Minnesota Homes Are More Energy-Efficient Than Ever

Q& A with ROSS ANDERSON, The Energy Network Worldwide, LLC, Ross@TENww.com

More than 11,000 homes have been Green Path Energy Tested since Minnesota’s Green Path program started in 2011. We spoke with Ross Anderson, energy efficiency consultant from The Energy Network Worldwide, on what he is seeing in the market place and his advice for builders looking to make their homes more energy efficient.

Q: What features help improve a home’s HERS score the most?
Anderson: A home’s air tightness (creates a better blower door test score), efficiency of heating and cooling equipment, efficiency of water heating equipment, insulation levels (walls, attic, foundation walls and below the slab) and energy-efficient windows (low U-value ratings—the lower the better) all help improve a home’s HERS score.

Q: What do builders sometimes overlook that hurts a home’s energy efficiency score?
Anderson: The air tightness of the home has such a large effect on the final HERS score. This is something that can be addressed during construction and can be easily fixed with some attention to detail. Working with your HERS rater and insulator prior to drywall being installed is essential to getting an airtight house. This is a low-cost fix during construction, but a high-cost fix at the end of construction.

Q: What’s the most common energy efficient home features you’re seeing?

Anderson: LED lights in all of the fixtures. Most builders have gone to all LED lighting in their
homes. This provides huge energy savings and homeowners don’t have to change out bulbs as often.

Q: What are consumers asking for when it comes to energy efficiency?

Anderson: Smart home technology such as smart thermostats and apps that sync with your equipment. Being able to monitor heating, cooling and humidity from your smartphone is becoming standard in homes.

Q: Do you have any predictions for green buildings trends or new technology that we will see more of in the next five years?

Anderson: We are getting close to maxing out the amount of insulation that we can get in a 2X6 wall cavity. We are currently installing R20 to R21 depending on the builder inside the wall cavity. Some builders are adding insulated wall sheathing to the outside of the building. This adds an additional R5-R10 to the exterior along with helping to eliminate thermal bridging. I am currently working with some builders that have started this practice and are seeing excellent results in energy efficiency and homeowner comfort.

Q: Anything else you think the industry should be aware of as far as green building and trends?

Anderson: Water conservation is the latest green feature being addressed nationally. The goal is to make sure that hot water reaches the fixtures faster to eliminate water waste. Plumbers are adding insulation to piping and are paying more attention to the length of water lines between the water heater and the fixtures.