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Go Big or Go Home: Four Lessons from Whole-Home Retrofit Programs

  • 1.  Go Big or Go Home: Four Lessons from Whole-Home Retrofit Programs

    BPA Staff Member
    Posted 10-19-2022 12:29
    By Andrew Winslow at NEEP

    Drastically reducing GHG emissions from the existing residential buildings stock remains one of the biggest challenges to achieving a decarbonized energy future. Many homeowners want to "go green" and reduce their carbon footprint for the good of the environment. Others are motivated by reducing their monthly utility bills. Whatever the reason, taking on a whole-home decarbonization retrofit project is more complex than simply replacing old lightbulbs with LEDs. Streamlining the retrofit process will make it easier for homeowners to assess options, make decisions, and receive the benefits they are seeking. 

    Truly decarbonizing a home requires a comprehensive approach that assesses and upgrades the entirety of the building's systems. This involves a variety of improvements such as remediating health and safety barriers, weatherizing the home with insulation and air sealing, electrifying the heating and cooling systems, adding renewable electricity supply, and integrating other efficiency measures. Traditional energy efficiency programs have tried to tackle these improvements through a piecemeal one-off approach, which leaves savings on the table and can lead to unintended consequences like oversized heating equipment and indoor air-quality issues. Undertaking comprehensive projects is typically a complex and expensive endeavor that may cause confusion and discourage all but the most devoted or knowledgeable homeowners. However, there have been many recent efforts to make home decarbonization projects comprehensive, affordable, and scalable.  

    NEEP has been exploring different whole-home decarbonization programs and approaches from across the globe to find the critical pieces that make them successful. We have been involved in the Total Energy Pathways (TEP) project that was inspired by the Zero Energy Now (ZEN) pilot program in Vermont. TEP seeks to decarbonize homes by bundling three major components together: weatherization, heating electrification, and renewable energy. NEEP has also been collaborating with NYSERDA and a cross-cutting group of stakeholders to develop a framework to guide the development of new whole building decarbonization plans. The framework is called Stacked Efficiency and Electrification Program (SEEP). We held more than 30 interviews with program administrators, contractors, finance gurus, tech whizzes, and policy makers to discuss what makes their models successful. For a deeper look into the approaches taken by three different programs check out our Ready Set Scale Webinar on this topic. Below are four lessons learned from our work.

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    Macie Melendez
    Editor in Chief, Building Performance Journal
    Building Performance Association
    Moon Township PA