EPA Seeks New Standards for Home Efficiency Retrofits

In seeking to establish new standards for home improvements that would increase energy efficiency, the EPA is asking for comments from the public. They have released a draft protocol which contains a series of best practice tools that would protect indoor air quality during a home energy retrofit. The goal is to devise a set of standards that would ultimately ensure health standards of building occupants during and after such a renovation.

Last month, Vice President Biden announced the intentions of the federal government to design a stronger home energy retrofit market through the administration’s economic recovery package of 2009.

“Recovery Through Retrofit is a blueprint that will create good green jobs – jobs that can’t be outsourced, and jobs that will be the cornerstones of a 21st-Century economy,” said Vice President Biden. “And, thanks to the Recovery Act’s unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, we are making it easier for American families to retrofit their homes – helping them save money while reducing carbon emissions and creating a healthier environment for our families.”

The draft protocol is titled Healthy Indoor Environmental Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades. It is closely associated with a document from the US Department of Energy (DOE) titled Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades. The DOE document serves as a guideline for the training of skilled labor in the home retrofit industry. The idea is that a certified, skilled workforce would inspire more confidence in home-owners and increase the demand for more retrofit work.

One of the key elements of EPA’s protocol is guidance for conducting home assessments prior to the work starting. An improper assessment may not take into account the effects on indoor air quality caused by the retrofit. For example, many older buildings have asbestos insulation in the walls and on the pipes. Plus, it is often these older houses that demand the greatest amount of retrofitting. A proper assessment is needed to determine if an asbestos abatement would be necessary.

EPA’s protocol is intended for voluntary adoption by weatherization assistance programs, federally-funded housing programs, and private sector home performance contractors. They would recommend minimum specifications and best practices to be followed during and after each retrofit project.

Even though the proposed guidelines are would not be required by contractors, they would eventually become the norm. Having a staff trained according to the EPA rules would give retrofitting contractors the edge over their competitors, causing everybody to adopt them. Combined with the DOE guidelines, the EPA hopes the proposed rules would boost the industry and provide healthier households in America.

The draft proposal is available for public comment. All the appropriate information can be found here.

Article by David A. Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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