Thursday, January 27th, 2011

The Urban Energy Efficiency Retrofit Challenge

My latest post is online over at New Geography. It is called “The Urban Energy Efficiency Retrofit Challenge.”

This is based on a true story. My furnace failed on Christmas Day. I thought I might take advantage of the last bit of the stimulus to upgrade to an energy efficient furnace and hot water heater, only to run into issues that prevented it. I suspect many others are in a similar boat. To me this shows how even the most seemly simple efficiency upgrades sometimes aren’t quite so simple.

Topics: Sustainability

4 Responses to “The Urban Energy Efficiency Retrofit Challenge”

  1. Chris Barnett says:

    If you have chases or soffits in all units where ducts for range-hoods or dryers run to the outside walls, there should be enough space in them to run the furnace pipe out also. Those are usually 3-inch PVC. At least in Indiana, they’re not required to be vented above the roofline; perhaps Chicago code is stricter.

    Of course, it requires major interior surgery (ripping out and replacing drywall, and a new outside-wall penetration) but it seems doable.

  2. Brian W says:

    I liked your article and I think you made a good point about dealing with infrastructure in shorter cycles. Regarding your dilemma, living on the top floor usually enables you to be the free-loader in the winter so I would just have bought the cheap part also. And as I am sure you already know, city buildings are already much more efficient than single family buildings. So in a way I think it was a good idea to focus the energy efficiency credits on the worst abusers of energy.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    From the article, it looks like you’re describing a problem of technology more than politics – almost like the private-sector equivalent of a cost overrun on a public infrastructure project due to unforeseen geological problems.

    I’m a little intrigued by Brian W’s comment. The part about single-family buildings being the most in need of upgrading is interesting, and I think I agree. But on the other hand, I could think of a counterpoint, which is that in the cities buildings are a majority of carbon emissions and in the suburbs they’re not; raising building efficiency in cities is the only method of massively cutting their emissions.

  4. Alon, in the city of Chicago, estimates are that 70% of emissions come from buildings. That’s even with nuclear electricity.

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