According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), there’s something on its latest Top 10 list to improve almost every area of the home: the building envelope, lighting, HVAC, plumbing, controls and floors. Although some technologies are relatively new, most have been around for a while, but for various reasons haven’t been widely adopted. The list is designed to help push them along with much-needed exposure.
PATH scanned the industry for underutilized technologies that can dramatically improve the resource efficiency and energy efficiency of existing housing. Here are the technologies that offer remodelers and consumers a low-risk way to make today’s housing perform better tomorrow.
1. Air sealing with spray foam insulation
Four entries in the PATH Technology Inventory describe alternatives to conventional fiberglass batts or rolls: Non-fiberglass batts; sprayed foam insulation; sprayed fiber insulation, and blown or foamed through a membrane.
2. Smart ventilation/ventilation control systems
PATH found a new mechanical ventilator that measures the moisture content of outdoor and crawlspace air and only provides ventilation when the outdoor air is drier than crawlspace air.
3. HVAC sizing
The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) guidelines for sizing HVAC equipment, specifically the ACCA Manual J Residential Load Calculation, are cited by PATH as enabling contractors to estimate heating and air conditioning loads more accurately.
4. High efficiency toilets
High efficiency toilets (HETs) have been defined by the plumbing industry and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as those that use an average of 20 percent less water per flush than the industry standard of 1.6 gallons (or 1.28 gallons).
5. Compact fluorescent lighting
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are up to four times more efficient (using 50 to 80 percent less energy) and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
6. High performance windows/storm windows
An NFRC label on the window will contain the information regarding the glazing features of a window — U-value, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and Visible Light Transmittance (VT). Generally, the lower the U-value, the better the window performs at preventing heat loss (or gain in hot climates). U-value is equal to the inverse of R-value. SHGC is the fraction of sunlight that is admitted through a window and released as heat indoors. It is expressed as a number between 0 and 1 — the higher the number, the more solar heat the window transmits. VT is the portion (between 0 and 1) of the sun’s visible light that is transmitted through a window.
7. Wireless lighting, thermostats and other controls
Wireless systems typically consist of the wireless thermostat (sensor) itself and a receiver. Most come with one or more remote controllers.
8. Solar hot water
Harnessing energy from the sun to heat water is nothing new. Solar water heaters have been commercially available since the 1800s. According to PATH, what’s new is how solar water heaters look these days. Most modern solar water heaters mount flush with a home’s roof and resemble skylights.
9. Recycled/renewable flooring options
Recycled wood flooring is made from salvaged boards or trees that have been remilled into a product suitable for
residential use. Path notes, since this wood came from old growth forests of America, it is often harder, denser, and more attractive in appearance than new growth wood.
10. Tubular skylights
Tubular skylights use the sun for lighting interiors without the drawbacks associated with conventional skylights. They have a roof-mounted light collector typically consisting of an acrylic lens set in a metal frame. Most have a reflective sun scoop in the rooftop assembly that directs sunlight into a metal or plastic tube, which has a highly reflective interior coating.
The reflective tube guides the sunlight to a diffuser lens, mounted on the interior ceiling surface, that spreads light evenly throughout the room. The shape of the scoop is generally parabolic to reflect sunlight into the home regardless of the sun’s angle in the sky.
With its Top 10 series, PATH spotlights for the housing industry and consumers innovations that are within easy grasp.
The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) is a public-private initiative dedicated to accelerating the development and use of technologies that radically improve the quality, durability, energy efficiency, environmental performance and affordability of America’s housing. Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), PATH offers a wealth of information and other tools for builders, developers, housing providers and homeowners primarily through the PATH Web site, www.pathnet.org.