Rebound Effect on Insulating Homes

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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Hearth Supporter
Jul 11, 2008
8,925
Northern NH
An interesting article from England regarding that homes that are insulated seem to end up using more energy in 4 or 5 years than when they started. It also points out that it wasnt just in the US where a large amount of the housing stock was built without energy savings in mind. https://www.treehugger.com/rebound-effect-may-cancel-the-benefits-of-insulation-7091419

I guess a lot of us wood burners probably have their own "rebound effect", once we get the wood supply and drying and burning under our belts, I have no doubt that most woodburning folks run a warmer home than when they burned fossil they were paying for, I know I do. Its short sleeves when on wood but the fleeces come out when the minisplit is running. The T stats may read the same but the house just feels warmer with wood. Part of the reason is that my wood boiler is in the basement and it tends to warm the main floors while the minisplit stratifies the room a lot more. Its T stat is up on the wall unit up high on the wall so that when the upper couple of feet in the room is warm the temp may be stratified but I will be feeling cold feet. I notice it less with the oil burner running as I have standard slant fin that keep the heat a bit better near the floor. I still keep a pair of Sorel winter boot liners around to keep the feet warm but they do not get used when the wood boiler in running. The storage tank is well insulated but that also is in the basement so it does keep the floors a bit warmer.

It is interesting in the article that they are trying to insulate what sounds like cinder block walls by pumping styrofoam beads into the cavities. Most research I have done is that this really does not work as the thermal bridging of the concrete between the cavities just about cancels out the benefits of the foam. Far better to put up a layer of foam on the wall as long as its sealed to prevent mildew. The claim that they do not do blower door work is also surprising as most of the time air sealing is the lowest hanging fruit. I guess they must have a bit more temperate climate so heating bills are usually not significant?
 
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Constant heat is the key to my house’ heat loss. It’s the only way it will stay comfortable.

I lived in the UK for six years. I saw it snow twice. Winters there are full of rain. The climate is much more mild than this area and much more damp. There were a lot of homes still heating with coal back then ( late 80’s). Most houses that did just got it from the local grocery shop. A 40lb bag would last 3 or 4 days.

In contrast I’ve been heating with coal for several years ( up until this winter). I would average two 40 lb bags a day and when the single digits hit I’ll use 3 or 4.

I live in a split faced block house with no insulation in the walls so I find this interesting and somewhat alarming as I plan to insulate this summer. I hate to invest this kind of money only to find in 4 or 5 years I’ll need to spend more money on heat then I do now.
 
I remember walking into homes back east that were like 80º inside with a woodor coal stove blazing. I always found that to be uncomfortable. I usually kept it about 70. We moved west and fast forward decades and we still keep it around 72º.
 
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Would a form of insulated stucco work much more effectively? I'm not familiar with this type of construction. How big is the cavity they are attempting to fill?
 
Kind of like the tax credits..

Efficiency lowers costs, which lowers prices, which increases demand. And, sometimes, the increase in demand is so disproportionately large that overall consumption actually grows. This outcome came to be known as the Jevons Effect, or Jevons Paradox
 
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I call it the Oreo effect. When diet Oreos came out with a 50% less sugar variety, people went, Oh Goody! now I can eat twice as many.
 
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I think the key is if the house was already close to comfortable. And if the heat can be easily turned down.

If it was comfortable before, and easy to turn down the heat, then more insulation will amount to easy savings because no reason to make it too warm and waste money.

If it was comfortable and was already at the low limit, then it’s a toss up whether to cycle the heat now, or just leave it alone and not save anything except on colder days. That’s where I’m at after insulating the attic and resealing the doors and windows last year. I was already on the lowest setting most of the time. Now I can shut the stove off most days while at work for 6-8 hours, and I monitor the temperature remotely and start the stove so it will be sufficiently warm by the time I get home. A little more work, but I can save a bag of pellets every 3-4 days. It could save a ton over the season. We shall see.

If it wasn’t comfortable before and was totally hopeless, and if the added insulation now helps enough to where spending a little more makes it comfortable, then those people will probably spend that extra.

If it wasn’t comfortable before and still isn’t even close, then those people will probably still spend whatever they got the budget for, and have some relief not freezing quite as bad.
 
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Other studies have shown that energy usage in the same house can vary massively when one family moves out and another moves in. Doesn't really make sense to me (from an engineering POV) but the data are clear. But then, I don't know how my neighbors manage to fill 3 garbage cans every week AND two recycling cans. For a family of 4.

Much of energy/resource use is behavioral. This means that we CAN make a difference.
 
I think the key is if the house was already close to comfortable. And if the heat can be easily turned down.

Now I can shut the stove off most days while at work for 6-8 hours, and I monitor the temperature remotely and start the stove so it will be sufficiently warm by the time I get home. A little more work, but I can save a bag of pellets every 3-4 days. It could save a ton over the season. We shall see.

If it wasn’t comfortable before and was totally hopeless, and if the added insulation now helps enough to where spending a little more makes it comfortable, then those people will probably spend that extra.

If it wasn’t comfortable before and still isn’t even close, then those people will probably still spend whatever they got the budget for, and have some relief not freezing quite as bad.
In Vermont you can get $6,000 back on the installation of a pellet boiler. I just don't like the cost of pellets approaching $7 a bag and rising (like everything) yearly. I'm sticking to free wood.I know the price of free!

Rebound Effect on Insulating Homes
 
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Other studies have shown that energy usage in the same house can vary massively when one family moves out and another moves in. Doesn't really make sense to me (from an engineering POV) but the data are clear. But then, I don't know how my neighbors manage to fill 3 garbage cans every week AND two recycling cans. For a family of 4.

