Study: Adding insulation to existing homes could save 37 billion kwh
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A new study from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) revealed that increasing insulation levels in existing U.S. single-family homes to the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) level would, in total across the United States, cut electricity consumption by 37 billion kilowatt hours. This reduction is equivalent to the annual electricity usage of 3.4 million U.S. homes. In addition, increased insulation would slash residential natural gas consumption (9 percent), reduce propane use (10 percent) and fuel oil consumption (12 percent).
"This study quantifies energy savings, pollution reductions and public health improvements if all the under-insulated homes in the U.S. were brought to 2012 code," said Curt Rich, president and CEO of NAIMA. "Approximately 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated and this study now provides data describing what we could achieve by addressing this huge population of homes." The BUSPH research team considered increased insulation as an example of the type of state-level energy efficiency measure that states may choose to pursue as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which sets state-specific targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants or as part of other environmental or utility programs.
Researchers developed a comprehensive model of the economic, climate and public health benefits of increased insulation, for all single-family homes in the continental U.S., to the levels in the 2012 IECC, the primary model building energy code in the U.S. today. The results allowed the team to quantify the co-benefits of state-level energy efficiency strategies targeting CO2 reductions from power plants and compare the health and climate benefits with the economic benefits of residential energy efficiency.
Increased residential insulation would reduce annual CO2 emissions from power plants by 80 million tons, and produce other benefits, including 30 million fewer tons of CO2 per year from direct residential combustion and 320 fewer premature deaths per year associated with air pollution from power plants and direct residential combustion. The team also estimated that the monetized health and climate co-benefit averaged $49 per ton of CO2 emissions.
"Our study provides insight about the benefits of residential energy efficiency for each state in the continental U.S., an important feature given large variations between states and the fact that each state will develop its own strategy to respond to the Clean Power Plan. Our results align with previously published values that show important benefits of increasing insulation levels in U.S. homes," said BUSPH Professor Jonathan I. Levy, who led the research team that conducted the study.
North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) sponsored this research and a similar study in 2000, which estimated a mortality reduction as well as a drop in CO2 emissions by approximately 1 ton per year per home.
The study concluded that "states should formally evaluate energy efficiency as part of Clean Power Plan compliance or as a general strategy to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions."