Top Innovation Spotlight: High-Efficiency Window Air Conditioners


Window air conditioners are inexpensive, portable, and can be installed by home occupants, making them a good solution for spot cooling and for installing air conditioning into homes that lack ductwork. However, window air conditioners have low minimum efficiency standards, and typical installation in a window causes air leakage, which significantly reduces the equipment's performance.

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) earned a 2013 Top Innovation award for their evaluation of the performance of several window air conditioners over a range of conditions. The team measured installed air leakage as well as recirculation of conditioned air and estimated degradation of performance with time. Also, NREL developed cost-effective recommendations for manufacturers to improve the performance of window air conditioners, and low-cost installation tips that home occupants can follow to improve the operating efficiency of their units.

NREL estimates its window air conditioner recommendations will result in 5% to 10% cooling energy savings—enough to pay for the air conditioner over its lifetime. If all window air conditioners were improved in this way, the nation's energy use could be reduced by 40 trillion Btu per year, saving consumers $400 million each year.

Learn about all the Building America Top Innovations.

Apply for 2014 Housing Innovation Awards by June 30, 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Housing Innovation Awards recognize the very best in innovation on the path to zero energy ready homes from a number of DOE residential building programs: DOE Zero Energy Ready Home, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, and Building America Top Innovations. Submit your application by June 30, 2014 for the Home Builder Awards, which will be selected for each of three categories: Custom Builder, Production Builder, and Affordable Home Builder. A single National Grand Award Winner will be announced for each of these categories at the Housing Innovations Award ceremony held on September 23, 2014, at EEBA's Excellence in Building Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

Give Us Your Feedback! Crafting Effective Building Science Power Words

Words do matter, and the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) and Building America programs have gotten the message.

In a February 2014 meeting of leading building science stakeholders, the discussion centered on technical terminology in the housing industry and the need to more clearly communicate the value associated with the benefits of high-performance homes. This led to the development of the Building Science Translator, a glossary of "power words" based on consumer experience rather than technical function. This is a powerful first step to developing a new language that can be used across the building industry to consistently reinforce the value message of high-performance homes.

The ZERH team invites you to review this historic document and provide feedback. Following the review process, DOE will incorporate feedback, complete the Building Science Translator, and introduce an exciting web tool for using the new terminology. Learn more and submit feedback by July 11, 2014.

Learn About Successful Retrofits at June Building America Webinar

Building America brings you free monthly webinars highlighting the latest advances in residential building technologies and practices, presented by Building America research team experts. Please join us for the June webinar:

Who's Successfully Doing Deep Energy Retrofits?

Date/Time: June 25, 2014; 3 p.m. EDT
Description: The webinar will focus on specific Building America projects and case studies that highlight real-world examples of deep energy retrofits (DERs) that are meeting with technical and market success. Presenters will focus on technical strategies, modeled and actual performance results, and project costs.

Presenters include:

Residential Successes in the Hot-Humid Climate

This month, Building America highlights examples of high-performance home building for new and existing homes in the "Sunshine State."

See more case studies on the Climate-Specific Guidance pages of the Building America website.

Building America in the News

An article in the May 2014 issue of Professional Builder magazine profiles three builders—KB Home, Mandalay Homes, and New Town Builders—who represent large businesses that recognize the importance of offering high-performance homes as a critical part of their product lines.

Zero Energy Ready Home Technical Webinars and Trainings

DOE offers two Zero Energy Ready technical training webinars in June:

Marketing and Sales Solutions for Zero Energy Ready Homes

Date/Time: June 16, 2014; noon-1:30 p.m. EDT
Description: Plan review … energy modeling … field inspections … certification … done! Right? If only it were that simple to successfully transition to zero energy ready homes. The reality is that successfully marketing and selling high-performance homes require a lot more effort. This session will present resources from DOE Zero Energy Ready Home to help builders more effectively communicate how their homes live better, work better, and last longer.

Going Green and Building Strong: Building Fortified Homes – Part 2

Date/Time: June 25, 2014; noon-1 p.m. EDT
Description: Part 1 of this series introduced the basic concepts of building and wind interactions and how the FORTIFIED building programs can reduce property damage and loss. Part 2 will present the building systems that are most vulnerable and how getting the roof right can reduce as much as 50% of the $20 billion of insured property losses that homeowners experience each year in the United States. After completing this webinar series, builders will have a solid understanding of the FORTIFIED program—how it works and the benefits of participating.

This 3.5-hour training provides builders with a comprehensive review of zero energy ready home construction, including the business case, detailed specifications, and opportunities to be recognized as an industry leader.

New Publications from Building America

The Building America Publications Library offers an extensive collection of technical reports, measure guidelines, case studies, and other resources to help you boost energy efficiency in new and existing homes. On the library page, you can subscribe to the RSS feed that delivers reports as they are published. Also, the Building America Solution Center links you to expert building science and energy-efficiency information based on Building America research results. Here are samples of our most recent publications:

Minisplit Heat Pumps Multifamily Retrofit Feasibility Study
Minisplit heat pumps can provide space heating and cooling in many climates and are relatively affordable. These and other features make them suitable for retrofitting into many multifamily buildings in cold climates to replace electric resistance heating or other outmoded heating systems. This report investigates the suitability of minisplit heat pumps for multifamily retrofits. Various technical and regulatory barriers are discussed and modeling was performed to compare long-term costs of substituting minisplits for a variety of other heating and cooling options. A number of utility programs have retrofit minisplits in single-family and multifamily residences and the report discusses two of these in detail.

Technology Solutions Case Study: Stand-Off Furring in Deep Energy Retrofits
This research project, conducted by IBACOS and GreenHomes America, investigated cost-effective deep energy retrofit solutions for improving the building shell exterior while achieving a cost-reduction goal—including reduced labor costs—to reach a 50/50 split between materials and labor.

Technology Solutions Case Study: Hydronic Systems – Designing for Setback Operation
For years, conventional wisdom surrounding space heating has specified two points: sizing the mechanical systems to the heating loads and setting the thermostat back at night will result in energy savings. The problem is these two recommendations oppose each other. A system that is properly sized to the heating load will not have the extra capacity necessary to recover from a thermostat setback, especially at design conditions. This guide provides step-by-step instructions for heating contractors and hydronic designers for selecting the proper control settings to maximize system performance and improve response time when using a thermostat setback.

Additional reports published recently are:
Flexible Residential Test Facility: Impact of Infiltration and Ventilation on Measured Cooling Season Energy and Moisture Levels
Technology Solutions Case Study: Retrofit Integrated Space and Water Heating: Field Assessment
Technology Solutions Case Study: Combustion Safety for Appliances Using Indoor Air

Visit the Building America Publications Library to access the entire catalog of publications to help improve the efficiency of new and existing homes.

Want to learn more about Building America or help us spread the word about the program? View the video, "What is Building America?" on DOE's YouTube channel to learn about how Building America aims to bridge the gap between homes with high energy costs and homes that are healthy, durable, and energy efficient.

Please forward this announcement to colleagues who may be interested in subscribing to future updates about Building America.