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Boosting Insulation Can Reduce Energy Use, Pollution

Posted by Stacy Fitzgerald-Redd on July 06, 2016

Those of us working within the building industry or energy efficiency space in existing homes know that boosting insulation levels can reduce energy use, cut consumer costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, there’s been a modest amount of data to quantify the extent of the benefits—particularly at the state level. Until now.

New research from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) finds that increasing insulation levels in existing U.S. to the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) level would:

  • Cut total U.S. electricity consumption by 37 billion kilowatt hours, equal to the annual use of 3.4 million homes
  • Slash natural gas consumption by 9%
  • Cut Propane Use by 10%
  • Reduce Fuel Oil Consumption by 12%

The report includes state-level data, showing the estimated percentage of energy savings by category (electricity, natural gas, propane) and quantifies the resulting reduction in (CO2) emissions.  In addition, it estimates the financial savings and improvement in public health that could be realized with the efficiency measure.

The report also yields some interesting findings—including a list of the top 10 states that could save the most on electricity and natural gas by increasing insulation levels in existing homes (see graphic below).

In all, increased residential insulation would reduce annual CO2 emissions from power plants by 80 million tons, and produce other benefits, including 30 million fewer tons of CO2 per year from direct residential combustion and 320 fewer premature deaths per year associated with air pollution from power plants and direct residential combustion.

“Approximately 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated and this study now provides data describing what we could achieve by addressing this huge population of homes,” said Curt Rich, president and CEO of NAIMA.

BUSPH viewed the research as the type of state-level energy efficiency measure that states choose to pursue to as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sets state-specific targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants or as part of other environmental or utility programs.

“Our study provides insight about the benefits of residential energy efficiency for each state in the continental U.S., an important feature given large variations between states and the fact that each state will develop its own strategy to respond to the Clean Power Plan. Our results align with previously published values that show important benefits of increasing insulation levels in U.S. homes,” said BUSPH Professor Jonathan I. Levy, who led the research team that conducted the study.

North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) sponsored this research and a similar study in 2000, which estimated a mortality reduction as well as a drop in CO2 emissions by approximately 1 ton per year per home. By comparison, the 2015 reduction in CO2 emissions is 1.4 tons per year.

 

Stacy Fitzgerald-Redd is the director of communications for the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA).

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