Credit: Scott Roberts

Why now? There are several reasons. First, the codes are changing. Although just a few states have adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), it’s just a matter of time before most remodelers will find themselves working under much more stringent requirements than they do now.

Second, energy retrofits, when done properly, improve the health and comfort of a home’s occupants. Less dust, no more allergies, fewer illnesses. In fact, remodelers tell us that many clients can’t stop talking about how much better they feel in a retrofitted house — to neighbors, friends, relatives, anyone who will listen.

Third, fuel prices have nowhere to go but up, and operating costs are increasingly important to homeowners, including a good percentage of the 80 million baby boomers who will soon retire on fixed incomes. Energy efficiency makes long-term economic sense for current as well as future occupants.

And, speaking of future occupants, energy retrofits make it much more likely that the structures we build will last for another 50 or 100 years. Done properly, energy upgrades prevent rot, mold, and ice dams, reduce the loads on HVAC systems, and cut down on maintenance and repair costs.

But that part about doing things properly is critically important. Energy efficiency is based on hard science, and any remodeler experienced in upgrading existing homes will tell you that energy retrofits should always be approached as a whole-house, total system analysis and design strategy.

Partial measures undertaken without a master plan or out of sequence can create more problems than they solve. The information presented in the following articles is necessarily piecemeal and oversimplified, but no one should take on any of this work without being fully trained in both the theory that underlies any energy strategy, and the hands-on practices that are critical to every project’s success.

Energy efficiency can be a profitable business, but it’s one that has a small tolerance for error. Mistakes not only waste your client’s money, but they may take years to surface. When they do they it can endanger your client’s health and damage the building.

—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING.