IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

6.4.13 Energy savings through retrofits

There is a large stock of existing and inefficient buildings, most of which will still be here in 2025 and even 2050. Our long-term ability to reduce energy use depends critically on the extent to which energy use in these buildings can be reduced when they are renovated. The equipment inside a building, such as the furnace or boiler, water heater, appliances, air conditioner (where present) and lighting is completely replaced over time periods ranging from every few years to every 20–30 years. The building shell – walls, roof, windows and doors – lasts much longer. There are two opportunities to reduce heating and cooling energy use by improving the building envelope: (i) at any time prior to a major renovation, based on simple measures that pay for themselves through reduced energy costs and potential financial support or incentives; and (ii) when renovations are going to be made for other (non-energy) reasons, including replacement of windows and roofs. Conventional retrofits of residential buildings

Cost-effective measures that can be undertaken without a major renovation of residential buildings include: sealing points of air leakage around baseboards, electrical outlets and fixtures, plumbing, the clothes dryer vent, door joists and window joists; weather stripping of windows and doors; and adding insulation in attics, to walls or wall cavities. A Canadian study found that the cost-effective energy savings potential ranges from 25–30% for houses built before the 1940s, to about 12% for houses built in the 1990s (Parker et al., 2000). In a carefully documented retrofit of four representative houses in the York region of the UK, installation of new window and wooden door frames, sealing of suspended timber ground floors and repair of cracks in plaster reduced the rate of air leakage by a factor of 2.5–3.0 (Bell and Lowe, 2000). This, combined with improved insulation, doors and windows, reduced the heating energy required by an average of 35%. Bell and Lowe (2000) believe that a reduction of 50% could be achieved at modest cost using well-proven (early 1980s) technologies, with a further 30–40% reduction through additional measures.

Studies summarized by Francisco et al. (1998) indicate that air-sealing retrofits alone can save an average of 15–20% of annual heating and air conditioning energy use in US houses. Additional energy savings would arise by insulating pipework and ductwork, particularly in unconditioned spaces. Rosenfeld (1999) refers to an ‘AeroSeal’ technique (see Sec. that he estimates is already saving three billion US$/yr in energy costs in the USA. Without proper sealing, homes in the USA lose, on average, about one-quarter of the heating and cooling energy through duct leaks in unconditioned spaces – attics, crawl spaces, basements.

In a retrofit of 4003 homes in Louisiana, the heating, cooling and water heating systems were replaced with a ground-source heat pump system. Other measures were installation of attic insulation and use of compact fluorescent lighting and water saving showerheads. Space and hot water heating previously provided by natural gas was supplied instead by electricity (through the heat pump), but total electricity use still decreased by one third (Hughes and Shonder, 1998).

External Insulation and Finishing Systems (EIFSs) provide an excellent opportunity for upgrading the insulation and improving the air-tightness of single- and multi-unit residential buildings, as well as institutional and commercial buildings. This is because of the wide range of external finishes that can be applied, ranging from stone-like to a finish resembling aged plaster. A German company manufacturing some of the components used in EIFSs undertook a major renovation of some of its own 1930s multi-unit residential buildings. The EIFSs in combination with other measures achieved a factor of eight measured reduction in heating energy use (see www.3lh.de). An envelope upgrade of an apartment block in Switzerland reduced the heating requirement by a factor of two, while replacing an oil-fired boiler at 85% seasonal average efficiency with an electric heat pump having a seasonal average COP of 3.2 led to a further large decrease in energy use. The total primary energy requirement decreased by about 75% (Humm, 2000).