Much of energy/resource use is behavioral. This means that we CAN make a difference.
Depends on how warm/cold the two families like to keep the house, and how many lights get left on, etc.
 
Other studies have shown that energy usage in the same house can vary massively when one family moves out and another moves in. Doesn't really make sense to me (from an engineering POV) but the data are clear. But then, I don't know how my neighbors manage to fill 3 garbage cans every week AND two recycling cans. For a family of 4.

Much of energy/resource use is behavioral. This means that we CAN make a difference.
Sure, I believe it was the all knowing Jimmy Carter that instructed us to just "put on sweaters"
 
Depends on how warm/cold the two families like to keep the house, and how many lights get left on, etc.
IIRC, the difference was HUGE, like 50%... not easily accounted for by a few degrees difference in tstats.
 
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IIRC, the difference was HUGE, like 50%... not easily accounted for by a few degrees difference in tstats.
Wow, yea that doesn’t make much sense to me either. That’s insane
 
Other studies have shown that energy usage in the same house can vary massively when one family moves out and another moves in. Doesn't really make sense to me (from an engineering POV) but the data are clear. But then, I don't know how my neighbors manage to fill 3 garbage cans every week AND two recycling cans. For a family of 4.

Much of energy/resource use is behavioral. This means that we CAN make a difference.
You must have the same neighbors I have. Three people and there are five cans of trash at the curb every week. I have one small bag of trash a week generally. I try to recycle as much as I can.
 
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Curbside pickup is optional in our area. It doesn't make economic sense for us. We take stuff to be recycled much more frequently than to the trash. I used to go to the transfer station 3 times a year with 5 garbage cans, for a total of 15 cans full a year. Now as empty nesters, it looks like we are down to 4 cans, twice a year headed to the transfer station. Aggressive recycling, lack of processed products purchasing, and composting keep most of our waste out of the landfill.
 
I was somewhere before the holidays and mentioned I had just finished making up a bunch of pie crusts using a new recipe to try to match my mothers crusts. The ladies were amazed that I went to the trouble to actually make pie crusts compared to buying them. Oen standard double crust usually comes in paperboard box, a plastic sleeve and some even have a sheet between the two crusts. A scratch crust is flour that I buy in 10 pound sacks and butter. The whole shift to prepacked and prepared food had really bumped up the trash volume.

One of the hangovers from my broken ankle a year ago was some extra pounds that I need to lose and have been working on it since December 1st, I end up cooking a lot more meals from scratch so my waste generation went way down except for the plastic bags that vegetables come in as there is not much for fresh veggies in northern NH in winter.
 
My wife refuses to throw out plastic veggie bags from the produce section. She washes them out and reuses them. She keeps a bunch in her shopping bag when grocery shopping for reuse. When they get old I use them to cover drip irrigation and garden hose ends. We have also convinced one of the local grocery stores to collect them. They have a bag box near the door. The bags get compacted into bricks which then are sold to a recycler.
Our community now has an active plastics recycling program that recycles about 90 cu yds of plastic a month. Most of it is from excess packaging.
 
That’s absolutely awesome that youve got that going there begreen!
 
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If it is polyethylene, I'd be temped just to burn it.
 
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If it is polyethylene, I'd be temped just to burn it.
It does seem more useful to burn a lot of plastic. I feel like it should still count as recycling since you are getting another use out of plastics that can't be easily recycled that would otherwise end up in the landfills.
 
Bravo.....don't forget that not much will change until industry starts using these programs.

Our local landfill has various roll off bins for seperating wood, plastic, cardboard etc. When you speak with a employee, it turns out it is all for show. It all goes up the hill to be buried.
Every bin you see at a shopping centre and restaurant still gets buried.
Our landfill is at a 3 to 1 ratio of commercial garbage vs household in tonnage. It's a money maker for the City, so they don't really give a chit about the environment, they want the money. There is alot of dumpsters in the world and they all get buried.
 
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Bravo.....don't forget that not much will change until industry starts using these programs.

Our local landfill has various roll off bins for seperating wood, plastic, cardboard etc. When you speak with a employee, it turns out it is all for show. It all goes up the hill to be buried.
Every bin you see at a shopping centre and restaurant still gets buried.
Our landfill is at a 3 to 1 ratio of commercial garbage vs household in tonnage. It's a money maker for the City, so they don't really give a chit about the environment, they want the money. There is alot of dumpsters in the world and they all get buried.
Maybe that’s what’s behind the recycling in my county. They call it “single stream” and everything can go in unsorted. They even take styrofoam. Works for me because I barely have any actual trash in the end. Food waste I toss in the woods for the critters, or to decompose on its own.
 
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IMHO Single stream in most areas is a scam run by firms that own landfills. They make their money on hauling and burying and even bit of local recycling takes money out of their pockets. By building regional single sort facilities, they keep a higher percentage of the revenue. The typical problem with single stream is keeping the waste mixed through the collection process generates a lot of contaminated recycle streams that are worth less than those kept segregated. Our town keeps the waste segregated from pick up and we always have markets for our streams when areas with zero sort are complaining about not having markets for their streams. Local recycling is a PITA for most communities so if they can hand it off to the firm that makes it go away, the temptation is to do so even though less waste may get recycled in the long run.
 
Agreed that single-stream is a red flag that most of it is not really being recycled. Our local county has bins for all recyclables to be sorted into, and there are people there that are always actively checking the bins to make sure items are in the right place, and they pick out wrong items and move them to the right bin. I am pretty sure that is all getting recycled given how much attention they pay to keeping the bins uncontaminated. Wood scraps get placed in the landfill, as a layer (I was told) between layers of trash (don't know why). Scrap metals are picked up. It's pretty well run and I can see the compressed blocks of plastics, cardboard, paper, etc. waiting for pickup by the recyclers.