Houses will not perform as well as expected energy-wise if they are leaky. Heat takes the path of least resistance and will quickly be lost through air leaks. Tighter homes (with sufficient ventilation) also are more comfortable because they are less drafty.
A Habitat for Humanity home in Pueblo, Colorado was given a number of energy-efficiency upgrades to measure their cost and effectiveness.
The main lesson learned is how easy and inexpensive it is to tighten up a home (a strawbale house in this case, but the same principles apply to any home) and still achieve a significant increase in energy savings. These upgrades should pay for themselves within the first year and continue to save money for the life of the home. And, because this was done on a low-cost Habitat home demonstrates that these steps could be done on any home.
The upgrades included caulk, foam insulation, extra ceiling insulation, a hot water heater blanket, insulation for hot water pipes, and compact fluorescents for high-use areas, at a cost of just $186 (in 1999).
The 5-Star Plus rating (the highest possible rating in Colorado) by Energy Rated Homes of Colorado verified the results. An E-Star rating of 80 points is considered energy-efficient. This home scored 91 points, making it one of the most efficient in Colorado. In addition, the upgrades on this home reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 2.9 tons per year.
With skyrocketing heating costs predicted for this coming winter, readers are encouraged to read the full report: