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Energy Department Targets Envelope Efficiency

Jan. 24, 2013
Financing will help bring new, affordable technologies to market.

Tired of federal support focusing solely on renewable energy and efficient light bulbs? You’re in luck – the Department of Energy recently announced a $9 million investment in building envelope technology. Areas of focus include high-performance windows, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment.

While U.S. energy use per capita was fairly consistent from 1990 to 2007, building improvements in efficiency for space heating and air conditioning have helped achieve a reduction in the last five years. Additional improvements are needed, however. In a typical residential or commercial building, about 42% of energy is lost through doors, roofs, attics, walls, floors, and foundations. In winter months, windows alone can account for 10-25% of a utility bill through heat loss.

This new investment supports six advanced manufacturing projects in California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee that advance energy performance. This includes about $6.5 million to develop highly efficient, cost-effective HVAC systems and around $3 million to evaluate building envelope materials. Supported projects include:

  • St. Louis, MO-based Unico will receive $2 million to develop a cold-climate heat pump with a variable speed compressor that will maintain capacity and efficiency even at very low temperatures.

  • The University of Idaho will design and demonstrate a roof sandwich panel that uses foam material to increase building thermal efficiency and helps reduce construction costs by 25%.

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will develop and test highly insulated, easy-to-install windows that use automated shading that can capture or repel heat depending on the season.

The projects will help bring new, affordable technologies to market that address improved building performance and cost savings for both homes and commercial buildings.

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