SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Renovating Your Home for Energy Efficiency


In many ways, it is more difficult to maximize energy efficiency during a renovation than during new construction. Yet when undertaking home renovation, it is very important to make sure that your investment won’t end up costing you a fortune in energy bills. Some of the key opportunities in home renovation are:

  • Roof design, materials and ventilation
  • Windows
  • Insulation
  • Heating, air conditioning and hot water systems
  • Lighting and appliances
  • and don’t forget adding renewable energy to your home.

In the case of new construction, sometimes energy efficiency is as simple as making a good choice. The cost of an energy efficient product may not represent much additional cost. Furthermore, the house can be designed to take advantage of the most appropriate and cost-effective products available.

Renovators face special challenges. The decision about replacing an existing window, for example, is complicated enough without having to research a wide variety of products to understand which would be most cost-effective over its lifetime. And “surprises” often mean that a quick decision needs to be made on replacing a big ticket item that wasn’t in the budget, hardly a good time to do thoughtful research on something that might feel like an upgrade. These issues can put a strain of project planning and budgeting, making it difficult to stay focused on the long-term benefits of energy efficiency.

To overcome these challenges, you’ll need some combination of expertise and enthusiasm for your project. The expertise you find may be an experienced contractor or subcontractor. Some companies offer renovation expertise, others are “green builders” with more experience in new construction – if you are lucky you’ll find both kinds of expertise in the same company. Many people find that they have to fill in the gaps themselves with enthusiasm and diligent research.

Doing some online research and learning what experts and other homeowners are saying about certain products and services will help you avoid unwise investment and ensure that your home renovation doesn’t end up turning your home into an energy hog.

SACE Research Director John D. Wilson wrote about his family’s green home renovation experience.