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More "Buzz" from ACEEE Summer Study—The Invisible Energy Mortgages in New Homes

Posted by Jim Gunshinan for Leo Ranier, LBNL on September 05, 2018
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Leo Ranier

You probably never considered the power consumption of those Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets (fondly known as GFCIs) in bathrooms, kitchens, and other residential wet spots. But Leo Rainer and his colleagues did and they measured them.  He also measured hard-wired smoke alarms, Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) and a host of other devices that health and safety codes require in new homes.  Ventilation fans and radon fans—which are required to run continuously--are especially high consumers.  Builders also install many devices to make a home more attractive.  Leo’s favorite was the continuously-illuminated street number, which doesn’t have a switch and can even be required by some building codes!

Leo showed a memorable chart of the growth of code-required life/safety equipment over time.  New homes have almost twenty of these devices, each drawing a little power. And a home with potential radon exposure will have one more.  Nobody has been monitoring their energy use because they are mostly exempt from any efficiency regulations.  It's a complete market failure because there’s no incentive for builders to install efficient devices.  And that assumes they could actually identify efficient models (which they cannot).

Notable Quote: “All those little suckers are drawing more than a refrigerator of energy before anybody moves into a new house”

Title: “Builder Installed Electric Loads: The Energy Mortgage on a New House,” by Leo Rainer et al.

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