The Biggest Offender in Energy Consumption

July 3, 2012

Many people point their fingers at automobiles as the biggest offenders in energy consumption and pollution. But surprisingly, the biggest enemies of energy conservation are actually buildings, both commercial and residential.

Think about it…your furnace or air conditioner runs 24 hours a day for most of the year. On the other hand, your car gets you where you need to be, then stops. Most vehicles spend the night parked in a garage, while our furnaces and air conditioners plow on. But hybrid and electric cars make for great press.

The real energy villain is your own house–or to break it down further, the WALLS of your house. This fact was brought to light by Jan Kosny, Ph.D., of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In a presentation published February 14, 2008, Kosny clearly shows through extensive hot-box testing that air leaks from wind pressure, combined with convection from studs, transfer enough energy to reduce the R-value of a wall 30 to 45 percent. According to Kosny, just the convection effect of studs increases a home’s overall energy demand by 10 to 12 percent.

The moral of the story? Sure, we want to conserve gas with more efficient vehicles. But build your exterior walls without studs, and you save 10 to 12 percent on energy bills. I’d rather focus my attention on the biggest offender and the greatest return in energy savings.