The Climate Impact of Retrofits: Embodied and Operational Emissions in Weatherization
- Megan M. Nedzinski, Vermont Integrated Architecture, PC
- Jacob Deva Racusin, New Frameworks
- Leslie Badger, VEIC (Efficiency Vermont)
- Chris Gordon, VEIC (Efficiency Vermont)
- Brian Just, VEIC (Efficiency Vermont)
Presented at the 2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, this study assesses the carbon impact of insulation and air sealing upgrades when accounting for both embodied carbon emissions of materials and operational carbon reductions resulting from improved weatherization.
The paper compares the most common insulation (closed cell spray foam) with readily available and cost competitive “Carbon Smart” insulation (dense pack cellulose and polyisocyanurate) and calculates the estimated operational carbon emissions avoided for a weatherized home.
The team found that when using closed cell spray foam, the operational carbon savings overtake embodied carbon emissions in two years.
Carbon Smart practices result in net carbon savings within the first year due to the use of low embodied carbon and carbon-storing materials. Using spray foam for all applications increases total emissions by 15% over a ten-year period, when compared to the ““Carbon Smart- Equivalent R-Value” approach.
However, the authors also note that weatherizing homes, especially in cold climates, can produce beneficial carbon emission reductions and energy savings regardless of the insulation products used.Download PDF (new tab)