The Cost of Decarbonization and Energy Upgrade Retrofits for US Homes

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Cost is a major barrier when upgrading homes to reduce carbon emissions required to meet DOE’s climate-related goals. This report summarizes a nationwide effort to gather home energy upgrade project cost data along with household energy performance data. The goal was to develop cost benchmarks and to guide future R&D efforts aimed at cost compression and scaling of the residential upgrade market. The cost data were compiled for both total project costs and costs of individual measures. The majority of energy savings were modeled, with some models using measured site data for calibration. The database was analyzed using clustering techniques to find common energy and CO2 reduction approaches. The individual measures were combined into archetypal solutions to determine least-cost approaches to maximizing energy and carbon savings. Several financial analyses were preformed to examine other cost metrics beyond first cost.

Project data was obtained for 1,739 projects, from 15 states and 12 energy programs, with a total of 10,512 individual measures. The database includes a wide-array of projects, ranging from single-measure HVAC upgrades to net-zero energy whole home remodels. Projects were predominantly single-family detached dwellings with wood frame construction. Most of the data was obtained from energy programs because they had recorded the necessary information and were willing to share with this study. This sample of convenience can provide broad guidance and national cost benchmarks, but lacks sufficient detail to draw more disaggregated conclusions, such as geographical trends. The majority of data contributions were obtained without compensation from sources where the required data was already in some sort of structured format. We compensated sources to enter data from individual projects into a structured data format for about 500 projects, with an average cost of about $40 per project. The database was highly skewed to lower cost, lower impact projects due to the nature of the sample of convenience. Less than 10% of projects had savings greater than 50%. The cost data for individual measures in the database are being used in other DOE efforts on residential energy use/decarbonization. This data collection effort should continue in order to provide the best-informed guidance for DOE and industry R&D, as well as deployment efforts (including policy and program planning).

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