Construction and Climate Change
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, hot days are getting hotter and more frequent, while we’re experiencing fewer cold days. Over the past decade, daily record temperatures have occurred twice as often as record lows across the continental United States, up from a near 1:1 ratio in the 1950s. Heat waves are becoming more common, and intense heatwaves are more frequent in the western U.S.
Heat waves throughout the U.S. and Canada are showing no signs of abating. Due to the COVID-19 induced stay-at-home recommendations, family members have been spending more time together all under one roof, causing temperatures—and energy costs—to flare and leaving many to wonder how they can beat the heat while reducing utility bills.
The obvious solution for decades has been air conditioning. The U.S. EIA (Energy Information Admin.) reports air conditioning accounts for 12% of home energy costs on average and, depending on the region, those costs can be significantly higher.
Saving energy, especially in areas where fossil fuels provide the source of electricity, can be both financially and environmentally beneficial. In September 2019, the United States exported 89,000 barrels per day more crude oil and petroleum products than it imported and became a net exporter for the first time since monthly records began in 1973. However, EIA forecasts that the United States will again become a net importer of crude oil and petroleum products in the third quarter of 2020 and remain a net importer in most months through the end of 2021. Fewer barrels are available for export as U.S. crude oil production continues to decline. In addition, net exports of petroleum products will be lowest in the third quarter of 2020, when U.S. refinery runs decline in response to lower demand for refined products.
Contractors and architects can assist the homebuyers of the future in meeting the energy saving goals necessary to provide comfort and economic stability to their clients. Simple steps in the design and construction of new homes, multifamily and commercial buildings can make a big difference.
The MRA (Metal Roofing Alliance) offer some advice for both new and renovated construction.
1) Control natural light
Install blackout blinds and curtains on windows facing the West to block afternoon sun rays. Even with energy efficient windows, blinds can serve as an extra layer of insulation to keep heat out.
2) Provide Easily Cleans HVAC filters
Because good airflow is essential for air conditioning units to properly do their job while using as little energy as possible, make filters easy to replace or clean regularly.
3) Beef up home insulation
Insulation is not beneficial only if you live in a cold weather climate. Better insulation can have a major impact on keeping homes cooler longer in hotter weather.
4) Specify and install efficient light bulbs
Nearly 90% of the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs is used to produce heat, contributing to rising indoor temperatures. Switch to cooler, energy efficient fluorescent or LED lights instead.
5) Use airflow to maximum advantage
Install ceiling fans which, based on industry research, can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler while only using 10% of the energy of a central air conditioner.
6) Use smart thermostats
Strategies for smart temperature control include installing a programmable thermostat, placing it in the cooler part of the home.
7) Install a whole house attic fan
A whole house fan works to create negative pressure by drawing out hot air while drawing in cooler air from outside, effectively venting the home while reducing the load on the air conditioning system.
8) Seal gaps around windows and doors
Little cracks and gaps can have a big impact on household comfort and cooling/heating costs. Be sure to seal them with caulk or weatherstripping and check they are sealed at final walkthrough.
9) Design the roof for efficiency
Naturally, the Metal Roof Alliance thinks architects should specify metal roofing material and installation methods. Investing in a metal “cool roof,” offers proven energy efficiency performance and delivers high total solar reflectance and high infrared emittance, keeping homes cool and saving energy by re-emitting most of what solar radiation is absorbed. Cool metal roofs help save energy by lowering roof temperatures by as much as 50%.
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