If you’re trying to get your place looking and smelling like new, then I’ll leave that to you. I respect that you have your own schedule for wiping the windows clean. And you certainly know when you can do a better job with the vacuum to get those extra dust bunnies out. Believe me – I would put off scrubbing the tub for as long as I can tolerate.
But there are some things we can’t put off.
Let’s face it. We don’t build or buy our homes and we’re done. There are some real home improvement issues we have to tackle during our lifetime at home. And when standards of living change, we change our surroundings to make way for that new lifestyle. That makes the work fun.
It’s not so fun when you have to do the work because buildings don’t last forever. They need special care and attention, just like we do. I know what it is to be tired as I get older and I accumulate more stuff in my personal life. I have to tend to those things that supposedly make my life easier and better.
For instance, I clean gliders at the beginning of the season as a member of a gliding club. I organize my desk at work, filing emails and papers away. I service my car every few months. And as a matter of course, I vacuum the floors at my home every weekend. I’m only talking about maintenance. But, what if you find that certain things in life are in need of repair? Or you want something better?
Sometimes we upgrade because things are falling apart. When windows crack, we want new windows. Window advertisements tell us they make a big difference to our comfort.
Sometimes we work on our homes because we want innovation and new technology. We want to make that great enhancement with the Google Nest home automation system for example. We want to look like pioneers.
I hate to tell you this but…
Things like new windows and Google Nest are the last things you need to do on your list. They may be what you want most. They are appealing items that visually make a big difference to your home. Your guests easily point them out on a visit. But, it might not address some of the more pressing issues you have at home.
Let’s think about this further.
Most homes last for 2 to 3 generations. A home that is left standing for 99 years gets in some real bad shape. It’s not so different from humans getting old. This is the process of deterioration.
Time and neglect diminishes the quality, character or value of a building. Sometimes, we neglect brushing our teeth. We neglect going to the gym. This neglect leaves us feeling less energetic and is ultimately not good for our body. We weaken and help the process of decay.
Our homes are the same way. Often times, we have to correct neglect in order to stay healthy and fit. Correcting neglect is a big part of upgrading your home or doing a retrofit. We forget that when we look for new windows or a fancy thermostat.
A retrofit is the installation of new technology or features to an older system.
It is about improving existing buildings with energy efficient equipment. Comfort levels increase when a building’s system performs efficiently.
Efficiently is a word we like to use. You hear it all the time. “We have to do things efficiently.” And yes we do have to do things in that fashion, if we don’t want to waste our energy and our time.
But, I prefer to use the word optimally.
You see, we are missing a key ingredient to success when it comes to accomplishing any goal in life.
In addition to making the most out of your time and putting the right amount of effort, you need leverage. Leverage gets you to the higher levels of efficiency. By doing short-term leverage activities, you can reach your long-term goal of having a really comfortable home. Keeping that focus is the difference between doing things efficiently and doing things optimally.
To have your home perform optimally, you have to take that base level retrofit and turn it into something my industry calls the “Deep Energy Retrofit” – DER for short.
A deep energy retrofit of your home is a vision.
It is a vision of redefining what’s possible. It conveys a vision of:
- Far higher levels of comfort
- Greater progress to conserving energy resources
- Increased quality of life in terms of health, safety, durability, adaptability and resiliency
To achieve these goals, you will need to think optimally. You’ll need to stay focused on that vision as if you are living that vision every day. Think and act as if you already have your comfortable home. Then you’ll make progress towards integrating the human and technical solutions to achieve your goal.
This does not just involve the technical performance of your home. You can buy that home. But, it’s how you as the individual will use your home. So you must consider your choices in behavior.
Understand how you can do a deep energy retrofit by stimulating innovation of systems, thinking and planning to solve problems. Most importantly, understand why. Going deep builds capacity for you as an individual and homeowner to enjoy your home for generations to come. That’s leverage.
By using leverage you can measurably reduce your energy use by 70% or greater.
To get to a base performance level, energy efficiency is the main driver. To get to the higher level you desire, you’ll need to optimally strategize. This is when you use leverage.
Deep energy reductions are achieved by adding in renewable resources, behavioral changes and community-based efforts. Mixing all these things will allow our homes to perform optimally.
Renewables are great and having solar panels on your roof might be cool. However, changing your behavior is really the important message here. You see, you can’t change the world until you change you. It starts with you as the individual, you as the homeowner, by having the right choices and making the right decisions.
List the priorities to make your home more comfortable.
Start by strategizing, plan ahead and implement your upgrades in stages. Know your end goal. And most importantly, know your future.
If your goal is to make your home resilient, then plan ahead by installing your mechanical systems in the attic. This will prevent high water flooding from reaching your equipment.
It’s important to consider the energy impacts of your home improvement project.
But don’t forget the value of non-energy impacts.
Think about the materials being used. Avoid air pollution, soil contamination, habitat destruction and land degradation.
Identify any pre-existing threats to life safety, health and property. This is important when working in stages of your home improvement. Address these hazards at the appropriate time.
When working in your basement consider the presence of radon.
Recognize that sometimes you do things with good intentions that end up with some bad results.
Take it from an architect that this happens. Actions and thoughts are well-intended, but they can end up with unanticipated side effects.
Always be aware.
While insulating your home, you may end up with moisture problems you didn’t have before.
Keep away from investments and solutions that are less than optimal.
Often they lead to repetitious revisions that are a waste of time and energy.
Working on your house’s structure first may make it last longer than making the decision to start with your air conditioning system.
Group things together, so work does not have to be revisited.
Upgrade your electrical capacity in anticipation of using equipment and appliances in the future. Invest as much as you can afford to reduce the energy loads of your home at each stage of work.
Make sure that all of the systems work well together in all weather conditions today and tomorrow. Make sure that your home has added flexibility over the long range in its operation.
Progress is your business, just like everyone else’s.
Think optimally and your vision will be inevitable.