When contemplating improving our home’s performance it helps to have a general guideline or ordering of priorities when making the decisions that provide the most benefit for our investment.  It’s important to look at the house as a system where each part interacts and ideally works together with the rest.  If we ignore this interaction and focus our attention on single source solutions, at best we miss opportunities to leverage our decisions and in the worse case cause unintentionally negative results.

For example if we add insulation without first taking the time and effort to airseal points of unwanted infiltration, the R-value of that insulation can be reduced by over 50%.  We might be uncomfortable and think we need a new and larger HVAC system.  If we first seal the envelope and add insulation we may be able to downsize that new system, saving on first costs and subsequent utility bills.

It’s important to avoid the “silver bullet” mentality when it comes to energy efficiency.  Using the following loading order of upgrade priorities can help.   It starts with the easiest, least expensive items and progresses to increasingly complex activities.  Tightening up a home’s envelope by air sealing and adding insulation are the two most cost effective steps you can take toward affordable comfort.  It pays to put your money into simple measures first.

1. Air sealing the envelope
2. Insulation
3. Duct sealing

Load Reduction
4. Fluorescent lighting
5. Energy efficient appliances
6. Reducing plug loads (especially phantom loads)
7. Reducing water consumption
8. Occupant behavior

Mechanical Systems
9. High efficiency HVAC
10. High efficiency water heating
11. Heat recovery ventilation

12. Solar hot water
13. PV solar
14. Wind power
15. Rain water harvesting

Of course nothing can replace a comprehensive home performance survey performed by a competent professional to analyze our homes particular needs and to develop a cost effective strategy.


Bonus, went to the BLUE GREEN Jobs Conference in San Diego this week, learned a lot about the potential for collaborative solutions to seemingly catastrophic problems, but there is still a lack of public awareness and thus political will to dedicate the resources necessary to address the coming crisis.

You can download and listen to the rough audio here with QuickTime Player: