WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $4 million in funding to develop and demonstrate new energy efficiency solutions for homes through its Building America program.

DOE’s Building America program develops cutting-edge innovations and resources with industry partners to spur the residential buildings market to adopt energy efficiency measures that will provide 50 percent savings in new homes by 2025 and 40 percent savings in existing homes by 2030.

A major focus of the work is home heating and cooling. Typically, said DOE, heating and cooling account for 40 percent of a home’s energy consumption, the largest single energy use and more than water heating, refrigeration, and lighting combined. In 2014, U.S. homeowners spent $70 billion to heat their homes and $24 billion to cool them. Improving the energy efficiency of home HVAC systems and building envelopes (roof, walls, and windows) could reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling by as much as 70 percent.

For these Building America projects, teams will focus on developing and implementing solutions to three inter?related core technical challenges: high performance building envelope assemblies and systems; optimal comfort systems for heating and cooling, air distribution, and humidity control; and high performance ventilation systems and IAQ strategies. DOE will fund projects that develop and demonstrate integrated solutions to any or all of these core technical challenges and primarily focus on solutions for the hot/humid, mixed humid, and cold climate zones. Together these climate zones cover most of the country, but have very different requirements. These projects will demonstrate techniques that address these requirements, while promoting energy efficiency at a reasonable cost and preserving indoor air quality.

Home Innovation Research Labs Inc. (HIRL) was selected to conduct three projects focused on advancing solutions for moisture-managed, high performance envelope systems in all three climate zones.

HIRL will develop wall system design guidance, as well as improve methods for assessing and improving moisture durability of envelope assembly systems.

HIRL will also study an innovative approach to roof insulation retrofits, in which nailbase insulated panels are installed over the roof deck before re-roofing. These panels can be installed in one step and result in semi-conditioned attics that can reduce HVAC energy use by at least 10 percent.

HIRL will also conduct additional research into extended plate and beam (EP&B) wall systems, which were initially developed in a previous Building America project. EP&B offers a simplified method for incorporating 2 inches of continuous rigid insulation into a traditional 2-by-4 framed wall assembly. The EP&B wall system is based on the construction technique most commonly used by builders, which increases its chances for market adoption.

The Levy Partnership Inc.: The Levy Partnership’s project will demonstrate highly insulated envelopes and simplified high-efficiency HVAC systems that can routinely achieve 50 percent energy savings over 2009 International Energy Code Commission requirements in all three climate zones in two of the largest affordable housing market segments, which are manufactured housing and Habitat for Humanity International Affiliates. Researchers will develop low-cost, highly efficient comfort system designs to enable these homes to use a single-point ductless mini-split heat pump. These heat pumps would significantly reduce HVAC system costs.

University of Central Florida (UCF): UCF will study advanced whole house residential construction practices for production builders that can achieve 50 percent whole house energy savings compared to houses built to code in hot/humid climates. The project will work directly with leading production builders to: 1) demonstrate and validate a new cost-effective attic insulation system that is much more energy efficient; 2) demonstrate and validate high-efficiency variable-capacity space conditioning systems that better manage comfort and cost tradeoffs in low load homes; and 3) test a new “smart” ventilation system innovation that controls air temperature and humidity while maintaining indoor air quality.

Gas Technology Institute: The Gas Technology Institute will develop a systems approach for managing air sealing, ventilation, and air distribution to improve a retrofitted home’s energy use while maintaining acceptable IAQ. Ventilation energy savings of up to 30 percent are possible from airflow control. The focus would be primarily the cold climate zone.

Integrated Building and Construction Solutions (IBACOS): IBACOS will investigate a proposed Thermal Comfort Rating Method, which will be applied to a new plug and play HVAC distribution system design. This project will result in state-of-the-art comfort distribution systems that perform better, as well as a thermal comfort metric with the potential to help builders and HVAC contractors measure and communicate the value of improved comfort delivery systems in all three climate zones.

Since 1995, Building America has funded research, development, and demonstration in residential building energy efficiency, which has resulted in innovations that support every aspect of the home building industry. For more information, visit http://energy.gov/eere/buildings/building-america-bringing-building-innovations-market.

Publication date: 5/11/2015

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