Energy Efficient Homes May Be the Best Defense Against Climate Change


plastic windowWith the attention that environmental conservation has been getting in recent years, there has been a large focus on reducing the average home’s energy consumption. In order to do so, new house features have been developed that allow for more energy-efficient homes.

According to, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a new program for energy efficient windows called SHIELD.

Some new, highly insulated windows can be so cost-prohibitive that they are unattainable for many Americans, something the DOE is trying to change. When rating windows, the top three most wanted types and materials are all explicitly related to saving energy; more than two-thirds of buyers want Energy Star-rated windows, triple-pane insulating glass, and low-e insulating glass.

The SHIELD initiative will provide $30 million for a research program meant to produce new materials to insulate single-pane windows and will be available and affordable to the general public. The hope is that these materials will be able to retrofit single pane windows to have equal insulating power as double pane windows.

If successful, these windows are projected to be able to reduce heat loss by an estimated 50%, as well as reduce retrofitting costs.

Some organizations are now making an effort to show how effective and financially beneficial window treatments such as these can be. The Independent Record reports that Habitat for Humanity built a 768-square foot home on Spencer Street in Helena, MT, for this exact purpose.

The home’s construction incorporated a number of design elements meant to improve energy efficiency, including a shallow frost protection slab, heat recovery ventilation, triple-pane windows, and a 95% efficient furnace.

The average Montana resident pays a little over $800 a year in natural gas heating costs, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Last year, Habitat for Humanity’s two-bedroom Spencer Street home averaged a total heating bill of $100.

“The goal here is what we can do to help customers prioritize and make investments,” Deb Young, NorthWestern’s Efficiency Plus (E+) program manager said.

While the Spencer Street house uses more expensive materials than the standard home, the more efficient heat recovery ventilator system reclaims about 70% of heat back into a home, saving substantial amounts of money overtime, as well as reducing the environmental impact.

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