrofit processes, technologies, and savings opportunities, including one utility-scale deep energy retrofit efficiency program. This utility-scale program, through National Grid, encourages greater savings through incorporation of deep energy improvements when homeowners are already making significant alterations to their siding, roof, or basement. Another effort, a research-oriented program run by NYSERDA, sponsors home performance contractors in New York to test advanced methods of insulating the building shell. These programs, while very different from one another, help inform how larger-scale programs are developed.

Innovative programs that target deep energy retrofits give program administrators the opportunity to add more savings potential to energy efficiency portfolios by targeting a niche market of highly motivated customers. At the same time, these programs deliver market transformation benefits and advance preparation to meet future energy savings targets by increasing consumer knowledge, workforce experience, and technical capacity. As energy efficiency program administrators dig deeper to find new energy savings opportunities, a deep energy retrofit program can be a smart choice.

Including deep energy retrofits in an energy efficiency program portfolio can help to drive demand for this kind of work. This, in turn, helps reduce future project costs by adding to workforce experience, improving processes, and developing competitive mechanisms. Such efforts can help make deep energy retrofit solutions a more realistic option for homeowners seeking to improve the quality and value of their homes.