Energy Efficiency Upgrade

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Deep in the Heat of Texas

Insulation, air-sealing, and efficient mechanicals keep this house comfortable in the hot, humid weather

Posted on Feb 24 2015 by Matt Risinger

You may have heard that here in Central Texas, it gets hot. The average temperature rises above 90°F on more than 100 days out of the year. As you might expect, we turn on the air conditioner more often than the furnace.

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Image Credits:

  1. Image #1: Matt Risinger
  2. Image #2: Charles Bickford

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Weatherization’s Home-Stretch Recovery

Even though the expanded Weatherization Assistance Program struggled out of the gate – and can always be improved – it has produced encouraging, credible results

Posted on Jan 3 2012 by Richard Defendorf

The Weatherization Assistance Program – which emerged as a major administrative challenge and political target after its budget vastly expanded under the federal stimulus bill – turns out to be meeting expectations.

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Image Credits:

  1. Government Accountability Office

Mission Zero House: A Net-Zero Retrofit

Ann Arbor, MI

Dec 14 2011 By Peter Yost | 0 comments

General Specs and Team

Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Living Space : 1300 sqf

2,600 sq. ft. of conditioned space

General Contractor: Matt Grocoff,
Whole-House Performance Contractor: Meadowlark Energy


Attic: From uninsulated and vented to cathedralized and unvented
Above-Grade Walls: From uninsulated rough-cut 2x4s to dense-packed cellulose insulation (no vapor retarder)
Below-Grade Walls: From uninsulated to spray foam at the rim joist
Windows: From original single-pane windows to rebuilt/repaired original sashes plus low-e storms


Attic insulation/air sealing: R-30 Demilec Sealection 500
Wall insulation: R-13 Farmers dense-packed cellulose insulation
Windows: Trapp low-e storms
Air tightness: 4.75 ach50

Alternative Energy: SunPower 8.1 kW photovoltaic system

Heating/cooling: 3-ton Water Furnace Envision
Window restoration: Wood Window Repair Company
Lighting Controls: Wattstopper motion sensor light switches
Power strips: Smart Strip power strips
Window treatments: EcoSmart Insulated cellular shades

Water Efficiency

Toilets: Caroma Dual-Flush
Showerheads: Caroma 1.28 gpm (HET)
Faucets: Bricor aerators
Irrigation: Rain barrels (salvaged from St Jullian's Winery)

Indoor Air Quality

Whole-house ventilation: Ultimate Air ERV
Paints: Zero VOC - Benjamin Moore Aura, AFM Safecoat, Sherwin Williams Harmony
Floor finish: Bioshield Hard oil #9
Molding finish: Hock natural shellac
Bedding: NaturePedic mattress

Green Materials and Resource Efficiency

Salvaged doors: HFH ReStore
Picture frames: Urban Ashes
Salvaged wood stock: Urban Wood
Outbuilding: Chicken coop salvaged from neighbor's playhouse
Carpet: Wool stair runners from G & K Flooring


- HERS 37
- USA Today's Best Green Homes of 2010

A rehab project in Ann Arbor turns a house in a historic district into America’s oldest net-zero residence

There really is nothing more challenging that I can think of than taking a home in a historic district and taking it to net zero energy. But it sure helps to start with the right home.

Good bones
When I asked Matt Grocoff, “Why this house?,” the first words out of his mouth were, “Good bones!” Despite the home’s age, the foundation and structure were sound.

Lessons Learned

“We have a ‘wish list’ for our Mission Zero home," says Matt, "but it turns out that just about every single wish item is related to meeting the Living Building Challenge”:

  • Rain barrels to cistern: “Our rain barrels are really not anywhere close to the capacity we need to keep what we need on site. So we need to figure out a cistern system for our home and land.
  • Induction cooktop: “We need to eliminate the gas combustion and double the efficiency of the stove from 45% to 90% to keep our electrical loads down.”
  • Dual plumbing system and composting toilets: This will be a big part of controlling the size of our cistern; just need to find attractive, convenient composting toilets!”
  • LED lighting in every fixture: “Phillips and The Home Depot have really helped out here; you can buy a full range of LED bulbs now with some under $20!”
  • Green roof for front porch: “This will look great from the second floor, won’t be visible from the street and will keep the summer heat off the porch and front rooms.”

by Peter Yost

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Image Credits:

  1. Matt Grocoff
  2. Ryan Stanton
  3. Bill Stevenson

Video Series: Exterior Insulation Retrofit — How To Strip Siding and Roofing

Video Series: Exterior Insulation Retrofit — Introduction

Air Leaks Waste Energy and Rot Houses

One third of the energy you pay for probably leaks through holes in your house. Air leaks can also cause moisture and indoor air quality problems.

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