Cool Energy House Demonstrates Green Remodeling Strategies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Cool Energy House is a model in home energy efficiency.
By Alison Rogers
December 2011/January 2012
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High-efficiency heating and cooling features, sealed duct work, added insulation, renewable energy features and more can increase the value of your home while decreasing the drain on your pocketbook.
ILLUSTRATION: U.S. EPA


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Rising energy costs and the increasing need for conservation have generated much interest in energy-efficient home retrofits. In response, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program has developed the Cool Energy House, a remodeled show house that demonstrates the myriad ways in which an existing home can become more efficient.

Located in Windermere, Fla., the Cool Energy House features a host of efficiency upgrades and will be part of the 2012 International Builders Show (Feb. 8 through 11). If you can’t make it, don’t fret: After the show, you can take a virtual tour of the home at Retrofit Alliance.

The accompanying graphic illustrates some of the most common upgrades performed in a green remodel (but certainly not all of them!).








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Noaccess Private
12/5/2011 10:50:46 PM
Good article but the graphic at least is outdated by several years. For one, it shows having your AC in your attic, which is the worst, most energy hogging place to put it. Second, it says to replace your windows, which has been proved to be a bad idea unless you're replacing the old aluminum-framed post-war single pane type. Historic windows found on homes around the turn of the century with their heavy wood frames are actually more energy efficient than even replacements if left alone, their weight pockets are insulated, and proper, modern storm windows installed. For as much as it costs to replace those historic windows, you can get top-notch storm windows with double and triple glazing, dual screens, impact resistant film, and low-E for what it would cost you for basic no-frills replacements that don't match the historic era of the home. Furthermore, windows from Pella and Marvin have recently been severely downgraded in efficiency due to poor construction and no insulating and sealing value. You may have well saved your money and kept your old windows instead. Third but not a problem: if you're restoring or retrofitting a home that doesn't have central HVAC with ducts, don't put ductwork and your average central in. It's far better to go with modern ductless systems, radiant floor, baseboard, or at least microducts. Often in older homes, the only place to run standard ductwork is through the attic or the crawlspace, both of which are horrible places to install it because of the heat buildup, risk of blowing vermiculite, water infiltration, or stopping valuable airflow under your home which leads to mold, odor, and pests. If you own a historic-era home, take advantage of the passive cooling and heating systems it already has in place such as those wonderful double-hung windows, transoms, and thick lime plaster walls that act as thermal mass and sanitize the air. Work with your "recycled" house and it will take care of you in return. Source: 35 years of restoration and remodeling using green technology and monitoring previous and present restorations to see what worked and what didn't, and staying on touch with current info from research labs as opposed to the sluggish and lobby-influenced EPA.








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